Suzanne Vega is an innovative musician who merged folky songwriting and electronic touches with hits like “Luka” and “Tom’s Diner.” Following release of her new album, “Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles,” she brings her intimate tour to Booth Playhouse Sunday.
She recently spoke to the Observer about the album, tour and her best Mother’s Day memory.
Q. You’re touring as a duo with producer Gerry Leonard (David Bowie). Is that an economical decision?
A. It started that way, but it works artistically. Gerry’s very talented. He can play the full production. If we could afford it, we would be adding a drummer about now, but we’re going to wait until June when we play European festivals.
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Q. You re-recorded much of your catalog in the last couple of years. Why?
A. Most of (the old albums) were out of print. I wanted to have the control over my own product and thought it would be interesting for the audience to hear those songs without the production of the ’80s. I wanted people to hear the songs for the craft of the songwriting. It was upsetting to realize all my work could go out of print and could be languishing in the corner of a warehouse.
Q. You reference tarot cards on this album. Is that a new interest?
A. That just started recently. I’ve always been interested in certain spirituality, astrology, ways of telling the future, or prayer. I’d never really thought about the tarot. Three or four years ago I was on tour and I found a book, something simple like “Beginning Tarot.” I bought a deck of cards and started to play with them. I got drawn in. It’s a beautiful system. Some of these songs are situations of my own life through the prism of the tarot.
When I do a simple reading for myself, it almost always makes sense to me. I feel that it’s something that’s enriched my spiritual life. It’s a beautiful world and I love the images. It works as a theme.
Q. You sample 50 Cent on “Don’t Cork What You Can’t Contain,” and you read his biography. How did you get interested in him?
A. Because he grew up 30 blocks away from where my aunt and uncle lived (in Queens). I was just curious what his story was.
Q. You were mixing electronic music and folk long before it was hip. Now it’s practically a genre with acoustic artists using looping.
A. That’s Gerry’s forte. That’s how we get that whole thing live. I’ve always been interested in what we call rap and hip-hop. That’s always been a part of the world I come from – spoken word. The world 50 Cent comes from and the world I grew up in were not so different. We’re both from neighborhoods that had trouble with drugs and economic problems. We both learned to read and write and be good at what we did. There’s a similar root.
Q. What current or up-and-coming songwriters do you like?
A. Josh Ritter. Some of his new stuff is absolutely beautiful. I like Mumford & Sons and Laura Marling, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams. She has a blunt way of telling a story.
Q. You’re here on Mother’s Day. What was your best Mother’s Day?
A. My daughter once made me breakfast. She made me French toast once and I loved it. She and my husband sort of cooked this whole thing up and we have photographs from that morning. She was 13. It knocked me over.