Suzanne Doucet is an award winning composer, producer, recording artist, and conceivably the worldwide leading authority in the new age music industry today. Beginning with her early founding innovations in the new age music business while living in Germany, Suzanne Doucet’s extensive career which spans a number of decades has played a vital role in the New Age Music genre. This is a point that remains true today, and one that simply cannot be overstated.
Suzanne Doucet continues her important leadership role by specializing as a creative consultant to artists, producers and record labels, radio programmers, distributors and music retailers around the globe. The New Age Music Circle is another venue where people of all nationalities have an opportunity to meet Suzanne Doucet, and participate in open dialogue at the forum she hosts from her home in Los Angeles California.
The New Age Music Circle is an international online community forum and discussion platform where top new age artists, industry professionals, and music fans alike can share music, videos, post information about events and participate in forum dialogue that cover a wide range of topics. Suzanne Doucet’s Music Circle is the leading international forum where all interested people and artists have an opportunity to join and meet new friends, exchange ideas with one another, and find out more about many of your favorite artists.
In this comprehensive 2011 interview, review publicist John Olsen has asked questions that detail many biographical aspects of Suzanne Doucet’s life and early career, up to her present day leadership role for which she is recognized today.
Suzanne Doucet Interview;
John Olsen: Thank you for consenting to my interview Suzanne. People want to know more about you, and it is truly an honor to present your most current interview to your many fans, colleagues, and the over a thousand New Age Circle Forum members currently on the membership roster. As a forum member myself I recognize membership extends to people from all parts of the world internationally. Would you like to begin our interview by telling everyone about the Circle, in terms of how the New Age Music Circle began, its mission, and plans for the future?
Suzanne Doucet: Thank you John for giving me the opportunity to have this interview with you. I feel very fortunate to be able to express my views with someone so experienced and prolific like you. To answer your question about the New Age Music Circle, this is how it actually began. Many years ago, in 1987 when we, (my husband James and I) opened the first and only new age music store in the world in West Hollywood/Melrose district, I also started an organization called “The New Age Music Network.” This organization was designed to support our genre and to bring our community closer together.
Somehow our store very quickly became a busy center and hub not only for customers, but also for artists and industry people. It was a time when new age music became very popular and we had monthly gatherings and events in our store for the new age music community. This eventually expanded into the International New Age Music Conference in 1989. Two more conferences followed and the First New Age World Music Festival at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles. We also had New Age Music Awards. Our early members included Stephen Hill, Peter Baumann, Steven Halpern, Michael Hoppé, Peter Kater, Richard Burmer, Michael Stearns, Paul Horn, Jai Uttal, Steve Roach, Matt Marshall from Higher Octave, the Radio Station 94.7 The Wave, Suzanne Ciani and many others. During the recession in 1992 we had to close our physical store after 5 years but quickly took Only New age Music online. We registered NewAgeMusic.com in 1995. However the New Age Music Network was dormant after our last conference in 1991 until 2008. Then in 2008 the idea surfaced to reactivate the New Age Music Network online and to reconnect with all previous members, along with many new members, so I started the New Age Music Circle under the Ning Social Networking site online at: NewAgeMusik.Ning.com.
I guess it was just the right time, because many of my old friends and colleagues including Frank Schenker, Lloyd Barde, Steven Halpern, Kit Thomas and Michael Hoppé asked me why don’t we reactivate the New Age Music conference. I thought before we reactivate the conference we have to recreate the “official membership organization.” Now in terms of reactivating a New Age Music Conference I am suggesting to focus more on an event. This could be the New Age Music Awards (NAMA) followed by the conference. These are our plans for the future. Many members of the circle have responded very enthusiastic about this idea. I hope we can manifest it in 2012 or 2013.
John: Sounds from the Circle is a 3-album collection of releases from Circle member artists who submitted their New Age, or related sub-genre music to you for the 2009, 2010, and 2011 compilation albums. Would you tell us about the 3 Sounds from the Circle releases?
Suzanne Doucet: When I started the New Age Music Circle, a lot of artists placed their music on their pages, and in order to be able to listen on a continuous basis I featured my favorite tracks on the front page at the Circle Forum. I was amazed how much new music and great new talents were there, whom I was not aware of. I thought that their music and the music of all circle members should be made available to a broader audience and should also reach the industry and the media. My friend Beth Hilton and I came up with a concept for an MP3 compilation versus a regular CD. We were able to lower the cost for the participants and expand the listening time as well as having an innovative approach that might catch people’s attention for our genre. I invited the artists of the circle to participate for a small fee and the response was great!
