By Natasha Anderson
The Wortham Center for the Performing Arts presents singer/songwriter Susan Werner, performing in Diana Wortham Theatre on Wednesday, October 27, at 7 p.m. An Asheville fan favorite, Werner is known for her personable, yet refined demeanor, sassy wit and insightful, thought-provoking lyrics delivered over a fusion of rustic American folk, blues and country rhythms.
“My favorite story is when Susan showed up for a performance after the airline had lost her bags,” says Wortham Center managing director Rae Geoffrey. “Instead of driving all over town to find fancy clothes, she unapologetically performed in her casual, travel-weary attire with her glasses on, and shared the story with the audience.”
This authenticity shines through again and again in Werner’s work, resulting in a multifaceted music career and a well-earned reputation as a fixture on the folk scene with a collection of works that feel both familiar and wholly original. National Public Radio has dubbed her the “empress of the unexpected,” something she considers a result of her own desire to be surprised and entertained.
“Audiences really deserve a good time—a really engaging, fun, deeply moving night out,” says Werner. “And musical variety is part of that, whether it’s guitar rhythms from Cuba or stride piano from New Orleans or good old fingerpicking country; the unexpected is part of what keeps us humans engaged in anything.”
At age five, Werner made her musical debut, playing guitar and singing at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Manchester, IA. She learned both piano and guitar by ear. After earning a degree in voice from the University of Iowa, she attended Temple University in Philadelphia, performing in numerous recitals and operas while completing her graduate studies.
Ultimately, she opted to forgo a career as an opera singer, dedicating herself instead to songwriting, building a reputation at jazz clubs, coffeehouses and folk festivals along the Eastern Seaboard.
When asked how her opera background has influenced her career, Werner says, “Singing opera is a totally over-the-top kinda thing where you’re wearing a costume and semi-screaming impossibly difficult melodies in a foreign language at the top of your lungs while trying to act. Experiences like that render you kinda bulletproof on stage.”
Werner’s performance will feature a fresh set of songs including releases from her latest Americana and country-inspired album, Flyover Country, released in September.
Wortham Center for the Performing Arts is located at 18 Biltmore Avenue, in Asheville. Tickets to Susan Werner’s performance are $20–$42 each. Learn more or purchase tickets at WorthamArts.org or by contacting the box office at 828.257.4530.