©2011 Master Seven. All rights reserved.
Interview with Bob Suter
Master Seven Interview by Tom Beninate
Copy Editor: Susan Castellano
Congratulations on your new CD Meet Me At The River. How is it going?
It’s going OK. The release date is November 2nd- that’s when TMG (Tate Music Group) will put out the video. I’ve got a 30 second video spot and they are working on that now. That will go on some major stations. The band will be playing around town. I’ve done some solo stuff and everything is falling in place.
Has your presence on Facebook made a positive impact on your CD?
I just started working on a band page and I’ve had some interest. People helped share it.
How did you get started in music?
I did solo stuff, and played in some high school bands. (It was) mostly all guitar (and) backup singing. Everybody told me that I didn’t have a voice for singing lead so I kind of shied away from that. I wrote a sound track for a movie which I wound up getting some hits on, which led me to form a band called Ki. We wound up playing the NY circuit (and) won a couple of battle-of-the-bands at the Stone Pony in NJ which lead to us being signed at PolyGram. A couple of the members had problems with PolyGram (and) our management wasn’t real honest at the time. The whole thing just kind of blew up in my face. We hired a lawyer and walked away clean without losing the rights to 40 songs.
Did you record anything at that point?
We did and I have some of the stuff here. My Dad always told me music is great for a hobby, (but) “What are you going to do for a living?” So for a while I worked on making a living.… (But) it’s in my blood, in my veins. So I started getting involved with playing in churches and doing weddings… and ultimately… just lead me into ministry and that’s when I started pursuing becoming a fulltime worship leader. (That) led me to come to Florida which ultimately leads me to become a pastor of a church. In the midst of all that, we just started finding a bunch of really dedicated people who loved music.… The last CD I did on my own which was my second one, the Higher and Higher (album) …didn’t do that bad. It actually raised quite a bit of money during that hurricane season here in Florida. We ended up purchasing around 80 tons of food (and) fixed 3 ½ homes. (After that I) just kept writing and with this CD now I wanted to do something for God. You know everybody tells me that I can’t sing but I really wanted to just go for it. We built a web page and the page hadn’t been up for 4 days and we got hits from promotional companies (and) hits from record companies. It was like all of a sudden doors from heaven opened up.
Where did that response come from?
They all said the website. Everybody keeps telling me we stumbled on your website. “What do you plan on doing with your CD? We love it”. They started saying things, liking the tones of the album…the lyrics, (and) the content.…They said, “How long have you been singing?” And I said actually just in church mainly. I grew up thinking that I couldn’t sing. And like I said, this whole thing just opened up and all of a sudden I’ve got a CD that went national a month ago. We’re on 380 radio stations.
What songs are being played on the radio?
Not the ones that I would have expected. “Arms Of Love” is getting the most airplay which is the 2nd song on the CD and “For All Time” which happens to be one of my favorites….
The PolyGram deal. Was that with the Ki band?
Yes. We had one album that wound up not going through at all. We did a video that was supposed to go on MTV….
What was the title of your first CD?
That was another home produced one called Worthy As The Lamb. We just did that… looking for a record deal. We sold a couple. Some of that stuff and from Higher and Higher we’re going to blow over to our next CD through Tate.
Was Meet Me At The River your first release through Tate?
Yes, That’s my first official signed CD.
Did you write all the material for that CD?
Yes. In fact, I did everything except for keyboards and some backup (vocals). I did all the bass, all the drums and all the guitar work…. All vocals….
And what were you trying to accomplish?
The whole intent on this was that I wanted to tell my story… I see a time of not being satisfied with life and feeling that cold and emptiness and wondering where to go and what do I do … (and) discovering that God wanted to help me with those things in my life. (This)… was life changing for me not only musically but in a lot of ways. If you walk through that album it tells the story of times and phases. In my prayer time God used to give me this vision of a place where I used to sit down on this rock by the river… so I wound up penning that song “Meet Me At The River.” … That’s the whole theme right on down to the very last song, which is the most recent song that I wrote called “More Of You” which says that I have not gotten to where I want to be yet….
