On her new EP She Got Me Good, Susie Wilkins conjures up a powerful new sound by bringing together two very distinct forces. With her nuanced lyricism, the London-based artist instills each track with a soulful vulnerability true to her classic singer/songwriter sensibilities. At the same time, the EP finds Wilkins returning to a passion first sparked when—as a kid growing up in Hong Kong—her mom brought her along to jazz and blues clubs to see such legends as Buddy Guy. “I was so inspired by the rawness and honesty that those performers put into their music,” says Wilkins, who was born in Plymouth, England. “That was my starting point, and that’s what I wanted to get back to with this record.”
With each song fueled by Wilkins’s fierce vocal presence, She Got Me Good is the first release to fully capture the vitality of her live performance. That heightened energy has much to do with a deliberate revamping of her creative approach: while past releases like 2011’s Anywhere But Here were mostly made in solitude, She Got Me Good sees Wilkins assembling a full band that includes guitarist Jimmy Green, bassist Kevin Jefferies, and drummer Geoff Holroyde. “In a way this EP was me coming out of my shell, being brave enough to collaborate instead of doing everything myself,” says Wilkins. “All the musicians were so amazing to play with, and the songs came together in a very natural way.”
Mixed by her longtime friend Adrian Hall (Depeche Mode, Alicia Keys, Sinéad O’Connor) and recorded in Hall’s shed studio, She Got Me Good matches that unbridled intensity with a new degree of emotional depth. Shifting moods all throughout the EP, Wilkins opens with the lovesick frenzy of her title track: a feverish powerhouse driven by snarling riffs and pounding drums. Then, on “To Be Afraid,” she turns a tender serenade into a broader message of hope and defiance. “I originally wrote that for my wife, who was in need of some encouragement at the time,” notes Wilkins. “But over the last year it’s become more directed at my LGBT friends, and more focused on these very frightening times that we’re living in.” On “Fall to Pieces,” Wilkins snakes a sultry guitar riff through lyrics that perfectly capture the ache of longing. “That one’s for my wife again—we’ve been together 12 years but known each other 20 years, so the song’s about loving someone from afar,” she says. “I always have to get a little bit of sadness into every song I do, which I guess goes back to that blues side of me again.” And with “Far Away,” She Got Me Good closes out by bringing delicate guitar tones and R&B harmonies to a stirring meditation on grief and loss.
Wilkins first discovered her blues side as a teenager in Hong Kong, where she began writing songs at age 13. “I was very lucky because my parents both loved music and took me to every gig with them,” says Wilkins, who names Janis Joplin and The Beatles among her earliest inspirations. By age 16 she’d begun playing gigs around town, and soon found citywide fame as an unforgettable live performer with a captivating vocal command. Releasing her first album in her early 20s, Wilkins eventually relocated to London and continued honing her impassioned yet introspective take on alt-rock. After releasing her acclaimed EP Bliss, she toured Europe as the opening act for Joe Jackson, a 2008 stint that fulfilled her lifelong dream of playing Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
For Wilkins, one of the greatest triumphs of She Got Me Good lies in the unabashed joy that infuses so much of the EP. “For a long time music was something I used to heal wounds—which helped me out a lot, but now I’ve gotten to a different place in my life,” she says. Still, her ultimate mission is to make music with an undeniable emotional impact of any kind. “Sometimes it feels like people have forgotten that music should hit you in the chest and make you really feel something,” says Wilkins. “That’s what it’s always done for me, and that’s what I’ve always wanted to do for other people. With these new songs, I feel like I’ve finally gotten around to that.”