I believe it was around 2010, a friend of mine shared a YouTube video on Facebook. I opened the link and listened to it, a young girl named Su İdil is singing “Just Friends”. I fell in love! Her swing, intonation, sincerity, vocal range… And she was only 16 years old. It is a great feeling to experience a person’s energy through a photo or a video even if you have never met them before. Then a common friend brought Su over to a dinner at our place and that sealed the deal! It has been 7 years, this wonderful woman is one of my most precious friends in life. She is the living proof of the saying “intelligence doesn’t necessarily come with age”; Su İdil is one of the “Women Who Runs With Wolves” with her empathy that transcends limits when in need, her wits, sincerity, talent and will. She has achieved so much at her early age, and is one of the valuable Turkish vocalists who never stops and always looks for what could be done better.
Who is Su İdil for those who don’t know her? Su, who has graduated from the Psychology Department of Başkent University with honors, started her professional music career when she was 15 years old by attending Poland Pulawy Summer Workshop as she was given scholarship after participating in Nardis Young Jazz Vocal Competition. She has performed at many clubs and festivals with many esteemed musicians since then in various different cities in Turkey. She participated in the Nardis Young Jazz Vocal Competition once again in 2015. She was unanimously chosen as the first place winner and was given the opportunity to participate in Riga Jazz Stage among many other prizes. She attended Barry Harris’s jazz workshop in Rome, Italy, in 2017. She started to write lyrics for Onur Aymergen’s compositions during these years and recorded an album with pianist Çağrı Sertel (arrangement writer, music director, productor), guitarist Onur Aymergen (composer), bassist Ozan Musluoğlu (producer) and drummer Mehmet İkiz. Her first single “Yalnız Adam” was released in 2019 and her first album “Anlat Bana” has been available on all music platforms since the beginning of 2020. “Anlat Bana” is a high-energy album. All the lyrics are written by Su. We witness the strength of her writing as well as her voice in this album. I recommend listening to Su’s live performances in addition to listening to her record. Her energy on the stage, the pieces she chooses, her ease while interpreting them, her communication with her fellow musicians, especially the emotions she achieves to make her listeners feel during her ballads… You have to listen to her live! I asked all the questions you could wish to know about to Su since I knew the effort that went into recording this album.
How do you feel about your first album?
I would like to thank you for your lovely words and all these beautiful and bright feelings you made me experience since the day we became friends. I would like to emphasize that you play a very important role in my journey in life. Recording an album is a special process for everyone of course, especially if it is their first album. This album is particularly special to me in addition to being my first. The first of these is –I think I will mention this in all my interviews–the fact that I got to work with musicians that I have dreamt of collaborating with since childhood. Second is that we planted the seeds of it with two of my dear friends, Onur Aymergen and Ozan Musluoğlu. Third is, I got to tell my own stories and my own feelings. I think other interpreters will understand what I am trying to say more easily. It is very enjoyable to be the voice of other people’s words and songs, but it is like a mask even if it is a way to express your own feelings; it doesn’t shed light on the real you. This is like a state of relaxation, a smart-casual dress, and it is really fun, but you cannot fully be yourself while singing other people’s songs. It is similar to playing a role you identify with in a greatly-written play as opposed to living your own life. I feel very lucky to have experienced this nakedness, I can call it a confrontation in a sense, before I am 30.
You have been working with Onur Aymergen since the beginning of this journey. What does it feel like to work with the same people for such a long time? An organic bond, in which friendhsip reflects on your music, must have formed.