Who is your target audience for this CD?
I thought I would hit mostly the rock people. I love Dire Straits…, some of their stuff. I absolutely love Eric Clapton… and I love listening to Sade…. The people that are writing me are mostly a middle to older black audience. Most of my fans that are coming through on ReverbNation- I’d say 60 to 70 percent are people into rhythm and blues. And I would not have thought that. I also preach on a radio station every Friday out of Birmingham, Alabama on my own radio program called “Simeon’s Promise.”
How have music and the music business changed over the years since you first got into it?
Well the Internet, first of all, has amazingly changed everything. I’m hoping that age isn’t as prominent today as it was 20 years ago. What I’m doing today at my age would never have been accepted when I was working with PolyGram…. There are so many bands that are making it right now without record deals… (And) so with the Internet you don’t need a record company to get your music out around the world.
What are today’s musicians achieving with the use of the Internet?
I hope that it’s a connection of hearts. I watched a Springsteen interview on TV the other day. One of his fans said that he goes to Springsteen concerts because he talks about (him). I’m trying to do that, not in the working man’s world like he did, but hopefully mine is more spiritually based. You don’t have to quit, you don’t have to give up, you don’t have to feel like you are alone, you don’t have to be rich to be happy and have peace and joy.… The people that are emailing me- that’s the type of response that I’m getting.... A woman wrote it changes her, she wants to cry, and she feels closer. That’s the thing I like to hear.
Yes, and I want people to have fun with it. Even when the band is getting ready to practice, and right away everything is from a worship standpoint, and I say no, this is a rock and roll band. I want you to have fun up here.... When we do it on Sunday morning, it’s about worship; when we do it on Friday night, it’s about worship and entertainment.
Do you see yourself as a songwriter, musician, guitar player or…
I think my main strong points are guitar playing and songwriting. That’s what I love to do the most. I love to sing. I don’t know if I have the talent to take that too far.... Lou Reed did it. Kris Kristofferson did it.
How has technology affected your music over the years?
... I started out on a 4-track cassette. I did many demos- that’s how we got hooked up with PolyGram. Then we switched to an 8-track cassette recorder, and then went to ADAT which we still have a bunch of. But the computer industry and hard disk recording and… how to use it with analog to me is huge.… I never expected my CD to go out recorded from my home. To me it was always a demo.Getting back to the Springsteen interview he did it in his home the song “Philadelphia” and never expected… the movie to use his cut from home. He thought they would go back into the studio but they loved it….
When I sent my CD into TMG and for them to decide whether they wanted to re-record it, hire studio musicians… I got a call back from them within two days.… They said the sound of your CD is fabulous. We don’t want to change it. I said, “Well, I’m honored, but at the same time I don’t want to put out something that’s mediocre. Who do you have that can re-mix or re-master…?" They did that for me nicely two times and they finally came back and said don’t ask again Bob… We are putting out what you did. There is nothing wrong with it.… I think the bass is a little light sometimes. You know you are always closer to your own stuff…. Higher and Higher was mixed by me and mastered by Steve Hoffman.… When I sent that CD to him… he wrote back and said I can’t believe you did this at home. He wished it was a little warmer. We actually mixed it to a tube reel-to-reel and mastered it from a tube reel-to-reel. I didn’t use real drums- I used programmed stuff… They didn’t want to rerecord it and said there was nothing wrong with the CD. So we’ll see.
People have the ability to sniff out a good song regardless of the technology used. The Beatles, without the aid of modern mastering, are still popular today. They are often listened to on MP3 players. Did you use Auto-Tune?
That’s the one thing I didn’t do on my CD. I don’t own it. I wound up in the end just buying a plug in that in the one song "Bringing Glory" I did that T Pain thing. Again, not expecting the CD to go anywhere I was teasing my granddaughter in the studio one day and I tried it…. That was actually the reason that Christian Radio Network picked the CD for air.… I had said to Tate that I wanted to remove the song and put out an 11 song CD and they said, “No it’s wonderful. Leave it…. We don’t want to change anything." But you’re right about the MP3’s. Most or probably 85% of the CD sales are digital downloads. We’ll sell some CDs on Sundays but right now it’s mostly digital downloads.
