After a rocky couple of years, former Antigone Rising vocalist Cassidy is ready for a fresh start.
The singer-songwriter, born Susan Helene Catanzaro, left the New York City-based rock group in 2008, after more than a decade in the lineup. Relations between her and the band have been less than cordial on many occasions since the split, with tensions coming to a head following the 2009 release of “Sink or Swim” under The Cassidy Project name.
The album, originally titled “Tales From Wonderland,” was actually Antigone’s last studio recording with Cassidy, made in 2008. But with no one able to agree on what to do with the album, Cassidy decided to release it herself.
“I couldn’t even get the band to sit in a room with me to talk about it,” Cassidy said recently from her home in Manhattan. “I waited for a year, and they still didn’t want to talk about it, so I put it out. I wanted it out, I love it. And I had to put it out under The Cassidy Project at the time, again, hoping they would talk to me. It was like a kid pooping in their diaper — that’s kind of what I did, was take a poop in my diaper.”
But despite the less-than-ideal circumstances, the album’s release has allowed Cassidy to move on. In between scattered acoustic gigs, including a performance at The Linda tonight, she’s planning to spend most of the summer in the studio recording her first official solo album with Austin, Texas singer-songwriter Charlie Sexton producing.
Cassidy, with Erin Harkes
Where: The Linda, WAMC’s Performing Arts Studio, 339 Central Ave., Albany
When: 8 tonight
How Much: $15
More Info: 465-5233 ext. 145, www.wamcarts.org
“In some ways, the minute I put [‘Sink or Swim’] out, I was able to write new songs,” Cassidy said. “The 12 songs on that album were songs I wrote and labored over, and you can’t write more until that comes out; that has to come out. It’s part of the experience as an artist — you pour your heart and years of artistry into something, only to have it sitting in somebody’s basement, blocked. That’s what happened, but now that it came out, I’ve started writing again and this new album will be all new songs.”
When she performs at The Linda with percussionist Jen Lowe in tow, it will be her first acoustic performance in the Capital Region. It may come as a surprise to Antigone fans used to her full-on rock frontwoman persona that she still struggles with stage fright when performing solo, but according to her it was a necessary step to take to move forward in her musical career.
“I had to do it if I was going to grow as a person and as an artist, and if I was going to be taken seriously,” she said. “One of the things that many people didn’t know was that I was writing everything [in Antigone], but because I was up there strutting around not playing an instrument, people didn’t think I was a musician. I was expressing the histrionic, over-the-top, spitting, sweating lead singer, which is the other part of what I wanted to do up there, but what it was not showing was the fact that I’m also a songwriter.”
But it’s been a difficult adjustment, and at times Cassidy considered giving up music for good.
“There was a time when I didn’t feel like getting out of bed; there was a time when I didn’t feel like breathing,” she said. “For a long time I considered not even doing this anymore. It’s devastating to say that now, but at the time it felt very real to me. But it quickly became obvious that I can’t do anything else, and the minute I said, ‘This is what I’m going to do,’ everything started to fall into place again.”
After leaving Antigone, Cassidy focused on writing and acting — she started up an online magazine, www.thebeersessions.com, with her brother Eugene and life partner Andrew Henderson, and also starred and performed a song, “Flood,” in the 2008 independent film “The Skeptic.”
Roughly four months after leaving Antigone, Cassidy was finally able to start writing music again. She currently has around 30 new songs that were written over the course of the past two years, most in the past couple of months, to choose from for her coming album.
Her former management had suggested Sexton to her as a producer as early as 2008. When she was finally ready, she e-mailed two demos to Sexton, who then agreed to produce the album almost immediately.
“We’ve spoken like 10 times on the telephone, and I am going to go to Austin a few days early to do some preproduction and comb through the songs that way,” Cassidy said. “I was surprised at how easy he was, how good he was on the phone. It’s tough on the phone to get to know somebody, but it seems like I’m going to have a good time.”
Unlike her live performances right now, the as-yet-untitled solo record will be a hard-rocking affair in tune with the Janis Joplin-esque personality Cassidy cultivated in Antigone. She’ll be putting together a band after the album is finished to embark on a full tour in the fall.
However, she insists that the album will be less angry than her previous work.
“I mean, it’s essentially — I experienced a death, so I’m different because of it in every single way, and I’ll never be the same again, so that’s reflected in it,” she said. “I think I’m more mature, and I think I have a different perspective on life. I’m not nearly as angry and I don’t have nearly as much to prove.”