The Cowsills - Susan's Facebook Interview (2022)

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: INTRODUCTION: For this edition of "The Facebook Interviews", I'm chatting with SUSAN COWSILL to mark two events: the success of her recently released solo album (and ode to New Orleans) "LIGHTHOUSE"; and the deluxe edition reissue of "On the Floor to Heaven" by THE BLUE SHADOWS -- the band led by Susan's late brother Billy Cowsill.

Susan first entered the pop-culture spotlight at the age of 8, when she joined her brothers Bill, Bob, Barry, Paul, and John and her mother Barbara as the youngest member of the ’60s musical family The Cowsills -- the prototype for TV's Partridge Family, who scored such hit singles as "Hair," "Indian Lake," and "The Rain, the Park and Other Things".

She reemerged in adulthood as a member of the beloved alt-pop/country supergroup The Continental Drifters, which also featured former Bangles guitarist Vicki Peterson and Peter Holsapple of the dB's. That group won enthusiastic reviews and a potent cult following in the United States, and even greater commercial success in Europe, releasing three albums and an EP between 1994 and 2001.

In 2005, Susan made her solo debut with "Just Believe It", an album that was overshadowed by the intrusion of real-life events ­ namely the deaths of Susan’s brothers Billy and Barry, and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, which temporarily displaced Susan and her family from her adopted hometown of New Orleans. Susan's latest album "Lighthouse" is a stunning artistic statement of perseverance over tragedy and a dramatic tribute to the city itself and its embattled inhabitants.

Susan's brother Billy Cowsill formed country rock group The Blue Shadows in Canada with soul-mate Jeffrey Hatcher, the two of them sharing Everly Brothers-styled harmonies over two albums, 1993's "On the Floor of Heaven" and 1995's "Lucky to Me". These were fabulous albums that garnered only cult status. Billy passed away in 2005, the culmination of long-stranding health issues. Now Bumstead Records has issued a Deluxe Edition 2-CD set of "On the Floor to Heaven", including a disc of unreleased tracks and rarities.

Susan Cowsill: Hey Roch. Ready, set....

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: Ok folks, we're ready to start...thanks for joining us...and welcome Susan Cowsill!First of all Susan, my turns out we inadvertently scheduled this interview during a Naw'lins Saints football game, which is against all local ordinances and common decency in the Crescent City. If it makes up for it, a guest's home team has never lost a football game on the day of a Facebook Interview...

Susan Cowsill: Well now I can breathe again. And it's all good.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: Susan, let's start out with a couple of questions I Iike to warm up with...What was your first single and/or album that you bought as a youth with your own money?And what was the first concert you attended?

Susan Cowsill: The Monkeys. The green and beautiful one. Their first record I believe. Cat Stevens was my first and Edgar Winter was my 2nd. Those are the ones that I had a ticket for and Mom dropped me off and picked me up. You know the deal.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: Yes! I know exactly that experience, hehe.What song did you first hear on the radio that made you go: "wow, I want to do this?"And who would you consider your most influential performer at a formative stage

Susan Cowsill: This Guy's in Love With You. It didn't necessarily make me want to do this, but I understood how important music was to the soul. I wanted to marry this guy. He was in love with ME and I knew it. I think I was 5. Influentials..Carly ...Simon, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Elton John. Later, Karla Bonoff was my professor in songwriting. She is the bomb.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: In a similar vein, visitor Karey Miller asks:What band or musician do you currently look up to and what are your biggest inspirations when you are writing a song?

Susan Cowsill: I don't really listen to mainstream music on a regular basis, though U2 are gods. Currently, musicians I am looking up to are gifted, young and you better be looking out for them: For 1: Alexis Marceaux, amazing singer-songwriter-spirit. ...Keep an ear out for her. Alex McMurray; old friend of my brother Barry. And all around, ultimate music in its natural state in every way. Really right now I am inspired by the people we're playing with. The Craft brothers are freaking geneiuses. Supportive and inspiring. And Mary Lasseigne is the heart of rock and roll; still beating, with a slap of punk rock for good measure.

Inspiration for writing a song? Whatever happened 10 minutes ago, or last week, or a month ago...

