BuddyTV was recently granted the privilege of sitting down with rocker Suzie McNeil. The former contestant on Rock Star: INXS was both delightful and forthcoming. Here is what transpired:
So what were you doing before INXS?
I was living in Toronto and always wanted to do music. I went to college for a while and didn’t really enjoy it, so took off for the west coast in Canada and started a few bands there. I did like Blues there, like a Blues band, then I came back to Toronto and basically to cut a long story short – I just wanted to make a living singing. Like I always wanted to be famous and stuff but from a practical standpoint, I decided that if I can make a living singing I’d be happy. So then in Toronto I had a community happening. I was like on a Abba cover band for a long time and got to play in front of over 50,000 people in that show, so it kinda’ trained me for the road and I was making a good living doing it and I also did some other shows up here in Canada.
So how’d you get involved with INXS?
I got a call from a journalist, a local journalist and a friend telling me to audition for this INXS thing, and when you’re a singer you do a lot of auditions through your career, so you get to a place where you’re like, fine. But I was pretty happy with my job at the time and definitely didn’t think I was gonna’ get it so I did it anyway. It almost didn’t work out three times in a row, three different things happened so I was like forget it, I don’t need to do it. But it ended up working out and then I got the show. And they auditioned around the world so that felt pretty cool already.
How was the experience?
The craziest thing about Rock Star for me was that I generally hate competition ‘cause I like to think that everyone is unique and special in their own way so it’s hard to compare people right, so I was scared about that. So that combined with the fact that the contestants were totally sequestered in this situation is really weird, and so when I watch the show, that’s what I watch for and I know how they felt and I know how their feeling and its pretty strange because you don’t really have any communication with anyone but the other contestants and top it off they were like dropping like flies! Like on that show once a week someone is gone and you really get attached to the people ‘cause it’s all you have, it’s like going through war together.
I talk to a lot of reality contestants from various shows, and a lot of people tell me that the show’s portrayal of them was very skewed. Did you feel that way about the producers for Rock Star: INXS? Or did they do a good job portraying the “real? you?
By the end I definitely think they did. But at the first show, at the very beginning I was totally edited in a way that was not me at all and it was really detrimental to me because right off the bat, they kind of portrayed me like a game player and that’s not how it went down. So it started off as a lot of people disliking me, and when we were in there we didn’t know anything. Like I’m a really sweet, nice person – which everyone figured out by the end. But yeah, that first episode, and even talking to friends now or people that know me now, they’re like, “Oh yeah, I remember that episode. I used to think you were a total bitch!? There’s a lot of editing going on, a lot of editing going on, so (when I watch the show now) I try to watch to see what the editing is.
So what was the most challenging part being on the show?
The competition factor because I felt that everyone was so talented. It brings out a lot of insecurities about your own talent, and that combined with being sequestered, being isolated, was tough. But we created friendships that we knew would last forever and they totally have. We’re all still in touch and it’s this bond that know one else gets and we’ll have forever.
What was the experience like being the last female contestant remaining on the show?
I was surprised. Like I said, I guess I was too insecure, and everyone is to a degree, and I definitely didn’t think I would be. But I was absolutely honored and because of that I have had a lot of opportunities come my way. So as soon as my album gets released I’m thanking INXS first because they kept me on there that long.
Looking back, would you do it all over again?
Yeah. I’m not gonna lie, it was tough and it totally change my life. And I’ve had times since where I was like, that show ruined my life! But it didn’t, that was just like my darkest moments. I have no regrets. I’m totally…(pause) …I feel very lucky and am excited about the way my life has changed and the opportunities that I’ve had since.
So after the show, were you launched into a number of things right off the bat? Or was there a period of time where you weren’t really sure what was going to happen next for you…career wise?
