When we were kids, we had fantastical dreams. Our imaginations would burst with ideas that felt so far out of the realm of possibilities to those outside of our minds. What if the animals could talk? What if we could fly simply by using our minds and a well-placed breeze? What if technology had a heart?
Though the answer to the first two questions may never come (though let's keep our fingers crossed, shall we?), the answer to ‘what if technology had a heart’ has been answered through the music of @ Little Spiral @, aka Suzanne Yada. This blue-haired maven makes magically symphonic music that combines textured layers of piano chords with technological backtracks of drums, synths, and random audio musings to create a sound that brings the best of heart and tech together.
WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE
Having worked on the digital side of investigative journalism for years, she realized that her music was beginning to take a back seat. So when she was laid off from her job, she saw it as an opportunity and began to take on freelance social media and marketing work to give her the flexibility to also work on her music. But what was originally meant to support her music financially became all-consuming. It wasn’t a 9-to-5 anymore, it was 24/7.
“I can feel myself slowly dying because of how much time I have to spend on social media,” Yada says. “I’m literally tearing my hair out. With all the work, I’m still not doing what I want.”
She also started to teach songwriting part-time on the side to get a little extra income that was at least related to music. But it was the shutdown of 2020 that first led Suzanne Yada, aka @ Little Spiral @, to make some of the biggest moves of her career. In a time where the world had gone silent, and everyone was relegated to their respective homes, she began to take the normally inaccessible time to work on her craft.
“The pandemic had a funny way of making everyone evaluate their life choices. I think a lot of people got the chance to make their art, whatever form of art it was, a priority. With the assistance of unemployment and emergency loans suddenly available,I think many of us got to really explore and deep-dive into the things we wanted to make. Myself included. Though, the path that I ended up taking in 2020 actually had a random catalyst that started earlier than that.”
The catalyst she refers to is the time she decided to join Ben Folds’ Patreon in 2019. An artist-driven platform intended to create a more intimate connection between artist and fan, Yada joined Folds’ community for no other reason than she was a fan. What she ended up getting out of the subscription ended up being so much more. One of the things Folds began to offer on his platform was the opportunity for fans to submit lyrics for Folds to then back up with music. Yada couldn’t help but be excited and sent in some lyrics she thought would be great for Folds. Though it was never clear when, or if, her song would be chosen, Yada remained hopeful. To collaborate with an artist she so openly revered and respected felt like an unattainable dream.
After a while it was harder for hopes to not be dashed. In early 2020, before he got to Yada’s lyrics, Folds took off to Australia for a tour. Yada continued on with her day to day life, not thinking much of it again.
Until COVID hit. Suddenly, hundreds of millions of people were sent home from their offices, and artists like Ben Folds were grounded from their normal reality of constant flights and non stop touring. In Folds’ case, however, that grounding took on a whole new meaning.
“He left for that tour with a suitcase with like five shirts and a tuxedo basically. He ended up having to sell his house here in the states and basically live in Australia when the shutdown started.” Yada recalls. We sit on Zoom, reminiscing about the oddly simpler yet far more complicated times we jokingly call Lockdown 2020.
“That shutdown put everyone on the same playing field, in a way. We were all stuck in our house, no matter how big of an artist you were, no matter how much money you made,” Yada says as we talk about her initial connection with Ben Folds, “and so suddenly we were all in the same boat. It changed things. It created a connection that was never really there before.”
In his down-under solitude, Folds started to livestream a lot more, and quickly came up with new opportunities for patrons to interact with him – and each other. He asked for songwriters to submit their work for review, and in many ways, this was better than a collaboration – this was an opportunity to showcase her best complete work as an artist, to a fellow artist, for review. Suddenly, as Yada tuned into Folds' Patreon stream from the comfort of her home, her name was called.
“Now, coming up, Little Spiral… I should note that Suzanne is a teacher herself, so this sort of feels like operating on a surgeon. I’m going to be paying extra close attention…”
“I could feel my mind being blown, “ Yada reminisces over the moment, wistful joy reaching the corners of her smile as she tells the story, “but then I look at him and within 3 seconds of pressing play, his jaw drops. So now I’m watching him get his mind blown by my music and it’s just so surreal.”
By the end of the listen, Folds had some shining words for Yada, going so far as to say that she may be a better piano player than him. To sum it all up:
“This lady is one fine songwriter.”
That was when she knew, though perhaps deep down she’d known it all along, that it was time to take that leap. That full fledged dive into her dreams. It was time to truly focus on her music.
After the immediate praise from Ben Folds, it was hard for Yada to not be… let’s face it, feeling herself. Yada mentioned that she views Folds as one of the greater songwriters of our generation. From playing the Kennedy Center, to scoring animated films, to Billboard charts, Folds talent combined with his notoriety would have normally made him out of reach for Yada. For most artists, really. When the walls came down during the pandemic, it created a whole new world. A whole new need to connect. It opened artists up to things they may not have had the time for before, such as the reviews Folds began recording. Ironically, the pandemic, which shut everything down, opened a lot of doors for Yada.
AN EP IS BORN
On top of being an intensely skilled pianist that can translate complex emotions into melodies, her voice settles on your skin. The kind of voice that could only occur if Tori Amos had a vocal baby with Regina Spektor. Her powerful notes resonate in the spirit, her pained whispers nestle into your brain. She manages to create a safe space for listeners to be their most vulnerable selves. The self that is found when you strip away the social media personas that we all subconsciously hide behind, to protect ourselves from our own reality. Which in this increasingly technological age, is exactly what Yada wanted. To find the real connections embedded in the coding of the artificial.
With Mathemartics, the song that Ben Folds jaw-dropped over, she analyzes the concept of God as a mathematical construct. Everywhere and nowhere, just like a number in an equation. Tangible and intangible, visible yet invisible. A concept she likens to the idea of humanity itself, and our knowinging unknowing of the existence we live in. Slicing open the layers of magic that makes us all we are, and dissecting all the gooey parts until they make sense. Simultaneously analytical and operatic, touching and scientific. She strikes an interesting dichotomy in her music that seems to exist within us all. The longing for a faith that believes in something bigger than us battling with the reality of our provable existence.
That striking balance carries through the rest of the four song EP, her powerful vocals matching her powerful messages. Ones that speak to the beauty of imperfections, our collective longing for understanding, and our deep-seeded need for connection amidst the chaos. @ Little Spiral @ seems to have captured the constant wave emotions we all felt during our mutual isolation and distilled it into one perfect EP. One that takes you on a journey that leaves you feeling ultimately triumphant. The kind of triumph, and hope, so many of us needed then, and still need now.
You can learn more about the music, the myth, and the movements of @ Little Spiral @ by following along on her website.