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: You covered Jimmy Webb's classic "Galveston" on your latest album "Lighthouse" much of an influence was/is Jimmy Webb on your own songwriting?At the same time, Keith D. Osterberg asks: What did you and Jimmy Webb talk about when you f...inally got to meet him?

Susan Cowsill: I don't think I know it, but I think it's a lot. I ate, slept, and breathed his music all through my childhood. Some of my favorite songs were written by him. And then, when he teamed up with RICHARD HARRIS, the world stopped for me! He continues to be a unique musical force. I always do a cover on my records. I knew I wanted to do a Jimmy Webb song. I wanted to do Witchita Linemen, but the whole universe has covered that. I've been in love with Galveston for ever, and when I thought it, it kind of fit the whole unententional theme of the record. When meeting him finally: I talked to him about how cool it was when we did the Mike Douglas show together WITH Richard Harris. And how I knew that the shirt that Richard was wearing was the shirt he wore in the scene when he was spending the night in the forest from Camelot. That's the first thing we talked about. Then about the family, crossing paths, etc...

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: Gwen Surell asks:Have you ever had voice lessons, or does your beautiful singing voice come naturally?

Susan Cowsill: It comes naturally, one time at band camp...
Our producer at the time, Chuck Protkin, decided to send us to vocal coach, Seth Riggs. Probably the funniest fucking two weeks of my and my brothers' lives! It was Paul, John, Bob, and me. We'd have to drive to this guy's house at like 9 in the morning. We'd sit down in his living room around his piano and he'd proceed to show us vocal exercises that continue to amuse us to this day. I think it was 1978. One thing I remember on the way home from one of these sessions, we were listening to the radio and we heard that Elvis had died. Footnote: The guy told me I was singing from the wrong place in my body and if I kept it up, my voice would be gone by the time I was 30. I told him I don't sing for my health, I sing for my soul. I never went back.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: "Lighthouse" is a tuneful, powerful, moving piece of work. You must be very pleased with it and the reaction it's garnering!

(Video) 2022 All Access Pass with The Cowsills

Susan Cowsill: Yes! Proud is more like it. Relieved to have it actually finished and out! And hopefully, or not, to be done needing to express those Katrina feelings anymore. We worked hard on the record. Soooo many people were involved in it coming to light. We never could have done it without the Threadheads and Terry Ford. And we will forever be grateful and in debted (literally) to them. Which reminds me; please tell every single solitary person that you know to buy this record so we can pay these wonderful people back! The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, your cousin Vinny.... you know what I mean.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: Ok everyone, buy the record!You speak of New Orleans as your adoptive home. When and why did you move there, and what about it has had such a powerful draw for you?

Susan Cowsill: 1993. Why? Because the band and the man I was with at the time, The Continental Drifters, and Peter Holsapple, were all heading South. The original members of the band, Ray Ganucheau and Carlo Nuccio were from New Orleans and wanted to go home. We were in L.A. at the time. I never really liked living there and it seemed like an awesome adventure. I set foot on Louisiana soil and never looked back. As far as powerful draw goes that's the whole deal. It's a mystery I am happy not to solve. There is something in the air, and in the earth, and in the people that is irreplaceable and unduplicated. And that's all I know. I'm like granny in the rocking chair with a shotgun across my lap. "I ain't leaving!"

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: The album seems to have been adopted as the artistic "clarion call" for New Orleans, five years on from Hurricane Katrina. Is this mostly a local phenomenon, or do you feel the message is being heard more broadly?

Susan Cowsill: Definitely being heard everywhere. I hear from people all across the U.S. when we tour. They insert their sorrow and challenges into my music wherever it applies for them. Strife is hard no matter what container it comes in. It's all the same message, which is: It's going to be okay. Life is good. And we're all gonna make it.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: 2005 must have been quite a test of your personal resolve. The Hurricane, the devastation, losing most of your possessions, losing two brothers. There are some very "heavy" songs on the album that deal with the emotional aftermath of the catastrophe, but never (well, maybe some sections of "ONOLA"...) with a sense of despair...

Susan Cowsill: You're right about that on account of I don't like despair. However, the night I started writing ONOLA, I was feeling pretty desperate. Russ and I had pretty much decided to leave town for a year or so b/c we couldn't take it anymore. I feeling incredibly guilty and a sadness I don't recall feeling before in the thought of moving. There was a Saints game that night and I was standing on our balcony. It was Maxwell Parish kind of night, and I started to write my goodbye letter. I thought I'd felt grief in all the things you had mentioned, but this beat it all. So yeah. Despair.See More

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: "River of Love" in particular struck me as such a purging of these emotions and Russ gets to let out his pent up Keith Moon aggression on the drums, making for quite a climax to the song!

