pairing of legendary musicians Alejandro Escovedo and R.E.M.’s Peter
Buck drew eager music fans to Turner Hall, but it was rock violinist
Susan Voelz’s ability to add beauty or grit to the music that stole
grandfather’s fiddle she has played since she was 9, Voelz’s
natural ability as a musician, not to mention usually being the only
woman on stage, makes her hard to turn away from.
native didn’t set out to be a musician. Voelz comes from a family of
musicians — her father was a jazz bass player and her mother, a
choir teacher. Voelz majored in violin and English at Indiana
University Bloomington but was still unsure she wanted to pursue music
until her boyfriend convinced her to play in his band. "I
remember playing on stage and someone looked at me and said, ‘Yeah!’
and I thought, ‘I’m good at this.’ I had the violin degree, and
because I could play, I could also put up with a lot of the male rock
attitude," Voelz says.
She lived a
self-described gypsy lifestyle, moving from California to New Orleans
to Austin, where she met and began playing with Escovedo and Poi Dog
Pondering, a long-running alternative folk band. She recorded with and
toured extensively with both bands.
has also played with John Mellencamp and appeared with him on
"Saturday Night Live" in the early 1990s; she also released
two solo albums.
In 2007, she
wrote a book about life on the road, "The Musician’s Guide to
the Road: An All Access Backstage Pass," published by Random
House. A few years later, Voelz, who now lives in Chicago, decided she
had enough of touring and came off the road. She took time to care for
her sick mother, spent a month in Thailand, opened a rock violin
studio for children, got a dog and started gardening.
When she tours
now, it’s usually for about two weeks at a time. "There’s a
satisfaction in knowing how little you need as long as you have good
boots, a pretty dress and a violin," she says. "Touring kind
of shows you what you’re made of when you’re away from home
without your support system. And we do it for these 60 to 75 minutes
on stage each night, in the lights with all that energy and sound
swirling around you like another universe."