(Dec. 21, 2018) Boys Called Susan group, made up of Bryan Russo, a singer and songwriter from Berlin, and his cousin, Chris Shearer, released their debut album, “Pennsyltucky,” last month.
Russo has shared the stage with more than 30 national recording artists and is a multi-award-winning journalist (including two Edward R. Murrow awards) and composer. He’s released four independent albums.
Shearer is an Emmy-award-winning composer, producer and musician based in Arizona who has worked in many facets of the music industry over the years, from audio engineer to multi-instrumentalist.
The duo created more than 25 songs off cell phone applications such as voice memos and Garage Band, sending song ideas back and forth to each other. The name of the band was chosen in honor of Shearer’s mother, Susan, who passed away from cancer in 2014 and was the inspiration behind the cousins to make music together.
“She obviously had a huge hand in raising me but she sort of adopted Bryan in a sense,” Shearer said. “When he was growing up, he was the oldest out of all of the myriad of cousins on my dad’s side and he saw my mom as sort of one of the cool adults, somebody that he could talk to … somebody that wouldn’t treat him like he was the 12-year-old that he was. So, they stayed in touch over the years and were very close.”
“This record is something that my cousin and I had talked about for a number of years about doing in honor of his mom,” Russo said. “The Boys Called Susan thing was something that we had talked about, but it was always a project to be done later and not something that was right in front of us.”
“Pennsyltucky” has a special meaning to Russo, as he grew up in Pennsylvania. This upbringing quickly became the inspiration not only for the album name, but also the style of the songs. The name is a common joke shared by Pennsylvania residents.
“We have Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and everywhere else is Kentucky … hence Pennsyltucky,” Shearer said.
Both Russo and Shearer had a musical background growing up. Both grew up playing classical instruments and performed in bands in high school. Russo’s mother was a music teacher and Shearer’s was a classical pianist.
The album consists of 11 songs and brings up real-life situations and scenarios, according to Russo.
“This record’s America in 2018,” Russo said. “Everybody can relate to a small town, everybody can relate to an underdog story … everybody can relate to the human condition. I think this record has a lot of questions that have nothing to do with the polarization of our society right now, and it just has a lot of real stories and these are story songs.
“I think with the exception of maybe ‘Rodeo Cool,’ I think the rest of the record is very much an Americana record,” he continued. “It’s singer/songwriter, it’s blues, it’s a little jazz, a little R&B. It’s not [just] about the sound of it … it’s more about what it says.”
“We want the music to be fun and enjoyable to listen to but we don’t want to waste an hour of your time talking about things that everybody obviously already knows,” Shearer said. “Like heartbreak stocks and money times can be hard.”
Despite being released for only a month, Boys Called Susan’s first single, “Company Man” has been heard all over the world, according to Russo.
“The single ‘Company Man’ has been picked up on over 40 radio stations all across the United States and even into Canada,” Russo said. “It’s playing everywhere … it’s playing in places that I never thought it would be. Whether it’s Nashville or Idaho or California or [even] Winnipeg. With digital platforms and whatnot, it can go anywhere.”
The album is available for purchase online at iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Amazon Music and CDBaby.
For more information, visit www.boyscalledsusan.com or Boys Called Susan on Facebook.