Susan Cowsill: Yeah. I married Keith Moon without the drug addiction or swimming pool. It's awesome to me how a musician can express emotion through any medium. I mean, you wouldn't think a drummer (nothing personal, Russ) could express despair, anger, sorrow through wood and skin as eloquently as Russ did. That being said, I guess I had my own moment or two. In fact, during the recording of Lighthouse, River of Love was one of those mini-nervous breakdown days. I had a few of them, much to the shagrin of a couple of my bandmates. and I get it that they didn't get it. Frankly I never really expected to experience the grieving of the whole scene while recording this record. But I did. The way I figured it out was that Katrina was the death, the 4 years was the grieving period, and the recording of Lighthouse was the burial. That's the best that I can explain it. I'm grateful to Barry for writing such an apropos song just for the occasion--So Barry!

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: What do people still need to know about what happened and what the current state of affairs is in New Orleans?

Susan Cowsill: What they need to know is Katrina is not what destroyed our city. The Army Corps of Engineers IS. They failed to do their jobs in the building and maintaining of our levees. And to this day will not be accountable for it. Harry Shearer ...has made a great movie, The Big Uneasy; you gotta see it. It tells the whole truth. Current state of affairs is Halloween is coming and we're getting ready. We'll endure Thanksgiving b/c we like to eat. We will rejoice in Christmas b/c I say so, but only as a means to get to Mardi Gras. Does that answer you're question? We are fine. We are taking care of ourselves and rebuilding our city. We could use a little help, but what's knew. Life is change, and change is good. And like I said earlier, we know we're going to make it. Pass me a muffalotta. And right now, Peter Holsapple shot up in bed and didn't know why.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: What was your reaction to the oil spill in the Gulf and the aftermath? Do you believe anything at all was learned from Hurricane Katrina?

Susan Cowsill: My reaction was sick to my stomach. Disgust. Exhaustion, etc.
The aftermath is, there are amazingly sweet beautiful people who make a living fishing. I got to meat a lot of them when Russ and I did a benefit in Grand Island, LA. These people have been fishing for generations. They were devastated beyond description. I'm hoping that things are turning around for them, and if you've been listening to Fox News, they've never been better off. I don't think any of us really know what to believe b/c we don't know about such things. All we can do is trust in the Universe and know we're going to be all right. The seafood that we're eating, that you're eating from Louisiana, is good. There hasn't been one incident of poisonous or bad seafood at any restaurant or market that I know of. What there is, is a lack of seafood and a humongous lack of work for too many people. That's what I know.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: Of course, "Lighthouse" is not all heavy going -- "Dragon Fly" strikes as very much in the lineage of Cowsills-style sunshine pop"...

Susan Cowsill: Yeah, ain't that funny, considering it's a song--a love song, for my brother Barry. But the deal is, there was a lot of sweetness and fun throughout our years together. And that's what I remember the most. And I thought it was pretty dam...n funny that all the while Barry pictured himself reincarnating as a glorious noble oak tree, only to show up in my driver's side window as a little dragonfly. I have since heard Dragonflies only live for 30 days, so perhaps he is on his way to his next destination afterall. I like to think the whole Dragonfly thing was like reincarntion pergatory. Haha.. So, hence the music, I guess.
Oops I forgot, I should've put LOL instead of haha. So old bad.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: haha works for me...I like hehe!
At this point, let's point the time machine back some...
In a general sense, why do you think it has been so difficult, historically, for child stars coming out of music or film to adjust to "civilian" adulthood?

Susan Cowsill: Ummmm....that's a tough one. I can only really speak for myself, and that is, I have not had any difficulty. It's something I really wonder about as well, but I do have a theory. I think you either have something inside of you that makes you simply enjoy whatever life-form you're having, which in my case is awesome, or you don't. You either deal with shit or you can't. I think in some cases, how you're being guided parentally has something to do with it--which in my case, Didn't. But I'll give you the only example I can; if Linsey Lohan was my daughter, and she was acting out and fucking up the way she was when she was just 16, I would've said, "that's it, you're grounded. No movie star life for you until you can behave yourself." I think alot of the outcome for a lot of these kids had to do with lack of parental participation. But really I think it gets back to your own personal state of being. You either handle shit or you don't. I guess I just got lucky.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications So what is your current perspective now, looking back on your own individual experience growing up in a performing family it must be a little surreal when a typical after-school activity involved appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show...

