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Lifestyle

Singer Vega likes story-telling not agenda-setting

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Few things would be more tedious to Suzanne Vega than being political in her work.

Suzanne Vega sings at the Save Darfur rally in New York's Central Park September 17, 2006. Few things would be more tedious to Suzanne Vega than being political in her work.The American singer-songwriter, best known for early chart-topping hits such as "Luka" and "Tom's Diner," says she has strong political beliefs and she doesn't mind airing them. REUTERS/Chip East

The American singer-songwriter, best known for early chart-topping hits such as “Luka” and “Tom’s Diner,” says she has strong political beliefs and she doesn’t mind airing them. But her work is first and foremost about people.

Vega is in Stockholm as part of a tour to promote her first album in six years, a collection of song-stories, many of which focus on New Yorkers in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

“I can’t think of anything more boring than writing a song about the Democratic Party and how I’ll always vote Democratic,” Vega said in an interview.

“What I’d rather do is write about individual stories. And to me that’s the best political song.”

Vega hasn’t decided who she will vote for in the presidential election but she is watching the candidates.

“I like Hillary Clinton, I’ve seen her speak. I think she’s a brilliant woman. I think she would be very capable. Whether America could be led by her ... I think there’s a large group of people who would resent her hugely and would act out in various ways.”

She is also full of praise for Clinton’s main rival, Barack Obama. “I like his thoughtfulness. And there’s a lot to like there.”

The New Yorker’s songs have always dwelled on the city’s whimsical and alienating qualities in equal measure. “Luka,” which addresses child abuse, catapulted her to international fame in 1987.

Three years later, a remixed version of “Tom’s Diner,” a quirky, urban monologue about relationships, reached number five in the United States and was a number one in several countries in Europe.

Vega would welcome having a huge hit single again, but she is more focused on just writing “really interesting, really cool songs” that express how she feels.

“Yeah, it would be great to sell a million records but I kind of feel that what my job is, is to write the songs and make them really good, and work with them and wrestle with them and sit in my room and work on them and walk on the streets and kind of feel things and put that into words.”

That process, in her case, sometimes takes a long time.

“I’m always working on a bunch of things at once and sort of figuring out, ‘Okay which one is going well today?”’ she said. “So sometimes it can take 15 years between the beginning and the end of the song.”

That was the case for the song “Unbound,” from her new album “Beauty & Crime.”

What took even longer -- from start to finish -- was her second marriage. Paul Mills had first proposed to her in 1983. “And I said yes in 2005. We were finally married in 2006.”

How she went 23 years between “Would you...? and “I will” is all a long story, much like the sort of thing you might hear in a Suzanne Vega song.

Reuters

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