Suzie Brown has been on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic for a year as a cardiologist at … [+]
Suzie Brown has been on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic for a year as a cardiologist at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Brown specializes in advanced heart failure and heart transplantation. The work entails confronting mortality on a daily basis with her patients and with Covid-19, that risk has heightened.
“It’s been tough for everyone, but Covid has made my job a lot more stressful, both because of my worrying about my personal safety and the safety of my family,” she tells me. “Then also seeing terrible things happening to our patients. Heartbreaking, horrible stories that I wouldn’t even want to tell you. It’s added a whole other layer of anxiety and sadness to an already really difficult year.”
Brown works at the hospital part-time and when she’s not at Vanderbilt, the mother of two is also a singer-songwriter. While she usually turns to songwriting as an escape, Brown admits that it took her a while after lockdown to be creative.
“At first I couldn’t write anything,” she says. “I just felt far away from everything. I was a shell of myself.”
To cope and process the enormity of the pandemic, Brown took long solo walks and runs for her mental health. Soon, she began thinking of song ideas during each outing. After she wrote her first Covid-era song on April 4, 2020, she says the floodgates opened. One song turned into a full album and she’s been in the studio on her days off recording.
“That’s really been the main way I’ve unloaded and kept my sanity,” she admits. “These [songs] have felt private and just for me and so deep down and personal. It’s been like my diary, my Covid diary.”
One of her early songs was “Another New Normal,” which Brown released this month. She says she’s not a religious person but found herself praying on her long walks. Some of her prayers included surviving the pandemic and not exposing her family.
The lyrics within “Another New Normal” detail all the emotions she was feeling at the time. “I ain’t the praying type/ But lately I’ve been praying to whatever’s in the sky,” she sings on the song’s first verse.
“As I reflected I realized this is a big, seismic shift in the world. People were throwing around that phrase, new normal. Then I was thinking, ‘I’ve had so many new normals in my life,’” she says. “I was reflecting that life is full of new normals and that we’re always adjusting. I’ve had that feeling so many times like, ‘Wow, I was just starting to feel like I’m in a groove and now I have to make this huge change.’ I think to be successful in life, you have to be willing and able to adjust to all these new normals.”
Songwriting has always been the way Brown processes her life. During the pandemic, she says songwriting was the one thing she could do for herself because everything else she was doing for others. She had no intention to record the songs she was writing at the time as she admits, “my music career was literally the last thing on my mind. It felt so indulgent to even be worrying about that.” When she realized she had so many songs and was mentally ready to express them she reached out to producer Billy Harvey who she worked with for 2019’s Under the Surface.
Harvey was the one that urged Brown to finish and release “Another New Normal” first. Unreleased songs including “Bulletproof” and “Diffuse Me,” both to be included on an album release later this year on her own Freshie Records, further detail how Brown has been feeling and coping throughout Covid-19. Ahead of the release, Brown hopes to plan a RV tour.
While Brown doesn’t openly share her life as a musician to patients, when they learn she’s a singer and find her music it always turns into a conversation. Now, more than ever, music is needed. She says being vulnerable within her music has made her a better doctor.
“My goal with music is to help people. I write songs because it’s what I’m processing, but I feel like success in music is that people feel things when they hear my songs,” she says. “That really is my metric. If my songs can help people feel what they’re feeling, then I feel like it’s a success.”
I am a freelance music journalist based in Nashville and serve as a country contributor at Forbes. My byline has appeared in Billboard, Country Weekly, CMA Close Up,