Susan Cowsill: Yes! Surreal for sure!!! But you gotta remember, it's all I really knew. It didn't seem so strange to me at the time. I do have to say however, that when the Partridge Family came out, it was a little bit of a mind-fuck. I mean here I am in this current, happening, functioning band, and I come home from school, do my homework, eat dinner, and sit down and watch this t.v. show which is the story of my current life. I'm watching me with red hair and freckles, playing tambourine badly (which pissed me off), and I have a crush on the oldest brother in this parallel-universe family band (creepy)..... Yeah, surrealistic. All that being said, the life that I lead from 1-12 was magical, powerful, and unforgettable, and I wouldn't change one single second of it.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: wow, this was my very next question!
Did you watch the Partridge Family show much at the time? It must have been (I keep coming back to "surreal") seeing aspects of your life and career depicted on the screen for laughs by doppelgangers?and long the same lines:Ronnie King (of Canada's The Stampeders!) asks:
Did it ever bother your family that they went on to have such a huge hit with 'The Partridge Family' - obviously styled after yours - and did you wish they would have used The Cowsills instead?

Susan Cowsill: The Partridge Family show was created for our family specifically, originally. Sceengems took two years working the story, putting it together. Eventually came to stay with our family at our house in Santa Monica. They stayed with us, I think, for a couple weeks "observing us in our natural habitat." The research showed that none of us were good actors. We'd out-grown our own story and on top of that they didn't want Mom to play Mom--they wanted a well-known actress to play the part. All those things combined, we and they, turned each other down. However I must note (teehee), that they had mentioned that perhaps Barry and I had made the cut and could be used to play ourselves. Dad said no, and the rest is history. It did not bother us at all. We thought it was a hoot, and quite frankly the Partridge Family is most probably responsible for the fact that anybody even remembers who the Cowsills were. And visa versa. In my view finder, it is just another gift we were given. But two funny things: on the surrealistic realm, soon after my mother, Barbara, passed away, and I swear to God this is true... I had a dream, and in that dream, Shirley Jones adopted me. And on another wonderful footnote, we recently found out that because my dad was such a pain in the ass to the creators of the Partridge Family during the process of nailing down the deal, that they had the writers kill him off. The poor Partridge Family had no dad. He had unfortunately passed away. All they were left with was Mr. Kincaid. One REEEALLY sweet thing is that Shirley Jones was our mistress of ceremony at our brother Bill's benefit concert at the El Ray in Los Angeles in 2003 or 04. She validated the fact that there would be no Partridges without the Cowsills and made everybody feel good. She is a sweetie. Maybe I'll adopt her. : )

(Video) The Cowsills ,Susan Cowsill ,Paul Cowsill , Interview

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: And still with the potentially "creepy" theme: when I was sifting through Youtube clips to gather background material for our interview, I was struck by the number of tribute videos that guys have made to you, many of them referencing the early "crushes" they had on you when you were young. Flattering or a bit creepy? ;-)
In a similar vein, Wendy Fuller Primo asks:
Susan, have you ever felt that some of your fans have had difficulty seeing you grow up? If so, has this been hard on you as an artist?

Susan Cowsill: Okay, Wendy: No, I have not had that difficulty. I have really been blessed with people taking the ride along with me, being in my corner, and growing along with me. I've been lucky that way. It has been my absolute pleasure the Hayley Mills of the pop-rock music scene. If I had $5 for every adorable man who has come up to me and said, "I have to tell you this: you were my first crush." I'd be able to pay off the van note, or get that horse I've always wanted, or better yet, pay off my record debt. Good friend Brian Henneman from the Bottle Rockets, came up with a fabulous campaign idea and is as follows: "If you had a crush on Susan Cowsill, please send $5 to Susan at p.o. box blah blah blah, and see what happens." A brilliant idea that I encourage. If anybody's interested we'll get a post office box and get this ball rolling! Thanks Henne. Heh heh..

