Since I first spoke with singer-songwriter Such in 2014, a few things have changed for her. She dropped the cap “C” in her moniker. (She was going by SuCh, a combination of her birth name, Su, and her married name, Charles.) She and her husband, producer/ keyboardist/musical director Jodel Charles, toured in Paris, worked in Austria on an album with the Colombian bassist The Snow Owl, then took another artistic sojourn to Paris.
Back home in Denver, Such planned and hosted sold-out screenings of the neo-Afro-centric super-hero wonder “Black Panther.” That February night in 2016, son Saël, then 7, greeted guests, looking like a little prince fit for a future role in Wakanda — or Washington. The event also birthed a collaboration with actress Kristen Adele that led to their Artists of Color meet-ups, now in its second year.
In March, BET featured the video for her single “Before Dark.” In April, the song hit Pandora and Spotify, and began its steady ascent on Sirius XM’s Heart and Soul channel. In July, she signed her first record contract with a Japanese label.
On Aug. 16, “Wide Nose. Full Lips” will be released on CD as well as streaming platforms. The album’s first single, “Before Dark,” is a sultry number that hints at things to come. And “Wide Nose. Full Lips” proves to be a gift of come-hither jams that places Such oh-so-comfortably in the realm of the grooving, the finger-snapping, the grown-up (yeah, I said it). A consummate, ultra-warm performer live, she has done covers during her sets but never on an album. On her latest, she revisits John Legend’s “Ordinary People” to intriguing, velvety effect.
“I’ve known about Such since the ‘American Idol’ circuit, early in the trajectory of her career,” says Nikki Swarn, content and program director for KUVO’s new hip-hop-inflected substation, The Drop. It was Such’s stint as an “Idol” contestant in 2012 that sealed her transition from nurse to singer-songwriter. The station has Such’s music on rotation, both on its national, indie music rotation as well as its Local Love spotlight.
“I always thought she was so warm, so genuine, so authentic. She’s been living her best life before that was a thing. She’s a great role model for this younger generation of artists to stay true, to not be afraid to be their authentic self. She’s a genre-bender,” says Swarm. “She’s definitely soul-stirring.”
Such is set to play an album-release show at the Soiled Dove Underground in support of her third album on Aug. 24. The club is in the basement of the Tavern in Lowry Town Center where she sat for a conversation.
Q. It’s been nearly five years since your album “Trial and Error.” How have you grown as an artist?
A. The growth I’ve experienced has been being comfortable in my skin, for one. You know, the title of the album. I’ve also been finding my sound. With every recording, every song I write, I fall a little more into who I am. I’ve been working with this amazing vocal coach, Cathy Kasch. She’s at (the University of Denver). I’ve learned I don’t have to try so hard. I don’t have to start a song at 150 percent. I can take people on a journey – lyrically, melodically, but also in terms of the nuances of things. I thought that my only attribute was that I could belt and blow — and that’s what would impress people. I think about some of my favorite artists and they’re not necessarily the ones who have the widest range. It’s their authenticity and whatever emotion they’re able to put into a note, into a phrase.
Q. Who are some of those people?
A. I love Sade. She’s amazing. Think about what she does vocally. It’s not fireworks but it’s so delicious and authentic — it just sits well in the spirit.
Q. How do you go about writing a song?
A. I have no formula. I do think it’s about trust. That’s where you find your sound. If you’re not being like, “This is what I should sound like,” but actually falling into what you do sound like.
Q. You mentioned that you’ve heard songs in your dreams; any examples?
A. I had a dream I was walking down the street and there was a storefront with its door open and that song (“Melanin”) was playing. Not in its entirety but that melody. (She sings it.) When I woke up, I sang it into my phone. I told Jo what I heard in my head and then I reached out to Kerrie Joy (a local poet) and told her ‘I feel like I need you on this song, and this is what it should be about.’ I’d been thinking about this idea that we always need someone to save us, the lack of control over our destiny. I wanted the song to be a reminder of how powerful we are.
Q. The twist of the song is in Joy’s spoken-word rebuff to your lilting call for someone to save us. Where did the album’s title come from?
When I was little, I had a family member — and I’m not going to say their name ’cause I’m not trying to call them out. But they would always say my nose is too wide. That I needed to squeeze it a little bit, make it more pointy. When you think about stuff like as a kid, you internalize. So over time, I just didn’t consider myself to be beautiful. But over the last few years, I’ve fallen in love with myself just as I am. Of course, having Sai really helps. I feel like having a kid brings out the badass in you. But I’ve come to a place where I’m like “No, I’m beautiful just the way I am.”
Q. You’ve already been traveling ahead of the album release; any highlights?
A. I opened up for Michael McDonald (at the Queen City Jazz Fest in Charlotte, N.C.). I can hear his voice anytime and be like “This is my jam.” That’s how timeless his voice is. So to be able to open up for him — and that he heard me. A lot of time, main acts don’t show up for the opener, let alone listen to anything. He told me I had chops.
Q. Any other moments?
A. Oh, I’ve gone to Buffalo a couple of times.
A. I like Buffalo. Buffalo has way more black people than I thought. Their mayor’s black. And the radio station WUFO is owned by this amazing black lady named Sheila Brown. It’s one of the few urban AC (adult contemporary) stations that is privately owned. They started playing “Before Dark” a lot. They’re huge supporters.
Q. How have you handled the buzz, especially around “Before Dark’s” video release on BET?
A. One thing I’ve tried to be is more present to the little things. It’s exciting that a radio station is playing my song. For the BET thing, I took a moment and got excited about it. Somebody is going to know about Such who didn’t know me before. The other day I went to my barber shop …
Q. Wanna give them a shout-out?
A. Supreme Style Barbershop on Colfax. Every time we go, we always have the deepest conversations. Everyone there is so dope. So I was waiting for Sai to get a haircut and I get my undercut. They were all talking about the album. And the lady next to me asked, “Oh, are you a singer?” She was there with two little boys. I said, “Yeah, I am,” gave her my card and she turned it over. She was like, “Such? Do you sing ‘Before Dark?’ ” Then she was like, “You live here?!”
Q. I love that she said that. Because you didn’t just stay here, you’ve doubled down. What are your hopes for Denver?
A. I want there to be magic birthed here. For people to say, “Oooh, what’s happening there?” I feel like Denver can be that place. I think we’re just waiting for that moment when everything aligns.
Q. With an album about to hit, it’s a greedy question, but what else are you up to?
A. We’re in the midst of planning InterFest — a free festival, all disciplines, all races (Oct. 15-27). We received an Imagine 20/20 award, and Suzi Q. Smith, Bobby LeFebre, Kerrie Joy, Kristen (Adele) and I are the planning committee. We have some good stuff planned. There’s going to be awesome people coming into town, and there are going to be dance parties.
Q. Dance parties! What?
A. It’s all about being the change you want to see. It’s all about fun. You can’t be nobody’s change if you don’t have fun and you don’t dance. That’s how I feel about it.