It does, how would it not?! Onur has a special place in my music career. We have been working together for 9 years. We gave numerous concerts, played and traveled together often. We got to form a brother-sister bond in addition to a friendship based on music and created a very positive cycle. Our friendship got deeper as we played and so did our music. This is very valuable to me since it is a rare connection. It is a huge comfort for a vocalist to be able to rely on a “companion” on the stage. Some have the ability to develop themselves through hardships, sometimes under the pressure of a pushing force. This has always had an adverse effect on me since I am a softer person in character. Places where I feel relaxed, and not judged have always given me bigger opportunities to improve myself, may it be the stage or life itself, a student-teacher reletionship or the like. Onur has always had a valuable place in my musical development with his constructive character and wonderful musicianship. We always understood each other in a musical sense and in life. We grasped each others’ characters when it comes to things we like or dislike, things we get angry at or things we enjoy and our music grew organically in this comfort zone since we are always together during the creation process. We established a solid sound with Ozan in the summer of 2017 in Alaçatı. Then he got us together with Çağrı and Mehmet. Things got to another level through Çağrı’s invaluable efforts and Mehmet’s magic touch on such a valuable foundation. I am rather lucky as you can see.
What is the greatest advantage of studying psychology on musicianship?
The biggest advantage of studying psychology has been me developing an insight, I think. I live with an awareness of how I feel and getting out of some predicaments by trying to understand why I feel in certain ways. Trying to achieve this balance is an exercise in itself and making this a habit serves to make one be honest with themselves. Being honest with yourself allows one to view life, people and your own essence in a different light. Readers might ask what this has to do with music. Let me tell you. Music is a business founded on connections and human relationships just like any other business. Being colleagues in this field is very different than sharing an office. Music exists through emotions. I believe it is very hard for people who don’t understand one another well or share emotions to come together to create music that is sincere and delicious. Therefore, music gets affected the first and the most when you don’t read the people you work with correctly and spend effort on your communication. I have always tried to spend effort on this. I have said this before, the fact that the musicians I work with enjoy sharing the stage with me has always been just as important, if not more, as receiving the audience’s applause. I have improved myself through listening to their words and observing their emotions on the stage. I think sincerity is a very valuable aspect in music, life, song and lyrics and in relationships. I have never worked a long time with people I don’t feel that sincerity with. This has been a functional defense mechanism in my development. I have been to Barry Harris’s workshop in Rome in 2017. There was a very talented girl there. She was a bit concerned about being in the limelight and I will always remember what Barry told her. She was singing really well but Barry stopped her and said “Your ability to sing and the play isn’t the core of this. You won’t be heard if you aren’t sincere”. I believe this approach is very accurate in both micro and macro levels. One has to show effort to achieve sincerity. You have to start with your relationship with your own self in that effort. Both music and life sound much better when they have settled down on a path.
What are you influenced by?
I am actually influenced by everything that makes me feel. Consciously or unconsciously. A sentence in a book I have read, something my parents or friends have said, a word that I have heard in a chat or a song; these complete a puzzle in a moment I least expect them to. Just like in games when a door opens after completing a level; another puzzle shows up when you complete the previous one. I try to be open to these, as much as I can. As we have too much time in our hands, I try not to go dull. I try to learn new languages, improve my painting skills, focus on music, read books as much as I can afford to. Everything is influential if you are willing to receive, see and listen.
What are you currently working on?
I have been working with Güç Başar Gülle for more than a year. Since I didn’t graduate from music school, harmony aspect has always been somewhat scary to me. Then you started to work with Güç Başar Gülle and inspired me. Friendships are great when they open such doors! I felt really comfortable with his pedagogical approach and his system and study with great joy thanks to him. We can’t do the lessons too often since I don’t live in Istanbul, but I try to keep my knowledge fresh even when I cannot attend the classes. I lost my touch for a bit and had to do the homework exercises in the book all over again. That’s what being a nerd calls for… I started taking classes from dear Randy Esen this February. I managed to reinforce my knowledge on theory and practice on top of my work with Güç Başar Gülle without even noticing. We have been able to do two lessons with Randy so far but it is encouraging to see the improvement in myself after doing the homework and practicing. I try to improve myself in both vocal and harmony aspects. I would like to send my love and respect to my dear teacher Sibel Köse who has taught me how to perceive music, singing and stage presence. There are fantastic educators when it comes to jazz in our country despite the lack of a fully-equipped university degrees. Thankful for their existence!
What are your plans for the near future?
