At Music Hall Loft
Mother-daughter bond, two sets of musical family trees root this folk duoBy EMILY REILY
Special to the Union Leader May 10. 2017 12:50PM
If you go...WHO: Lucy Wainright Roche and Suzzy Roche
WHERE: The Music Hall Loft, 131 Congress St., Portsmouth
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday
INFO: 436-2400; themusichall.org
Moms and daughters can bond over the least expected things.
For folk singers and songwriters Suzzy Roche and her daughter, Lucy Wainwright Roche, who are performing at the Music Hall in Portsmouth on Friday of Mother’s Day weekend, that bond includes listening to rapper Eminem.
“My mom and I really love to listen to Eminem while we’re on the road. That’s one of our favorite things to play in the car,” Lucy said.
Eminem’s visceral songwriting and rapid-fire delivery often hinge on a duel sense of vulnerability and angry defiance.
“The ones that he writes about his family I really think are beautiful,” Suzzy said, naming “Cleaning Out My Closet” and “Lose Yourself” as favorites. “He’s very honest, and he’s also very sad. I think he tells the truth about how he feels. I was surprised that I would be able to relate to his songs so much, but I do.”
“He’s just such an emotional writer,” Lucy added. “He’s just kind of brilliant, and, of course, totally different from anything we do. But we think he’s amazing.”
The mother-daughter duo will perform covers and original songs from their 2016 album “Mud and Apples” and 2013’s “Fairytale and Myth,” for which they won Vox Pop best singer/songwriter CD honors at the Independent Music Awards.
“Mud and Apples” contains cover songs rooted in the ’60s and ’70s, such as Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bleecker Street” and Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.”
“‘Landslide’ is one that we learned years and years ago,” Lucy said. “We used to sing it a lot, and then we kind of took it off our list of songs. Then last year we sort of dusted it off again. It’s a good one. I don’t know if this is totally true, but we heard that Stevie Nicks wrote it for her dad, and so it’s kind of like a parent-child song, so that works for our show pretty well.”
The duo performs together only a few weeks each year, since each has other projects.
Suzzy, formerly with The Roches, is a member of The Wooster Group theater company and a novelist.
Besides performing solo, Lucy is a member of The Wainwright Sisters with her half-sister Martha Wainwright and has toured with the Indigo Girls and Amos Lee.
The two perform together simply for a change of pace, and because they love to create vocal harmonies.
“We try to keep the pressure off of it, because you know, most people wouldn’t want to hang around with their mothers that much,” Suzzy said. “I think we both kind of have an instinct about it. We keep it so that it’s a fun thing.”
Besides Suzzy, Lucy and Martha, several more members of the family share musical bonds. Lucy’s father is Loudon Wainwright III and she is half sister to Martha and Rufus Wainwright.
In 1977, when she was 18, Suzzy joined her two older sisters, Maggie and Terre Roche, who by that time were already writing folk songs and had contributed backing vocals to Paul Simon’s 1973 album “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon.” Known for their pristine vocal harmonies, the trio The Roches scored folk songs like “Hammond Song” and “Big Nuthin.” Their three-part harmonies on “Hallelujah Chorus” is the gold standard in a cappella circles.
“Me and my sisters, we just kind of shot out of the gate and went. We didn’t really think about the future. We were just full of energy,” Suzzy said.
And when Lucy came along, she became a part of that touring life.
“She was on the road with us all the time,” Suzzy said. “So she grew up right in the middle of it. Also, her other side of the family, the Wainwrights, they’re all musicians, too.”
Lucy admitted that growing up surrounded by musicians was sometimes overwhelming. She worked as an elementary school teacher for a while, but as she got older, the music called her back.
“Once I got a little further away from it I realized how much a part of my life it had been, and that was kind of how I got sucked back in to the family business,” Lucy said. “But my mom was at least happy that I got my master’s degree before I did that.”
“I was delighted that she was going to have a, quote, ‘real job,’ but then the day that she got her master’s degree, she went on the road with her brother, Rufus (Wainwright), and that was the end of it,” Suzzy said. “She started singing.”
Still, Suzzy says she’s happy with Lucy’s current career choice.
And performing with her daughter has become a fitting chapter to her folk music career, especially since Maggie died earlier this year, and Suzzy said there are no plans for her and Terre to continue as The Roches.
“I don’t think I would be continuing to do it if it wasn’t for Lucy,” Suzzy said. “We have a lot of fun together and we work well together. It’s really a pleasure to sing with her.”