Something To Talk About

Werner uses music, humor, common ground to connect with audience

Posted: November 5, 2017 at 1 a.m.

Courtesy Photo "As a musician and a music lover, Cuban music is like catnip," says singer/songwriter Susan Werner of her latest project "An American in Havana."
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Courtesy Photo "As a musician and a music lover, Cuban music is like catnip," says singer/songwriter Susan Werner of her latest project "An American in Havana."

When Susan Werner visits a town, she wants to know its stories: What's the local specialty you just have to try? Who is the quirky character at the barber shop or the coffee shop everyone has a story about? What are the town's unique traditions?

"I think if you're from a small town like I am, you're always in some way trying to re-create that small community," says the entertainer. "It's sort of an hour and a half conversation with some music in there.

FAQ

Susan Werner Trio

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $30

INFO — 443-5600, waltonartscenter.org

"I mean, the audience together always has way more experience than just me as an individual," Werner goes on, "and the best shows sort of bring that forth. I don't know going into the show what it's going to be. [But] at the end of the show, somehow we're going to realize how much we have in common and how alike we are. And that is always the best night, when shows end and it feels like we're much closer together and the crowd is closer to each other than they were when they came in."

The singer/songwriter NPR has named "Empress of the Unexpected," Werner brings her trio and her national tour to the Walton Arts Center on Nov. 9 in support of her latest album "An American in Havana," released Sept. 15. "Havana" is Werner's latest concept album -- written from the perspective of an American visiting Cuba for the first time and inspired by Werner's recent visits to the island -- following 2007's agnostic gospel album "The Gospel Truth" and 2013's tribute to agriculture, "Hayseed."

"It gives us something to talk about right away," Werner says of her proclivity for the concept album (a record centered around a specific theme or inspiration). "And it isn't necessarily political, it isn't necessarily romantic, it's a topic. It's a subject. I like having something for us to talk about that I can find my way towards over the course of a record with the writing, and we can find our ways towards over the course of an evening, of a concert."

Though her catalog since her 1995 major label debut is robust, Werner says the trio -- with Croatian piano/accordion player Radoslav Lorkovic and Kentucky bass player Adam Chaffins, who both "bring a lot of personality to the show" -- will focus on songs from "Havana" as well as her other 2017 project, the EP "Eight Unnecessary Songs." The humorous songs -- covering subjects from plastic surgery in "What Did You Do To Your Face" to the misfortune of catching a date kiss his dog on the mouth in "Dog" -- showcase Werner's witty observations of everyday life in the clever style she's become known for.

"These types of songs have found a place in the discussion between myself and the audience lately," she reveals. "I also think people are in the mood for a laugh, for a good time. And these songs, which are entirely unnecessary, seem strangely necessary in a way. That is surprising and rewarding to me as a songwriter."

NAN What's Up on 11/05/2017