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: In '70 and '71 when The Cowsills' popularity was waning, you released some very ambitious music on the final albums, "11 x 11" and "On My Side".In recent years, there's been a movement of appreciation for this kind of soft psych music under... the umbrella of "Sunshine Pop". Do you feel some sense of vindication now for this more under appreciated work?

Susan Cowsill: I think it's awesome that the music circle keeps going round. I was always very proud of those last two albums. Primarily for my brothers' sake. They got to spread their wings and write and record their music the way they wanted to for the very first time. It's not to say that they didn't love the albums prior and were completely involved in them, but the creative direction that the Cowsills took was steered by the bigwigs and detoured greatly on musical level for the guys. So, yeah, II x II and On My Side, that's where the Cowsills were headed. But alas, life changes and new paths are made. p.s. Russ recently discovered On My Side and was pretty obsessed with it for awhile. (ed; Russ: I grew up on Hendrix, Zeppelin, Bowie, Sly and the Family Stone and as a teen had a sort of disdain for the "bubble gum pop" or "sunshine pop" or whatever. But, those albums are trippy! Very original and brilliant. Wacky arrangements, chord changes, lyrics. Very well thought out and beautifully recorded. A new fan of The Cowsills long after marrying one and playing in the band for the last 7 years. I was always a late bloomer.)

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: I have a video posted on the page of the song "Anything Changes" from this period complete with super wicked Susan Cowsill dance moves!

Susan Cowsill:(ed: Oh, I HAVE TO SEE THAT! -Russ).
Is it possible to destroy this and all other copies circulating on the planet. I'd be grateful to you.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: Hehe...ok, on a more serious note:
You mentioned having no regrets from your youth. In a Joan Rivers interview from the '90s when The Cowsills first reformed, you defended your manager/dad as having done the best he could under difficult circumstances. However, in a recent Huffington's feature interview, you state he had been abusive to you. Was it a long process for you to come to terms with this and be able to discuss it openly?

{Brief technical issue, folks...Susan will be back with us shortly}

Susan will be continuing using husband Russ' FB ID!

Susan Cowsill: First of all I stand by my Joan Rivers statements. My father did the best he could with what he had. I must tell you that the whole Joan Rivers show was an intentional set-up by my brothers and I to block her "inquiring minds want to know..." method of questioning. There had been recent disclosure in a Boston newspaper regarding my father's abusive ways. It had come out just before the Joan Rivers Show. At that time, it was not my intention to go public about such a personal matter. We knew with this article out just before going on Joan's show that this was going to be her focus of topic. So we did what any good showbiz kids would do, and cock-blocked her. And that was it. It's just that simple and just that true. And no, I was not ready at that time to discuss such a deep, sorrowful situation.
As far as the process, I've been working on it since the day I was born and I am good. However, there are many people still changing with this life-changing aftermath from child-abuse and I have been trying to figure out a way to incorporate heightening awareness through my career. Recently Russ and I came across (being Saints fans) the Heath Evans Foundation which lends support to kids that have been sexually abused. Check it out.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: Most of the Cowsill brood seem to have made it to today pretty well adjusted. But there were a couple of exceptions...
Keith D. Osterberg asks:
Your brothers, especially Barry and Bill, struggled with overcoming the Cowsill band image and saw it as an obstacle to their success as musicians in adulthood. Do you think they came to terms with it in the end, and how did you manage to avoid that mindset?(Roch adds: Noting that you've already covered off your own situation...)

Susan Cowsill: Yes, Keith, both Barry and Bill were well over their youthful insecurities on this topic. And I'd say embraced the lives of our musical past with love.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: Friends, at this point, we would be ready to talk about Billy Cowsill and his band The Blue Shadows, and further elements of Susan's career like the Continental Drifters. But we have timed out on the live portion of the interview! Susan has graciously agreed to respond to the rest of my and your questions offline via email, and I'll add them afterwards to the final transcript of this interview and let you all know once its posted!

To finish for now...where is the Susan Cowsill Band playing next live?

Susan Cowsill: All the live dates are at our webiste:
We'd love for everybody to drop by and visit us there. It's been awesome talking with everyone. This is a really cool way to communicate. it's like OMG, LOL, WTF, Confirm or Ignore, cyber-awesomeness. It's been fun. Thanks!