We also made the Sounds from the Circle I, II & III available on iTunes as a play list, so the general public can purchase the compilations and every artist is receiving digital download income. We are sending the compilations to the media and we are distributing them at major tradeshows such as INATS or MIDEM. Right now I am preparing Sounds from the Circle IV, which should be available in early 2012. We are reaching a lot of people and we are able to promote the music from the artists of the circle as well as the New Age Music Circle itself and last but not least, the New Age Music genre!
John: You have an extensive career Suzanne, which began during the years you lived in Germany. What was your earliest introduction to music, and at what point did you decide to pursue a career in music?
Suzanne Doucet: The earliest introduction to music I can remember was singing a Christmas song on stage when I was 2 ½ years old. I remember very clearly standing there seeing the audience and singing this beautiful song which translated said: “I am coming from heaven to bring you a message.” Later I would grab any instrument and try to play it. I recall my mother teaching me how to play harmonica when I was 5 and later I was given a violin at the age of 8 by my grandfather, but I was not allowed to practice in the house where we lived. So, I would go into the forest and play there. When I was eleven I was able to practice piano and started piano lessons, which also included me starting to write my first compositions. I was very fortunate to have a piano teacher who was quite “new age” in her approach. The book we used in the lessons was called The Inner Listening. In the beginning I had to play one tone after another and listen to it until the sound vanished into silence. Only many years later I understood the value of those lessons and what a great teacher I had.
However I studied all classical composers and played Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Schuman, Schubert, Chopin, Bartok and many more of the popular classical and modern composers. My mother who was an actress had the most incredible vinyl music collection you can imagine and played continuously classical, jazz, Folklore and what we today call World Music.
When I was 16 I lived in Switzerland. I really missed the piano and wished for a guitar. I taught myself to play the guitar and learned over 300 folk and pop songs in many different languages. I also started to write my own songs and when I moved to Munich Germany and later to Paris France, I would sing in clubs, in the streets and parks. I was also very involved in painting. My family always thought I would become a painter. I started drawing when I was 3 and painted in oil and aquarelle later until my music career took over and I concentrated more on composing, writing and performing. I actually sold a few paintings at the age of 16 and financed my “independence” by moving to Munich Germany on my own without any financial support from my parents!
John: Early in life as it turned out, you became a very popular artist who achieved rock star status with several #1 hits in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Would you tell us about this period in your life, and the effect this had on your music career from then on?
Suzanne Doucet: It was really not my intention to become a recording artist. It just happened. I went to Munich to go the Academy of Visual Arts and I was planning to maybe go to acting school as well. However I missed the enrollment and made a living partially with selling newspapers in the arts quarters of Munich, mostly in the evenings in clubs. It was much easier to sell those papers when I sang a few songs with the bands.
There was also song competitions going on every week and I won first place most of the time, which got me my first job as a singer in an American Forces Night Club. That was a great training because I had to learn 40 plus American standards (songs) in two weeks and I had to play percussion, guitar and sometimes piano in the band. A few months later a colleague of my mother asked me if I wanted to do an audition for the main German TV station NDR in Hamburg. They were looking for completely unknown talents and planning a series of improvised shows. Improvisation was one of my passions and I loved to do standup comedy, sketches, and improvised scenes.
I went with a very talented young actor and friend Martin Luettge, and we had no expectations whatsoever to get the gig. We were very excited just to have a chance to see a television studio. Actually that was much more important to us. We were very surprised that we were the only ones invited, and we had a contract for two years in our pocket when we left. That first show was a success and a few other TV shows followed. In the same year I received an offer from a record company to do a single. I wasn’t too crazy about singing German pop songs, but I made a deal with Leif Kraul who was the president of Metronome. If I had a hit record I would then be able to record an album with my own songs. He agreed to my proposal not knowing that my second single (the German version of the U.S. hit Be my Baby) went to the #1 charts in Germany. After 2 subsequent hit singles I went to Leif in 1965 and asked him about our agreement. He was not too happy about it and said that “we should not confuse the public now.” This was his way of saying no. So, I offered to produce my first album myself, and with my own money. The only condition was that Metronome would release the album. He agreed, probably thinking that, I would never do that but six months later I put the finished master on his desk. That was the album Rot wie Rubin. This changed my status in the entertainment industry in Germany completely.
John: I found your career as an actress and television entertainer very impressive Suzanne. You were in fact a star! I read during your role as entertainer and hostess for popular, prime time television shows in Germany and Switzerland, guests on your prime time televised programs included the famous superstars; Bee Gees, Grateful Dead, Keith Emerson, David Bowie, and many more star celebrities. Do you have some memorable stories you would like to share while you were an entertainment hostess, and would you tell us all about your career as an actress?
