MUSICAL THERAPY Damion Suomi

The songwriter may not be certain
of the answers, but he definitely has the big questions.

 

BY JASON FERGUSON

 

You know
the guy. The handsome kid belting out covers in the bar, the one with the spark
in his eye and the scratch of premature world-weariness in his voice that lets
you know that he’s got far more to offer the musical world than crowd-pleasing
renditions of drinker-friendly tunes … you know that guy, don’t you?

 

If you
don’t, then meet Damion Suomi, a bearded, tattooed twenty-something who pays
his rent (and paid his dues) singing tunes in an Irish pub in Cocoa Beach,
Florida, but who has recently released a solo album – the wittily emblazoned Self-Titled – that packs an emotional
and spiritual punch more resonant than a whiskey-soaked 2 a.m. rendition of
“Danny Boy” ever could. 

 

“Music
has always been a part of my life. My dad always played in bands, and there was
always a guitar around; my brother was a guitar player too,” says Suomi.
“It didn’t really interest me until I was 15; they were always trying to
put a guitar in my hand, and I didn’t really want anything to do with it, but
around that time, I picked it up and it was just magical.”

 

That magic
– and a series of fortuitous, post-high school circumstances – eventually found
Suomi living in Ireland with a friend for nearly a year, making money by
singing songs in local pubs.

 

“I
went to bible college for a year and quickly realized that it wasn’t for me,
and an opportunity arose for me to travel to go stay in Ireland for a while,
and it ended up being about nine months,” says Suomi about the unusual
path that found a Florida kid with Finnish heritage singing Celtic folk songs
in bars. “That experience was an initiation into the world; a lot of my
ideas about the world were pretty immature up to that point, and it took
getting out of this – this state, this country, this mindset – to get some real
perspective on things.”

 

That
perspective gave Suomi the impetus to take a lifetime of growing up in a
musical household and begin creating music that meant something to him as an
artist and as a writer. Yet, after returning to the States, he found himself at
the complete opposite end of the musical spectrum, playing with a pop-punk band
that proved to be regionally popular. Still, the singer-songwriter had yet to
find an accurate representation of the songs in his head.

 

“I put
my hand to writing in a more pop format before, and even though I had this
incredible band, it never just felt right inside of me,” he says of the
band experience. “So I left that band after a lot of success real quickly,
and ended up just traveling. I was in San Francisco for a while, Boston for a
bit, and came home and started penning this album.

 

“These
songs started coming out of me years ago, and somewhere along the line, it
became more about wanting to write words than just about playing music,”
Suomi says. “The guitar just became a vehicle for getting those words
across and trying to say something. It became a passion, then it became my
therapy.”

 

Back at
home in Florida, Suomi began working on the songs that would become Self-Titled, but like any good therapy
session, the album took a little longer than expected. Songs like “Sunday
Morning,” “Archer Women,” “Save Your Ass” and others make
up a gritty and soulful soundtrack to a the process of a young, well-traveled
man who’s attempting to wrestle with the puzzles that plague us all. But
they’re also, to Suomi, something of a period piece, as the process of writing,
recording and releasing Self-Titled wound up taking nearly three years.

 

Dealing
with hopes and dashed expectations, the warm comfort of booze and the trials
and tribulations of love lost and found, Suomi’s lyrics are, on one hand,
unique in their relatively youthful perspective, but on the other hand, focused
on the same sort of issues that singer-songwriters have been wrestling with for
hundreds of years. 

 

“I
don’t know, the big questions,” says Suomi when asked about the issues his
lyrics focus on. “The love questions, the spiritual questions, how people
relate to each other.” 

 

Still, even
the songwriter himself has moved somewhat past the subject matter he’s singing
about on Self-Titled. 

 

“A lot
of these songs were written two or three years ago,” he says, “so
some of the emotional stuff, I’m kinda removed from, even though a lot of them
are still relevant. At least I hope they are.”

 

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