Aetheryte Radio 88: The Songstress

On this episode we talk to Susan Calloway, the voice behind Answers and Dragonsong, about her newly released single of her own version of Answers!

Afterwards, we talk about our time with the content recently introduced with Patch 3.2!

For your convenience, we’ve included a (heavily) paraphrased write-up of our interview. Listen to our podcast or watch it on YouTube for the full talk!
Additionally you can find the interview by itself on YouTube.

Fusionx: So let’s go back to the beginning- How were you approached to do Answers?

Susan: It really started with my relationship with Arnie Roth. I had known him for a few years at that point and had done some work with him. When he first started working on Distant Worlds, I know he wanted to do a CD because of how popular it was and so we talked and he asked me to sing some of those songs. Memora de la Stona, or Distant Worlds was the first one I did on the first Distant Worlds CD along with some of the other orchestra pieces and it was really well received. That’s when Nobuo Uematsu heard about me- as they were releasing the first album and starting the tour because they wanted take it on the road and do it live. No one had any idea how popular it was going to be!

Fusionx: When working with Uematsu-san on Answers, did you have any kind of input in the creative process?

Susan: We did it at Arnie’s studio in Chicago. We Skyped in Uematsu and some of the others from Square Enix Japan. Uematsu had a melody but as far as the interpretation goes, he trusted me and asked me to interpret it and come up with how it should sound. Arnie had some input too, and there were some small lyric things translating between Japanese to English, so we made sure it was poetic, but also logical.

Nobuo is so easy going and agreeable. I always feel so appreciated by him and that’s the best gift someone can give you as an artist.

Xenedra: It’s been a long time since Answers was recorded. One of the big things for players is when it was paired with the End of an Era video. That video plays on a large screen behind you at Distant Worlds concerts when you sing Answers. I had tears in my eyes watching it for the first time.

What was your first impression of End of an Era?

Susan: I thought it was amazing! I never knew when we cut the song that it could have been part of such a scene. It was a happy accident that it all worked out the way it did. When they were re-launching the game we were afraid they were going to dump the song. We were so afraid of that. It didn’t happen though!

Fusionx: It all came together so perfectly. It’s such an epic track.

Susan: It’s such a great contrast I think. Answers is kind of like Hydaelyn is putting her arm around the players saying “It’s going to be OK” It’s a devastating scene, but there’s a comfort to it. That’s where my Answers comes in, that moment when the war is over and you’re by yourself processing everything- the soul, the heart of whats happened.

Brin: You’ve said before that you have a general understanding of the story and we were curious about that. Does Square Enix have a conference call with you or send you an e-mail with a plot summary?

Susan: Some of it I actually figured out from the song because the lyrics kind of tell you what’s going on. There wasn’t much of a dialogue about the story but I try to find some of that out on my own. I try to get a background for each of the songs I sing because I like to know what I’m singing about.

I’m always wanting to deepen my understanding though since that helps me as a performer. I feel like I’m the voice of reason in these songs and apparently I have thousands of children. I feel like I’m in a sort of parental or inspirational role.

When I was in Tokyo last January, I talked with some guys that worked on the lyrics for Answers and they wanted me to be sort of the voice of Final Fantasy XIV. They seemed to like that idea of consistency, bringing on the same person as the game continues. I’m not saying that I’m going to be doing another piece, but I’d totally do it if they asked. It’s an honor to work on it. I’ve really enjoyed it.

Fusionx: We’ve asked some players to submit questions for you.

Brin: This first one comes from Onigokko0101 on Reddit: What is your favorite part about working on a franchise like Final Fantasy?

Susan: The fans. This music means so much to you guys and it’s such an honor to be entrusted with it. As a performer, it’s so great to be so appreciated and so warmly received.

Xenedra: The next one we have is from Jacien on Reddit: Are there any performers or singers you draw inspiration from?

Susan: There’s many. I really like Sam Smith, I think he has a wonderful voice. I like pretty much everything out of London right now. I love Coldplay- I just love the production on the album they had come out last summer. A lot of the artists I like go deep as songwriters and I love when they do quality production cutting pianos and real instruments. For singers, I like Kelly Clarkson, Pink… I have such a wide range of people I like. I grew up listening to the Rolling Stones and I started as the lead singer of a Rockband here so I’ve pretty much done it all.

Brin: Lux Felix from Balmung asks: What has been your favorite place to perform with Distant Worlds? Is there a place you’d like to perform where Distant Worlds hasn’t been?

Susan: My favorite place is definitely Royal Albert Hall. It’s tricky though because it’s a circle so It’s like “do I keep spinning?”. It’s such a legendary hall, The Beatles have played there so being on stage and thinking “Wow one of them might have  stood right here” is so cool to me. Europe is pretty awesome, Paris was phenominal too.

I don’t do all the Distant Worlds shows, but I’d really like to play in Mexico City. There’s a huge venue there and there are tons of passionate fans. I think that’d be an interesting show. I also haven’t been to Australia or Italy, both of those places I’d love to perform.

Xenedra: Zephyrine Gaillarde of Balmung asks: Do you have a favorite piece from the Final Fantasy series apart from what you’ve performed?

Susan: I really like Aerith’s theme. It’s so sad though, if I’m feeling down about anything I can’t listen to it. I also think One Winged Angel is awesome, especially when Nobuo is there and running around and working the crowd. The opera piece is another stunning piece of music.

Brin: What can we look forward to seeing from you in the coming months? And do you have anything you would like to say to your fans?

Susan: It’s taken me awhile to figure out how to connect my Final Fantasy fans to fans of my own music and I think we’ve found a production direction we like. I’m so glad to have that new Answers single out, I really hope everyone checks it out and enjoys it.

There are several more singles coming throughout the year and some fun versions of some of the tunes, maybe even an alternate version of Answers but I won’t say anything else on that!

I also have a full CD I’m putting out in the fall. It’s centered around me and the piano with lots of original music on it. I’m really excited to get that out, and hopefully there will be some music videos too. It will be available in hard copy too and we’ll put Answers on there.

I appreciate you guys having me on and appreciate the fans for encouraging me and believing in me. I’d love it if you could buy the single and help us spread the word. The more support we have, the more music and videos we’ll be able to create. So if you want to see more, supporting us is a great way to do that!