Suzanne Doucet: I always worked as an actress throughout my career which included plays, theater and musicals like Godspell with Donna Summer in Munich, TV-Plays and doing voice overs, directory assistance, script and film editing. I also started directing and producing when I was 19 – 20 years old. Because of my mother being an actress, mostly theater, I performed on stage very early at age 11 and played my first main role on stage when I was 17.
Pretty much everything I did in my career happened unexpectedly. All of a sudden I found myself a singer, appearing in major TV shows next to celebrities and being on cover pages, getting hundreds of fan letters per day. It was a great time and I took the opportunity to learn as much as I could, but I was never really attached to this world of glitter and fame.
Something in me was always pointing to a deeper reality and my vision was to express those thoughts and feelings through art. One of the greatest opportunities for me was that I could travel the world through my ability to perform and enjoy experiencing many different countries and cultures. I came to the U.S. for the first time in 1968.
My main interest was not to be in the spotlight, but to produce and direct. I had a passion for film as well. My vision of an ideal art form was music combined with visuals. So, I took every opportunity to learn wherever I was. While shooting TV shows I studied what the camera was doing, went to the editing room and discussed production topics with the producer and director. How can entertainment be improved? How can we bring in more quality and important messages?
Swiss and German TV asked me to become a host in their top music shows and I happily accepted. Being a host for 2 of the most popular European shows at the time was another opportunity to do things differently! I was able to co-create the concepts of the presentations in the format of innovative sketches and of course there were many interesting encounters with great artists, managers, musicians, directors and industry executives. One of the shows I did was in Switzerland was called Hits a gogo. It was a live TV show, which I liked much more than taped shows. There is something amazing for me in the “irreplaceable moment” and the uniqueness of “this is it.” Even if the walls are falling or someone is not showing up in time, which happened in my shows several times, you have to pull through. It is like playing theater or performing on stage. You never know how it will turn out and that brings in the magic. I had to speak 4 languages in this show. German, French, Italian, and English. I think the funniest show was one in which I addressed the UK artists in Italian and the French guys in German, the German artists in French and the Italian artist in English.
I remember having David Bowie in 1968 with his first hit Space Oddity in my show and the progressive rock group Yes and so many other great performers. Unforgettable was for me Keith Emerson with his group The Nice as my guest in the first color TV show in Switzerland. He played the song America. It was an awesome performance! You can see this video on You Tube. Several years later I saw him again with Emerson, Lake & Palmer in New York, at Madison Square Garden. That was one of the greatest concerts I have ever seen in my life!
John: Early on you established your own record company (Isis Music International) and had introduced new age music in Europe for the very first time by songs from your album entitled In Essig und Oel. In fact, many of your songs and albums like Red as a Ruby & Reisefieber were very innovative. Could you tell us about your groundbreaking songs, albums, and releases you produced with other artists?
Suzanne Doucet: Yes, after having been signed to various Indies and major labels of Metronome, Liberty, Prom (CBS, TELDEC), Phillips and EMI. Still struggling with the industry about quality and commerce, I finally decided to start my own label. My first release was my last album as a singer with what you could call “new age songs” in 1979. I was singing songs about my own “spiritual journey.” This endeavor was quite successful and I received a lot of applause from the audience, the media and the industry! I was organizing my own PR, radio and retail tour, which was challenging. But most of the TV and radio hosts were supportive and embraced the idea that an artist would start their own label with enthusiasm. I was able to get onto the music charts and do well with my first release Reisefieber, which was also my last album as a singer.
I had started already in 1970 to break out of the traditional pop format by releasing a psychedelic Krautrock adventure on Phillips. A triple album called Zweistein (artist/group) Trip, Flip Out, and Meditation. You can see from the titles where I was heading. I went from psychedelics to spirituality like many other colleagues from my generation. In 1974 I recorded In Essig & Oel which was my first album with new age songs and poetic songs describing a deeper meaning of life and searching for truth.
Musically I believe that I was fortunate to always work with the most outstanding musicians, arrangers and sound engineers. And as a producer I always pushed the envelope. The result was that these productions stood out and received raving reviews for what they were. You could not really compare my albums with anyone else. That was on one hand a great advantage on the other hand seemed an obstacle for the industry. They could never seem to place me in one particular category.
I was always looking for the best possible way of expression and I never liked to conform to certain preconceived ideas or concepts. This was already apparent in my first album production Rot wie Rubin with Rio Gregory. The best description for this album is probably “Ethereal, Poetic Songs and Sound Paintings.” These elements always remained in my albums. I was looking for something new and innovative, and later with artists such as Christian Buehner, Gary Miraz, Chuck Plaisance or Tajalli, I explored new sounds and new ways of composing, performing and recording in the instrumental world of new age music.