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: Thanks again to Susan and Russ, and to all of you for sitting in and participating! I've put up a message thread on the page where you can leave feedback and don't forget all the video clip resources further down the page. Bye

The following are Q&A's added by Roch after the chat ended:

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: So speaking of Billy, how well did you know the music of his Canadian-based band The Blue Shadows? Did you ever see them perform live?

Susan Cowsill: I’m really just starting to digest Billy's musical life in Canada. People have been giving me CDs here and there. It's really been awesome to hear his voice again. I never did see his band(s) play live, though we did do a SXSW one year together back in the '90s, but our showcases overlapped. I just caught the tail end of his set.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: Billy and bandmate Jeffrey Hatcher had a very distinctive "Everly Brothers" vocal harmony thing going, filtered through a Beatles-esque pop melody sense. This goes right back to Billy's roots, doesn't it? Didn't the Cowsill brothers begin by singing Everly Brother songs?

Susan Cowsill: Absolutely! It goes back to the beginning. My brother Billy and my brother Bob had a duo from the get go. That is how the Cowsills got started. They both played acoustic guitar and would sing ANY two-part harmony they could get their hands on. I'm sure that's what drew Billy to Jeffrey. I remember being really happy for him and a little sad at the same time because I was thinking, "well shoot...he and Bob could be doing this." But I guess it happens the way it's supposed to and I know that Bill treasured his time playing with Jeffrey, and vice-versa I believe.

(Video) Cowsills - interview with Joan Rivers

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: Where did both Billy and you pick up the alt country influences that infused both his work in The Blue Shadows and your work in The Continental Drifters?

Susan Cowsill: I don't know! I really don't know. We were both big James Taylor fans. He turned me onto James when I was 12. We all became CSNY fans. I think that's pretty early alt-country. Maybe it comes from there. I've always been a closet country-western fan.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: There are a core group of knowledgeable music people in Canada who consider it a tragedy that The Blue Shadows did not break out to larger popularity, and never had their albums released in the U.S. What did Billy have to say about the band's waning prospects at the time?

Susan Cowsill: He said nothing to me. I was his little sister. We talked about how I was, how my relationships were going, how were my kids, how much he loved me...that kind of stuff. We didn't talk business.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: How much of an effect do you believe Billy's "lost years" had in terms of the health issues that eventually ended his life so early?

Susan Cowsill: It had everything to do with his early departure. I don't know what more to say. It makes me sad. I miss him.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: The debut Blue Shadows album “On the Floor of Heaven” has been reissued as a deluxe, 2-disc edition by Bumstead Productions, and everyone who loves great, rootsy music should buy a copy!

Also, NPR recently did an item and review of the album, entitled "17 Years Later"...

It's a shame it took this long!

Susan Cowsill: Yes it is a shame, but at least the album is out now and word is getting out. Everybody can hear the beautiful music that he made with his dearest of friends.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: What's your recollection of the decision to end The Cowsills as a band in the early '70s? And how difficult an adjustment was that for you?

Susan Cowsill: An incredibly difficult adjustment! It was perhaps my first real life-changing relationship experience. I adore my brothers. They were the light in my daily life – even on the days they couldn't stand the sight of me. They also represented safety-in-numbers, and when the band broke up, I knew everybody would move away and I'd become an only child. I was less upset about the band breaking up than I was about my family breaking up.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: You kept a low profile over the rest of the '70s...I believe there were a couple of singles released?

Susan Cowsill: Yeah, hahaha...I don't know how high of a profile a 14 year old can keep on her own, but I figured it out by the time I was 16. I got myself a record deal with Warner Brothers. Actually, my boyfriend John Mire got me the deal on WB. I was…whatcha might caaul annn eeemancipated minor!

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: In the '80s, you worked a lot as a studio and backup vocalist for many interesting artists (I have a clip posted on the page of you performing with The Dwight Twilley Band). Was it a matter of confidence...or opportunity...or both, in terms of you not working your own material at this time?

