Unapologetically themselves, The Suffers are here to share their whole truth in their latest album, It Starts with Love.
The truth isn’t always easy. As we all know, chaos struck in 2020 during the pandemic. During this time, The Suffers were working on It Starts with Love, which forced them to work in nontraditional ways. On the more frustrating days, frontwoman Kam Franklin questioned whether or not they could finish the album. But, it comes with the territory.
When the band finally completed It Starts with Love, the album became the perfect missing puzzle piece in the evolution of their artistry. It forced them to grow up and trust themselves, each other, and the process. Because, when they are on stage, it’s all worth it. They get to be with each other, their fans, and their music, sharing their process and their triumph.
The band realized that they can accomplish anything by making this record. They can “record an album in the middle of a pandemic or tour and stay together as a unit, like we have, for 11 years,” frontwoman Kam Franklin tells American Songwriter.
The Inspiration Behind the Album
The truth is what inspired the album. It’s not just an overarching truth or higher truth, but the truth of Franklin’s own experience.
“These stories are based on experiences I’ve had in my real life,” Franklin says. “‘How Do We Heal’ comes from my experience dealing with racism as a Black woman in America. ‘Could This Be Love’ came from finding my first healthy romantic relationship. ‘A Cha Cha (Heartfelt Truth)’ is about how I feel art as a whole has gotten so far away from the creation of art, and far more focused on content creation, fame, payola, and critique.”
All songs have a piece of Franklin in them—whether or not that piece is pleasing is another thing. We all know that sometimes the truth hurts as Franklin elaborated on her experience, she mentioned, “It’s not pretty, but it’s the truth.”
Now, on the first leg of the It Starts with Love Tour, which will take them through the U.S. and even to Greece, The Suffers’ frontwoman sat down with American Songwriter to give a rundown of their new album.
American Songwriter: What does It Starts with Love sound like to you?
Kam Franklin: The sounds of Houston, Texas mixed with our influences, anxieties, confidence, risk, fear, and experimentation. It sounds like our family and friends. It sounds like all the fans we’ve met on the road. Most importantly, It Starts With Love sounds like the recipe I give people when asked how we do this every day.
AS: What is the story behind the song of “I’m Not Afraid”? And “Yada Yada”?
KF: Funnily enough, both of those songs, as well as “Nunya” from our new album, were all written on the same night in Nashville, Tennessee. I’ve spent a lot of time in that city over the years, and it means a lot to me. However, when I was at a low point in my career, I went to Nashville to try and figure out how to get back on track. On my way back up, I had some really life-altering experiences with a few people over the course of a year that made me angry and sick to my stomach.
Some of them were so quick to tell me who and what I’d never be—simply because of how hard it would be for me to break out as a bigger black woman. According to them, there was supposedly enough of us out there. 2-3 at a time, I guess? I had a different exec try to snake me away from my band with an “offer I couldn’t refuse” only to waste my time and blow smoke up my ass. I had another old-school industry head that was more so focused on trying to sleep with me than on chatting business. And of course…there was then the racism. I was called Yola 37 times in 3 days, only to be accosted by a promoter there when I told him repeatedly that I wasn’t her.
At a certain point, I couldn’t take it anymore. I rolled a few joints and started singing, writing, and crying. I did this all night on my last night there and recorded a series of acapella demos that I nervously sent to the band. They loved them, and we spent almost a year developing them with our co-writers, Raymond Auzenne and Sugar Joiko.
I know this industry is where I belong, and I’ve decided to stop letting people try to convince me otherwise. These songs serve as a “thank you for your opinion, but I’m going to keep going anyway.”
AS: Can you tell us what’s next for The Suffers?
KF: We just started the first leg of the It Starts With Love Tour which will take us all over the world from Greece to Canada. In addition to other music projects, we are currently working on part 2 of this project, It Ends With Love. We also just released our first coffee, Gulf Coast Roast, available on our website.
Credit: Agave Bloom Photography