John: You have numerous collaboration and solo albums, many of which were groundbreaking at the time like we have talked about earlier. Of your latest recordings and re-releases, what are some albums you would suggest people to sample, for those who may not be as familiar with your music?
Suzanne Doucet: My first collaboration with Christian Buehner was the album Transformation in 1982. From my solo albums I would recommend Reflecting Light & The OM Sound. With Tajalli I recorded Tantra Zone and with Chuck Plaisance over 40 albums of Nature Sounds and Nature Sounds with Music. I would recommend The Sounds of Nature Sampler and the Tranquility Series Sampler. Resonance with Gary Miraz is one of my favorites because it was created so effortlessly. Sireena in Germany recently released a compilation of my singer, songwriter era. The album is called Wo sind all die schoenen Jahre. It has songs from 4 albums. The songs can be sampled at Tunes.
John: You moved to California in 1983 and later founded the very first new age music retail outlet store in the world called Only New Age Music. Would you tell us about your business experience and events during this time in your life?
Suzanne Doucet: The idea to open up a store dedicated to the New Age Music genre came from my own experience by having to go to 5 different stores to find 5 different albums. I thought there should a place where people can find everything they are looking for in new age music. My husband and daughter Natascha, who was 7 years old at the time, drove cross-country twice and we visited every bookstore and every distributor of new age music we could find in 1983 – 1984. We also visited and met with many artists and upcoming record labels. We went to new age communities and centers and shows like the Whole Life Expo and others. It was exciting for us to see that there was a real community, much larger than in Germany or Europe at the time. We started selling our own cassettes from Isis Music in Venice at the boardwalk in 1986 and we wanted to expand into a retail outlet. It took us 6 months to find the right place. My son Shaman was 6 months old, and Natascha was 10 years old when we sold cassettes at the beach.
John: I read many customers of your Only New Age Music store were famous celebrities. Steve Martin was one celebrity. Who were some of the other regular patrons of your business?
Suzanne Doucet: Robert Redford, Sylvester Stallone, William Schatner, Prince, Sonja Braga, Shirley Maclaine and many others. They all bought new age music from our store for various reasons. I guess we had opened the store at the right time in the right place. The day after our official opening we had the LA times, Billboard magazine, Eyes on LA, CBS News, and in the weeks and months following, Japanese and European Television as well as Life Magazine and many more. Two months after our opening the mainstream Radio Station KTWV – The WAVE started playing new age music and sent every listener who called our way. We were able to co-sponsor concerts with The WAVE like Suzanne Ciani at the Roxie (which was a FIRST) and so we became the center hub for new age music. It all just happened naturally.
John: Another first you are credited with is your production and direction of the very first 3 international New Age Music Conferences. Plus you organized the very first New Age World Music Festival featuring 22 international bands and musicians in Los Angeles. Please Suzanne, would you tell us all about your leadership role in these historic events involving the New Age Music genre?
Suzanne Doucet: As I mentioned before the new age music network that was formed in 1987 evolved into these conferences and the concert at the Wiltern. I had this vision that the public did not really grasp the multitude of diverse influences from various cultures and musical styles that new age musicians would incorporate in their music. I felt a concert bringing as many different expressions of this music on stage would be the driving force behind the idea for the store, for the conference, and the concert.
John: Today during your present position as marketing strategist, consultant and online retailer, you assist hundreds of musicians, producers, record labels, radio and radio programmers, and music retailers. It seems you offer assistance to nearly everyone! This is a really broad question but would you outline your responsibilities, professional services you offer, and the corresponding websites?
Suzanne Doucet: I have been assisting other artists and record labels with the help of my husband James since 1987. Because I have a broad view of the new age music market being an artist, publisher, label owner, retailer, promoter and producer myself, I can put myself almost into anyone’s shoes. I am very often looking at campaign strategies from various aspects to make sure it works for the artist, but also for the media person, the retailer or the distributor. Whether we are talking about production, packaging, promotion, sales or advertising it has to work for everyone involved. Many artists see everything from their own perspective only, so I am coaching them and assisting them in whatever their project is.
I have been very fortunate to work with amazing talents such as Alex de Grassi, Patrick O’Hearn, Liquid Mind, Omar Akram, Christopher Franke (TG), Paul Avgerinos, Golaná, Ray Leonard, Michael Hoppé, Fiona Joy Hawkins, Lia Scallon and Hennie Bekker, to mention a few. I also worked with various record labels in the capacity of a creative consultant.
