Suzanne Grzanna wears many hats. She’s a saxophonist, vocalist, songwriter, arranger, publisher, and producer who has won over seventy awards for a wide range of work in the last few years. She’s a member of the Recording Academy, SAG-AFTRA, and Guild of Music Supervisors. She also runs her own label Diva Records and has released nine albums on said label. On top of all that she’s collaborated with two-time Billboard Top 20 Artist Kim Cameron for her film “Seaper Powers” and also co-wrote a song with John DePatie for the 2021 film “Sunrise.” Her original composition “Simply Sunday” was featured in the 2019 film “Wild Honey.”
ME: To start, tell me about how you got involved with Wisconsin Music Ventures.
SUZANNE: Well that’s kind of a funny story (laughs). I found out from a mutual friend of Allison that lives in Los Angeles. My friend April met her during a work-related event and that’s how I got connected with her. It was funny because it wasn’t even through Wisconsin but an outside source.
ME: Yeah, she’s well-connected. That seems to happen with a lot of people and her.
ME: Where did you come up with “Sax Diva”?
SUZANNE: People actually started calling me that as a nickname. Since I was playing out – and this was a long time ago – people couldn’t pronounce my last name so they ended up just calling me Sax Diva. It just came from friends and then I started incorporating it into my business; now I have Sax Diva LLC and I’m just trying to build on the brand.
ME: It’s catchy.
SUZANNE: (laughs) It’s better than saying “go to Grzanna.com.”
ME: It’s a good way to endear yourself a little bit.
ME: So I was looking at your website; tell us about “Western Conviction”?
SUZANNE: So that is a movie with director Colleen Ann Brah, and we were supposed to shoot a while ago but because of COVID we’re hoping to shoot this next year once some of the restrictions are lifted. I’m excited for that one. I’ll have a part, and I’ve written some pieces of music for another movie that Colleen wrote as well called “A Different Direction.”
ME: Very exciting! Cool to see you’ve been busy in a lot of different projects.
ME: Do you spend more time now in Milwaukee or LA?
SUZANNE: Well I live here in Milwaukee. I did live in Los Angeles for a stint but right now I’m taking care of some family things, so I’m here but I’ve been traveling a lot. It’s always nice to come back home to your surroundings and your friends and people that you’ve known your whole life. But I’m so busy all the time that I don’t get out as much I need to (laughs).
ME: I get cooped up too; I get it. When you have been in LA, what would you tell people about Milwaukee and how would you describe it to people who live out on the West Coast?
SUZANNE: I would say that it’s similar to how Portland was back in the day. I don’t know what’s going on in Portland now anymore but I thought it was a similar feel. I would tell them that it’s the biggest city in the state and that there’s so many more people moving into Wisconsin now. I tell them we have traffic but it’s not overbearing like LA. I say that we have tons of amazing restaurants and that I think we have some of the most amazing musicians. It’s funny when I travel and how many people I meet in the business that are from Milwaukee or Wisconsin. There’s so much to be offered here to everyone.
ME: Good on you for singing the praises! I imagine you also tell them it gets really cold.
SUZANNE: (laughs) Yeah, and then they ask me why I’m still living here when it gets to minus 30.
ME: I mean the Milwaukee summers and just the culture keep us here.
ME: My last thing I wanted to talk about is, what are you working on now? I know you’re very busy and are involved in a lot of projects, but I’d love a synopsis of what folks can expect of you in the next couple months.
SUZANNE: Because of my jazz background, I’ve been getting asked to record on some of other people’s projects in different genres. In some ways I’m using my jazz skills to switch it up, which I love to do. I have a new jazz album that’s all done and I just have to come up with how I’m going to be releasing it, so probably in the next year I’ll have a new album out. I’ve also been working with some other artists in the dance world who wanted me to put out an EDM jazz song; it has all the elements of jazz in my playing but it has a different groove. I’m going to release it probably in the next year.
ME: How interesting! I don’t really know of much else like that coming out of the scene.
ME: Do you have any more gigs coming up?
SUZANNE: I do have some that are in the works. I’ve been trying to catch up in the studio because I’ve been traveling a lot. I’m doing one for Wisconsin Music Ventures for Valentine’s Day weekend and I’m also hosting one of Jazz Unlimited’s open jams. In between that time I’m working on a couple gigs out of town; I think I’ll be playing in Los Angeles at a couple places and possibly in New York. I just did a whole run of gigs all over Milwaukee but now I’m moving it out to other cities.