Motherhood Softens Suzanne Vega's Tune

When folk singer Suzanne Vega started touring after her breakthrough hit "Luka" nine years ago, one of her biggest concerns was making sure her rhythm section showed up every night.

Today, her priorities have shifted a bit. After getting married and giving birth to her daughter, Ruby, Vega is more concerned with her daughter's sleeping and eating habits - especially now that her daughter and husband, Mitchell Froom (her keyboardist and producer), have joined her on the road.

"[Having a baby] was a huge adjustment for me because my work was the center of my life," Vega says backstage before a concert. "Everyone was focused on me. Now the baby's needs come first."

On tour promoting her latest release, "Nine Objects of Desire," Vega says having Ruby was a turning point for her - personally and professionally. On previous albums, she was more comfortable writing about other people's lives - touching upon child abuse, fear, and anxiety. But now, her baby and marriage have given her stability, and it shows in her songwriting. Vega's songs are happier; the sounds are more sultry and adventurous.

Vega has never been one to state the obvious (for example, marriage and family) in her songs. She says writing songs about motherhood and marriage can be rather corny. "But if I could write them so they are still kind of gritty and realistic," she says, "then I would like to continue doing that."

She has achieved this with a couple of songs: The most personal song, "Honeymoon Suite," is a diary of her Parisian honeymoon, and the gentle sounds of "Birth-day" are about the day her daughter was born.

When at home, Vega sings to her daughter frequently, and her records lull Ruby to sleep every night. "She doesn't sing, but she loves to bang on things and sort of play drums. She has a little tambourine and a couple of mallets, and that's become her thing that she loves."

Her daughter doesn't attend every show; sometimes she stays back at the hotel with her nanny. But when she does see her mother onstage, Vega says, "she'll get up and dance and throw her arms up in the air."

When Vega started writing "Nine Objects" last year, she had trouble concentrating in her Manhattan apartment with Ruby around. Vega says she would always want to play with her daughter instead of writing. For starters, she says, she needed something as simple as a room with a door. So she rented a studio apartment below her. "I would go down there and just sleep, read a book, or listen to music, and that would get me to write again."

As for Ruby, Vega hopes she'll be interested in a stable and secure career - something music isn't necessarily known for. "I want her to get more satisfaction from a career that is not based on public opinion. It's a popularity contest, and that's the part of my job that drives me nuts."

But given that Ruby has already shown some interest in drums and adjusted quite well to touring, she just might be headed down mom's same career path.

*Suzanne Vega will be performing tonight at the Roseland Theater, Portland, Ore.; Nov. 17 at the Warfield in San Francisco; and Nov. 18 at the Luther Burbank Center in Santa Rosa, Calif. For more tour dates, check out Vega's Web site at

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.