You talk about ‘wrestling’ with God. How does that influence you and your music?
A lot of my wrestling is with the established ideas of Christianity and religion – God is this, church is that – I have to look at all those things. Even worship; what actually is worship?
How does culture view God? How does culture view women? It’s about identifying the juxtaposition between those views and then thinking, ‘Right, how do I find my path through this?’ Wrestling is perhaps what I do best.
How do you normally go about writing your songs?
The normal procedure is in waiting and writing a little bit, coming back to it, editing, re-editing. A lot of songwriters say that the skill of writing is in the rewriting. And I think that’s very true. It’s rare for me to have a song that writes itself from beginning to end.
Can you tell us about a song based on what God was doing in your own life at a particular time?
‘Rich Girl’ [from Sue’s Promise Land album] was autobiographical in terms of my upbringing: feeling individual, feeling separate…When surrounded by families you feel a sense of envy, but also a sense of lostness because that’s not my experience. The song talks about finding your way through life, and then it says that God understands me as a woman.
The song says, actually: we are rich, we are not poor. When God looks at us, he totally understands us. When I’m singing that I feel really emotional because I see reviews of my whole life going before my eyes: my questioning, my thoughts of society and culture and some of the media portrayal of feminine beauty.
But also I feel triumphant that I’ve wrestled with God on this and come to a place of acceptance. Perhaps because I’ve experienced that triumph, that elation, I can pass on encouragement to others who, at the moment, only feel devalued, poor or misunderstood.
Incredibly you can, through the singing of a song, communicate hope.
Where else does your inspiration come from? It can be anything from listening to someone – and they pose a question or say something that leaves you thinking – to going to concerts. I also love going to art galleries and absorbing other people’s ideas for colours, images, thoughts, stories.
I love watching documentaries. One of the songs on my latest album is called ‘Stranger’ and it’s inspired by a documentary. It was about people who had body disorders or dysmorphia, who felt ‘unwhole’; the phrase they used was that they felt ‘a stranger to their skin’.
That phrase ‘stranger to my skin’ lived with me, and I’ve attempted to put that kind of poetry in a song. It’s not a question and answer song; it’s poetically and musically throwing out into the universe some of the questions people have.
How do you hope listeners will respond?
I hope people will say, ‘Well, that’s how I feel.’ And if they stay a while in the album, maybe they’ll hear something that will connect or that will just make them feel valued; help them to feel that they are worth something.
Ethos is out soon and will be available from suerinaldi.net. Sue will be leading worship at Spring Harvest during Minehead week two (2nd-6th April)