Susan Cowsill: Yes, both. In regards to me being in the Dwight Twilley band, and Dwight being my boyfriend at the time and all, that was the only place HE was comfortable with me making music. And on account of 'I was in love,' I obliged the situation. He wasn't real keen on me being in any other band than his. Also around the same time, I was playing again with my brothers. I’d actually been offered a record deal with Columbia, excluding them, but there was no way in hell I was going to take the journey without them. In a nutshell, I wasn't ready for a solo career at the time. I needed to be living the life I was living.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: Keith D. Osterberg asks: You've worked as a backup singer with a lot of artists over the years. Is there someone in particular you would like to work with in the future?

Susan Cowsill: Gasp! YES!! Top of my list: Neil Young. Bono would be cool, I guess. Jackson Browne sang the duet on “Lighthouse” with me so I can mark him off my list now. I'd probably die a certain death to sit down with Jimmy Webb at his piano and sing, so I'll save that one 'til the end. And I really wouldn't mind hearing what it would sound like to sing with Elton John. And my husband, would REEEALLY like to hear me sing with Peter Gabriel. So, Peter if you're reading, give us a call; area code 504-.....

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: In the '90s, you were part of Americana "super group for hipsters" The Continental Drifters. How did the band come together, and what do you consider a highlight from this period?

Susan Cowsill: Seriously? Our audience were hipsters? You couldn't tell it by looking at them. Band comes together like this: Girls meet boys at club. They play instruments. Girls think boys are cute. Girls can sing. Girls want to sing with boys. The rest is obviously history. One highlight would be opening for Dylan…that was pretty freaking cool. Another highlight would be our reunion about a year ago during Jazz Fest 09 in New Orleans. And on a personal note, we had some really fun dinner parties.

[Russ Broussard adds: A special highlight for me was being the backing band for a Sandy Denny tribute concert Peter [Holsapple] produced at St. Ann's Church in Brooklyn. He assembled an insanely deep roster of singers, each getting up and just singing the song. No introductions, no fanfare...just the music of Sandy Denny in the massive and beautiful sounding church. Stellar. For me, the highlights were the 19 out of 20 gigs that were magical. For unknown reasons, we really did come together on stage with a common goal – to LISTEN and be open to space, feel, and vibe.]

(Video) Susan Cowsill Interview

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: Courtney Meloche asks: What is your favorite Continental Drifters song, and what is your favorite song that you've ever written?

Susan Cowsill: Favorite C.D. song: "Drifters."

I don't know if I have a favorite song of mine…that's kind of like picking a favorite child. However, I always enjoy playing and singing "Snow."

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: Joseph McDonald asks: Any chance of a Continental Drifters reunion disc/tour anytime soon?

Susan Cowsill: Not that I know of. We did record the reunion show we did at the Carrollton Station last year, but as far as I know, there are no plans for it.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: Instead of being in a "band of brothers", with the Continental Drifters you were working with your then-husband Peter Holsapple. Now with your current Susan Cowsill Band, you work with husband (and drummer) Russ Broussard. What would you consider the major advantage, and on the flip side, the major challenge, of being a working music couple?

Susan Cowsill: Advantage: You get to spend most of your time together, which is what couples want to do...or at least what I want to do. Russ and I really enjoy being with each other. It feels like there's a limb missing when we're not, so it really works for us. I guess there are always those moments, however, both with Peter and with Russ, when you're having a “bad couple” day, and it can be a little bit of a challenge. Either way, the music seems to diffuse any petty crap that's going on for the most part. A major challenge is both of us working at the same time when we have to be away from the kids. That gets to be a little tricky. However, we have an amazing community in New Orleans, a village if you will, that helps us care for and nurture our children.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: What was it that draws The Cowsills back together to perform again in more recent years?

Susan Cowsill: We've always performed on/off ever since we first broke up in 1972. However, the most recent Cowsill activity was definitely spawned by the deaths of Barry and Bill. We had a need to be together. We HAVE a need to be together. It's one of the good things that came out of all that sadness.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: What can you tell us about this "Family Band" documentary on The Cowsills that is currently in production, and when should it see the light of day?

Susan Cowsill: I can tell you it has been a long ass haul. But I believe it will be very well worth it in the end. What can I's our story. We've had a changing of the participants on and off for the past 5+ years, but I think we have the best team assembled at this point. I think it's going to be really cool…if not somewhat embarrassing at times. Ahhh…just like life! As far as when it'll see the light of day, I think 2011 has a pretty good shot.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: In latest developments, you've been recording with colleagues Freedy Johnston and Jon Dee Graham under the name "Hobarts". Give us the scoop!