Definitely. Because we were so sequestered, and also there wasn’t really a game plan set up for when we left which I found out is kinda’ common for reality shows. I’m not gonna say that the producers don’t care about the contestants, but you know your just a face in a big machine right, so you can’t expect…there’s a lot of reality shows so that’s just part of the formula. So I think a lot of people think there’s gonna be some kind of guidance and for us on that show, there wasn’t any. So that combined with the fact that I was trapped in this mansion for three months, I was kinda reeling around right after and desperately trying to figure out what to do because I had a lot of offers coming my way and it was a really an important time to figure out which one I was gonna follow. I got offered a record deal right away in Canada and didn’t take it and I did something else. Now was that the wrong decision… It’s not an easy business and it’s all about making the right decisions for sure.
So I understand that you’re working on a new album. How’s that coming along?
Yeah actually, I’m pretty well finished the album now and just looking for the right deals to release it on. There’s a couple in the works but these things take a while to negotiate properly.
So if all goes to plan, when you would like to release it?
I’m hoping… I’m working on it, but another thing is I’ve sort of become more realistic and I’m a lot less naive than a year ago…but I’d love to by Christmas actually. We’re trying to get the single out during Supernova, so I’ve got my fingers crossed. I don’t know if it’ll work out but I’m hoping by Christmas. It’s gonna be good…it’s kinda rock pop, so it’s not challenging to listen to. I think a lot of people are gonna like it.
So I heard you did a duet with Clay Aiken on his upcoming album?
Awesome! Has that song already been completed?
Yeah. Again, in the business it’s funny because I did it but then I didn’t really hear anything, but then my mom sent me a link to the fact that it’s going on the album…like I think someone told me (laughs) …but I wasn’t really involved in it, so I was like, oh ok! (laughs)
So it was a surprise to you?
Well I kinda knew but these things all just sort of happen without you being involved really. But no, I definitely know I was in the studio! (laughs) …Yeah it’s gonna be good, it was a good song and it was a fun song to do.
Can’t wait to hear it! So how did that relationship come about? We’re you and Clay in contact before?
No, actually it was…you know it’s a small musical world in LA. But my producer, the guy who produced my album, his name is Marty Fredrickson, was producing that song and you know Marty and I work really well together and we really enjoy it and he’s like dude, I think you’d sound really good on this song, lets give it a try. And you know we were both on TV so we thought it would work out, and it did! It sounds really good!
So right now your currently touring in Canada with some of your Rock Star INXS friends?
We’re just dong a few shows up here. I just got of tour in America with Pink and her promo American tour and right now I’m playing some shows in Canada and either…um, things are kinda in the air. Like I said my single might be getting released or I might go to Europe with Pink, I’m not too sure what I’m doing right now but I mean worst case scenario I’m going to Europe…so that’s not that bad.
How was touring with Pink?
It was great! It was really cool to be able to see the machine, to be able to see the inner workings of a big production like that and I’ve always…the actual gig I was signing back up and it was a great gig for me because it was just me singing back up and we’d do some acoustic songs so I’d get featured in that way. Also as far as like modern pop rock artist go, there are only a few that I admire and Pink was probably like the top on the list before I even worked with her, so I thought that was pretty cool and I really respect her and I admire her voice. We have like a mutual respect and we’re both singers and we both get it.
Have you been following this season of Rock Star: Supernova?
What do you think so far?
I think it’s cool, it’s edgier. It’s good they’ve established their own unique show. The Supernova guys are crazy and I love it! There’s some great talent. There’s definitly some great female talent I feel this year and as much I don’t think they will, I hope they pick a woman. I honestly don’t think they will and I don’t know why, but I hope they do. I think that would be really cool, I think that it’s unique. I hope they don’t just go for the formula of a guy. I think it would speak volumes for women…but I’m biased. (laughs)
Do you think you would have been a better fit for Supernova?
No, definitely no. I’m happy to be in the season that I was in. I definitely thought about it, like, ooh this is cool! Do I wish I would have been on this year? The answer is no. I love it….I’m not as hard edged.
Any favorites on Rock Star: Supernova?
Yeah, I really like Storm actually. I think she is my favorite. She’s tough but she’s got like a soft side to her. She kicks ass! (laughs)