I am a little afraid to make plans with everything going on in the world just like everybody else but I haven’t lost hope. I believe that a new system is being born. I wish to create more and play what I produce live more often if there is an enlightenment in the right direction and if people can spare time for themselves without being victims of global mistakes in this new system.
What changed in your life in the past 10 years, you moved from Ankara, your birthplace, to Çeşme. How did this affect you?
A lot of things actually changed. I graduated from high school, went to college. I became familiar with a beautiful branch of a dreamy department. I got on the stage more and more often. I graduated after 4 years of singing at night and writing exams the next morning at 9 and traveling often. You adopt a graduate identity after college. But there is a period when you aren’t sure of what that identity will lead to and which doors it will open. My family moved to Çeşme during that time. I stayed in our house in Ankara on occasion for a year. Those days were when I experienced living alone for the first time and I enjoyed them very much. However, we closed that house down when we went to Ankara less and less frequently. I adapted to a new system, leaving behind my neighborhood of 22 years. Living in Çeşme was a childhood dream of mine, because I have so many great memories of summers and friendships here. Still, it was hard getting used to a new life within so many uncertainties. I had a ten-day long vacation during that time in Rome to be alone with myself, as I mentioned above about Barry Harris’s workshop. It could seem like just another vacation but I saw what a turning point it could be to be alone with yourself during such a murky time. I had a lot of time to think about what I want and how to proceed. Those ten days maybe worth months or years. I returned renewed and I decided to build a living on music. So I can say that these 10 years were filled with coming of age, 2 graduations, changing cities, 4 competitions–one being abroad–, a lot of traveling, people who taught me a lot, amazing friendships, a lot of concerts and the album of my dreams. These ended up making me grow up I guess. I also realized that more questions arise about life, almost as many as the ones you manage to answer. I learnt that living is maybe just that.
You also like R&B and sing it really well in addition to jazz. What have you been listening to recently?
Thank you, it is great to hear this. I listen to Brad Mehldau a lot these days since my head is congested like everybody else. It makes me feel really relaxed. I will list a big range of names aside from that… I follow NPR on YouTube. I am a fan of Billie Eilish. I listen to PJ Morton. I have a classical escape route to lift my spirits up which is Earth, Wind & Fire. I have always been crazy about Rachelle Ferrell.
What does it feel like to write lyrics? I believe this is the first time you wrote lyrics for an album.
Those who know me closely know about my dairy writing habit. I try to keep up with it even though I don’t always write it in a disciplined manner. I write down everything I live through, good or bad. I have a lot of notebooks piling up at home. I read them on occasion when I feel stressed. Pages written by a Su of 2, 3, 5, 10 years ago shed light to hardships I go through today. How I got through things, how I felt great happiness after days that felt like the end of the world, the fresh beginnings–I never lose hope after reading these. My first lyrics were of course on these as a person who listens to her feelings so fundamentally, writing them down and rereading them. I would never have thought I would cry listening to my own song during a time I felt a bit blue. It is a very interesting and great feeling. I recommend everyone, no matter what age or gender they are, to write their feelings down. Reading an old diary is a feeling way beyond looking at photographs and feeling nostalgic. It is like meeting your old self and having a conversation with her. I don’t know whether I will have other inspirations in the future, sing about other subjects, but one should have a conversation with herself no matter what kind of business they are in or what kind of life they lead. This habit touches upon life at some point without fail. It touched my first album for example…
How do you feel about social media about sharing music? What are its pros and cons?
I think it is very useful in distributing music. It is much easier to make announcements about concerts, albums, to share products and to reach people. There is a much more organic relationship between the artist and the audience compared to the past years. I find this bond very precious. On the other hand, digital platforms made music and the musician much more free. The process of production is faster, alternative things have other opportunities. I think the interest and following of the Y Generation is very important in this search. There is a great chain of demand and supply which is improving in quality. I don’t think there is a con to it. I am really happy about the feedback I receive with acceleration due to social media as someone who has recently shared her creative product.