I assisted Soundscan with their New Age genre definition and programmed several DMX music channels. What I am offering is assistance with audio and video production, packaging, graphics, promotion and marketing. I provide innovative ideas and new solutions in any area of the project. You could also call me a project director and/or project manager. I believe one of the most important aspects of my work is that I fill in the gaps. I usually find out very quickly what is missing and help provide the missing components. My strengths also involve strategy, campaign planning and looking for creative ways of enhancing a project. I love graphic arts and filming. Whenever needed I create artwork, and together with my husband and Beth Hilton to produce videos, interviews and visual music clips. You can see some on YouTube.
I still don’t have any formula and look at every project with fresh eyes. I work with a team of professional promoters, marketing experts and distribution channels. I believe I am quite flexible with my services and I am willing to talk for an hour with someone and give him or her, the information he or she can use with no strings attached, or work on a continuous basis, monthly, or sometimes for years. One of my clients has used my services for almost 20 years on and off. I can take on tasks myself and do work for the artist but I prefer that the artist learns everything I know, so they can do it themselves and they won’t require my assistance anymore.
John: I read you serve on the GRAMMY® committee. If the NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences) guidelines allow, can you tell us your role while serving on the GRAMMY® Awards committee?
Suzanne Doucet: I am not allowed to specifically talk about my role at NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences), but I have to say that I enjoy very much what I am doing there for the past 25 years.
John: Your career so multifaceted and diverse Suzanne! I am sure there are many topics I am leaving out. Is there anything you would like to tell about yourself? Perhaps you could tell everyone about the recognition and achievements you have been honored with during your career?
Suzanne Doucet: It might be important to mention that through immaterial gifts from my parents I was able to learn a lot very early in life which enabled me to have trust in whatever I was doing. My mother being an actress introduced me from infancy on to theater, art, music, literature, philosophy, healthy living, yoga and metaphysics. My father, a Jungian Psychologist introduced me early on to the most important questions in life, for example who I am, what life is all about, and how can find understanding of this existence. Without them I would not have been able to accomplish the various things I did in life, so I am very grateful to my parents for their support.
I would also like to mention that I was always conscious of the spiritual reality as long as I can remember, but never attached to any religion or group. I studied many spiritual traditions and I also studied psychologists such as C.G. Jung. Through my father’s (Dr. F.W. Doucet) studies in parapsychology, and super learning in the late sixties and early seventies I slowly integrated metaphysical elements into my work, and that’s how I really came to create new age music. My father inspired me to study Pythagorean Harmonics, which to me is one of the most fascinating subjects on earth and this study naturally gave me the understanding why music created with a certain consciousness and understanding is so essential for everyone on this planet.
I also have to thank my musical mentor Rio Gregory, an incredible pianist, arranger and composer whom I met when I was 16. He guided me musically for many years and we wrote many songs together. Also Anja Hauptmann, my lyrical collaborator and best friend was instrumental in many ways. There were numerous other friends and colleagues who inspired the work I am doing and every one of them has a place in my heart.
There were a few awards. I remember in 1966 I won second place at the Song Festival in Knoggke, Belgium. I received an award in Italy even earlier in 1962, which was the Golden Margharita in Viareggio Italy, and there might have been a few other festivals in Europe. In the U.S., I received a Silver Award for best Music Video at the Houston Film and Video Festival for Starflight, a visual music piece produced and directed with Christopher Toussaint. I received a COVR award for Feather on the Wind – an album a co-produced with Golaná. I also wrote the title song and won an award for Best Mediation and Best Electronic Album for my collaboration with RAY (Ray Leonard). The album is called Celestial Touch.
John: Thank You again for taking time out for our interview Suzanne. I trust we will find time to interview again in the future. For now, is there anything you would like to express to your fans, colleagues, or Circle members?
Suzanne Doucet: Many thanks to everyone I was able to meet, and for sharing their music and experiences with me. I am blessed to have met so many wonderful people in my life, many of them in the new age music community. I love my fans, colleagues and Circle members. I am grateful to be part of such a creative and talented community, and I truly do not perceive myself so much as the doer but more as an instrument among many others in this fabulous orchestra of existence. Thank you too John for this interview.
You can visit Suzanne Doucet & Circle members at NewAgeMusik.ning.com & her personal SuzanneDoucet.com website. You can find more great music for sample or purchase at her NewAgeMusic.com & NewAgeUniverse.com sites. Visit her YouTube Channel & her New Age Music Channel and my Suzanne Doucet page. Photos are courtesy Suzanne Doucet.