Susan Cowsill: Teehee...! Well, I'm sure you're all familiar with parallel universes...and The Hobarts is one of mine. Turns out, I have a whole other family in a whole other dimension. I have two brothers, Fred and Brodee, who I have been recently reunited with. Just coming to grips after finding out that I'd been adopted. Left in a basket on a porch with only a blanket and a set of bells to my name, which happens to be Lil' Sis. Turns out that even though I'm adopted, I got the Hobart music gene. Now, if we could just get a hold of Uncle Louie's money, we'd be set! That man has been in ICU longer than any living creature has a right to. And word is out that Wobbles will be out on parole but he has to wear a ankle bracelet 'til he goes to trial. No more moped for you, Wobbles! CD should be out soon.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: Donna Shaw asks: What path would you like your career to take over the next 5 years?

Susan Cowsill: One towards a savings account for Russ and mine's retirement. College funds for the kids would be nice. And I still want a horse. And Russ, would like a couple of new fancy bikes! But seriously, I'd just love for our music to reach as many people as possible in the hopes of it being a healing part of their lives. An inspiration. Something good in their daily lives. And I wouldn't mind owning a flower farm somewhere down the road! What would I call my shop? "The Flower Girl" of course! Duhhhhh… :-)

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: Jennifer Snyder asks: What would you consider your most memorable moments during the recordings of a Cowsills album, and your solo albums “Just Believe It” and “Lighthouse”?

Susan Cowsill: The Cowsills: Uncontrollable, never ending laughter. Trying SO hard not to piss Billy off, which wasn't easy to do, especially late at night. All of us crammed around one microphone, inches away from each other's ready-to-burst faces. You think it's hard not to laugh in church? Try the recording studio at 3a.m. with your brothers egging each other on, silently, systematically, and successfully! It was awesome.

“Just Believe It”: Just realizing that Russ and I accomplished what we set out to do. Me realizing the dream of making a most perfect and beautiful first record. I wanted to make my Tapestry, and for me, I did.

“Lighthouse”: In a similar vein, but for very different reasons: Russ and I, accomplishing what we set out to do under seemingly impossible conditions and emotional...weight. A true personal highlight for me was finally making music with my old (but not old like that) friend Jackson. It had been a very long time coming. And needless to say, having Waddy [Watchtel] and the boys, and my sweet sister on “River of Love” made it unforgettable.

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: Debbie Bailey asks: What is going on with the Ellen Show?

Susan Cowsill: I don't know Debbie! I think you need to get on it! I mean, I need some help here, sister. I wrote a letter basically begging to let me be on her TV show for which, if she were to agree, she'd be forever happy about her choice. However, she doesn't know that. So, I guess we need a campaign. And I'm serious about this. If we could get everybody we all know, and we know who we all are, to write emails, letters, and phone calls to the Ellen show, she'd have to say "yes." Wouldn't she? I reeeeally want to be on her show. I think she's really cool. I think it'd be nice shot in the arm for New Orleans – who can always use one.

(Video) Bob Cowsill of The Cowsills Live on Game Changers With VIcki Abelson

Roch Parisien's Rocon Communications: Carol Foss asks: I was wondering whether the "On the Couch" talk show gig [on local TV in New Orleans] is still in the works?

Susan Cowsill: It is always in the works Carol. I just need to clone myself. It is something I really, really want to make happen and feel that it will come together at the perfect time. I've got friends with trucks, and I’ve got a city ready to talk to me. I either need a personal assistant or 24 more hours in a day...oh yeah, and the fountain of youth too!


1. The Cowsills Perform "The Rain, The Park And Other Things" | Huckabee | Jukebox
(Huckabee's Jukebox)
2. Bill, Bob, Barry, John, Paul, Dick and Susan Cowsill
(Louise Palanker)
3. The Cowsills: Paul Cowsill remembers family, war, Indian Lake and Hair! INTERVIEW
(Mr. Media Interviews By Bob Andelman)
4. Family Band: The Cowsills Story - Video Blog 2 - River of Love
(Louise Palanker)
5. John Cowsill Interview - The Cowsills Podcast EP 53
6. The Cowsills Play the Playboy Mansion

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