Susan Calloway recently released an amazing reworking of “Answers” – the theme song she sung for Final Fantasy XIV. Already an accomplished singer/songwriter in her own right, she’s gained a new fan base by performing other Final Fantasy tracks live with an orchestra. Higher Plain Music were able to chat to Susan about reworking the track and how creating a cover of a track can be different to creating something original:
Firstly congratulations on the amazing rendition of “Answers”. So epic and yet so markedly epic in a different way to the original version. What initially called you to rework the song in your own way?
Thank you! I am so glad you like my version of “Answers.” I wanted to give fans a different take on it for two reasons… one, there are several versions out with the big orchestra production and it didn’t make sense to do yet another one. And two, I wanted to show fans my artist side… that I am NOT just a singer but that I am a recording artist – I write songs, produce, play multiple instruments… I wanted to introduce them to my Susan sound!
Talking about the process of reworking a track – especially one so layered musically and thematically – where on Earth do you begin?!
For me, it starts with the piano. I wanted to make the song works in a simple, bare bones way. We tried to capture the essence of the song and then build it out from there. Starting simple is the key to this. Production needs to be intentional, not just adding parts for the sake of it, you know? We took the less-is-more approach.
Where there any challenges that you faced along the way of reworking the track?
Yes! We did about four different versions and arrangements until we found the right approach. “Answers” is not an easy song… it is so anthemic, long, with no repeating chorus… so it was a challenge to turn it into a pop song.
Have you had any comments from Nobuo or others involved with the original track?
A few people at Square Enix have heard it and said they really loved it! Hoping that Arnie and Nobuo do as well.
You have of course been involved in some amazing concerts and performances that involve other Final Fantasy tracks where you have been able to put your own vocal take on things. Are there any other tracks from the series you would like to rework too?
Yes! Mostly because I know it would mean so much to fans. We are actually working on a version of “Distant Worlds.” It would also be fun to do “Kiss me Goodbye” too.
Thinking wider now about covering or reworking songs into a new style – do you think there are certain skills you need to bring that are different to writing original tracks from scratch?
Yes, for sure. This is where having a lot of training is helpful. I studied classical music for 18 years… both piano and voice, so that comes in handy! But my approach to arranging is not really technical… it is more emotive. I think of songs as little stories. I always ask myself, what is the story that is being told and how do I want to tell it? What’s the mood? What’s the backdrop? What instruments will help set the stage so people will be drawn in to this journey? Those are the key things to focus on. If you do that, you will create something magical.
Do you think ‘fans’ give covers and reworks a harder time than they do original music?
That’s a tough one. “Answers” is the first song I have released that I didn’t write! And so far I am getting nothing but positive feedback, which I so appreciate. I mean, I’m sure there are fans who will prefer the more bombastic version. That is the hardest thing… living up to a certain expectation. But I wasn’t too worried about doing a quality job. My producer is amazing – I totally trust him. Sonically, no one can touch the recordings he is able to capture.
Moving to your original music. Are you working on anything else new that you can tease us with?
YES! I am working on a full length CD of my own music. The production is sort of a cross between Adele and Florence & the Machine. I think it’s the best work I’ve done to date – I am SO excited for fans to hear it!
Thank you to Susan for taking the time to talk to Higher Plain Music. To keep up to date with Susan’s work follow her on Twitter @SusanCalloway.