Tell me about your studio. What equipment are you currently using?
I’m using Sonar 8.5 (which is Cakewalk) for PC. I’ve got Sound Forge v8 and all of the updates. I use a Delta 1010LT card which I absolutely love.… I’ve tried other brands but this one seems to sound the warmest. It gives me plenty of top end clarity. I use tube preamps. I do all of my compression either in the software or when I feed it back through my analog mixer which I send to either a CD burner or my DAT.
So you mix in analog?
I mix in analog to a digital source I record it from analog to digital and then I mix on an analog board back to digital, transfer it back to the computer for mastering in Sound Forge, and it stays digital until I am done. I don’t use a lot of effects.
Does your band currently perform live?
Yes, we always have. It’s actually made up of 3 different worship bands in the area as far as the CD band goes. We meet every other Sunday to practice and jam for about 3 hours. We‘re just starting to reach the point where we are actually playing better than the CD. I called our promotional company to start booking us. Tate said that once November rolls around there will be radio and TV interviews. They are trying to get me on 700 Club to do some acoustic stuff and start a whole process of trying to get my name out in my area and slowly into other states. Tate is not a very wealthy company- they are only about 8 years old as a record company. It’s got its drawbacks but it’s got its pluses. They seem to be able to do things.
Do they also publish your music?
Yes. And they allow us to do our thing. The Internet allows musicians to help each other. The comradeship, that’s my goal, my wife’s goal. First and foremost we want people to see who we are as people. What we believe. It’s not a cliché for us (that) we want people to be a part of our lives. On the other hand we work with more non-Christians than we do with Christians, and we want to help the musicians, singers and songwriters and give them the opportunity that I didn’t have… when the music industry was different and you had to have this amazing voice and amazing talent or if you weren’t related to somebody, you couldn’t have a chance to do anything. I’ve produced quite a few CDs for local artists… at no charge. (I say to them) come on in, let’s see what you’ve got.… You’ll have a keepsake for the rest of your life. That was one of the reasons behind the Higher and Higher CD. It was to have musicians play on something that they would never normally have an opportunity to.… Without the technology, music couldn’t be shared like it is today. You wouldn’t necessarily find as many diamonds in the rough as you did way back then. We do what we call “Carrefour Café’” on the first Friday of every month at our church and it’s for any musician - we ask that you keep it somewhat clean. If you live in the area come on in and do what you like in the arts and entertainment. We had a 14 year old girl that just blew me away.... I said to her afterwards, “You know you have a real gift.” She said that, “Everybody tells me that, but you know, what am I going to do?” If you want to do something give me a call and we’ll put something down and you can have it for your friends or use it as a way to encourage and inspire you. Maybe one day she’ll give me a call but there are people out there that are just amazing and need just a little bit of support. I think the whole industry changed and technology has given us the ability to do that, far beyond the DAT machines. Back then, with $5000 you get a digital audio 8-track. That was huge. Now you can go out and buy a halfway decent PC for 300 bucks and download free software and get amazing results.
In addition to creating music you also produce other talent?
Yep. I did Kelly McDermott’s album Labor Of Love. In fact if you go to themanger.net you can see the album and even get some clips of it. Kelly is such a talented person. I love her CD. I’m trying to talk her into doing… another…. She said, “But you moved to Florida.” There are no boundaries anymore with music. The Internet, the connectivity of me being able to help a friend is minutes away.
Yes, it is no longer a requirement that all artists on a record are present in the same studio…
I have one song, “Lean On Him,” that David Patrick Bryan played the organ on. I sent him a rough mix of the song, an MP3. He sent… it back, I dropped it in, it lined up perfectly and I liked it. I’ve synced guitar tracks to 5 or 6 other people since then. It’s another service we’re thinking about offering. You want me to play on your track, send it to me. I’ll play bass, guitar, or whatever.
Bob, I appreciate your time today.
Click here for our 2011 update to Bob's interview