For three decades, openly gay crooner Suede has made a name for herself in the jazz, blues, and cabaret worlds as a one-of-a-kind performer. She'lll be in town Saturday night performing at a fundraiser for Metro Wellness and Community Centers that also doubles as a celebration for the organization's 20th anniversary.
"It's gonna be a great, great night for a great cause," Suede said, "And I plan on asking people to dig deep for it — but in a fun way ... So be ready, people!"
The vocalist — who is also talented at an array of instruments, including the trumpet — will be joined on stage by pianist Freddy Boyle, and she'll base her set list around songs she plans on recording for her next CD. Songs will include "Hallelujah," "Little Trip to Heaven," and "Over the Rainbow."
Her last album, Dangerous Mood, was released in 2008. Since that release, life took many unexpected turns, keeping Suede from recording subsequent albums.
"Honestly, it's been a very intense time in my life," she said. "A time of profound challenge of all sorts, lots of death and loss in my life, my family, profound health challenges — I literally almost died ... and when I'm not working, there is no income. So there were extraordinary financial challenges as well."
But Suede came out on the other side of it all stronger and ready to focus on her music.
"I am wiser, know who I am, what I need, what works for me and what doesn't," she said.
This transformation is apparent in her music, and she's never been a more engaging performer.
"It has all brought a richness and a liberation I could only conceptualize before living through it," she said.
Suede might jump in and out of genres, but she considers herself more of a "pop singer with a strong jazz influence."
"A critic described it well, I think, when he said I'm like a fusion of Adele meets Diana Krall meets Bette Midler. I think that fits and covers everything you get in a show of mine," she said.
As a performer in the at-times homophobic jazz world, Suede has been "out" from the very beginning of her career — a time when she was heavily involved in the feminist movement, and the LGBT community was on the brink of the AIDS crisis. But she still felt it important to live and perform openly and honestly.
"[Being 'out'] was completely in line with who I was politically at that time, despite it really not being trendy, let alone safe, let alone good for career advancement," she said. "And that certainly had a big impact on where I would work, and who I'd draw for an audience."
She added, "I felt that if I carried any degree of celebrity visibility because I am a performer, then I had the opportunity and perhaps even a responsibility to show the world that we're not a terrifying, horrid, sick people. Certainly then, and less so, but still now, the jazz market has a pretty definite idea of how they want their female singers to look, what to wear, and what they want them to sing about — the man who got away. Well, I don't fit any of that, but I've got the passion, the pipes and the sass."
Eventually, a mainstream jazz audience — in addition to her loyal LGBT fans — began to take notice of her talent.
Suede will perform to benefit Metro Wellness and Community Centers on Saturday, Jan. 26, at 8 p.m. The show will be held at Metro Wellness, 3251 Third Ave. N., St. Petersburg. For more information about the show, click here.