Q&A: Suzanne Vega on Scotch, Peter Gabriel and Her First NYC Gig

"New folk” icon Suzanne Vega may have earwormed her way into the collective consciousness with a tune about a coffeeshop at 112th and Broadway ("Tom's Restaurant"), but tonight and tomorrow she's all downtown, all the time--in support of her latest release, the third installment in the four-part Close-Up album series, Close-Up Vol. 3: States of Being, Vega will be at Joe's Pub on Tuesday and Wednesday November 29 and 30. As she prepped material both old and new (and sometimes both – the new album boasts a reboot of "Blood Makes Noise," a track originally recorded for 1992's 99.9F with then-husband and producer Mitchell Froom), the 52-year-old Vega scribbled off answers to our Q questionnaire.

What was your first real job?
Real? Does dog-walking count? Babysitter, Avon lady (unsuccessful), camp counselor.

First record you ever bought?
Abbey Road by the Beatles.

Fill in the blank: If I ever get arrested, it'll be for defending human rights.

What time do you wake up?
10AM, most days.

Where was your first NYC gig, and what do you remember about it?
It was at the Centerfold Café, on 86th Street and Riverside Drive. It was in a church basement.

Top three songs in your iPod rotation these days?
“Youthless,” from Beck's latest album. “Bed Intruder Song” by the Gregory Brothers and Antoine Dodson was up there for a while. And “Welcome to Heartbreak” by Kanye West.

Best show you've ever seen in NYC?

Peter Gabriel at Madison Square Garden, Lou Reed at the Ritz, Stan Ridgeway at the Bottom Line. What do you splurge on?
Vintage clothes.

To when do you point your time machine?
1859. Always had a fascination with that era.

Best meal you've ever had in NYC?
At home. I have a great chef who works for me. [Ed.: We'd also accept this as an answer to the "splurge" question above.]

What's your drink?
Gin and tonic.

First childhood memory?
Getting out of my crib and being told to get back in.

What's your pre-show ritual?
I do my face for about a half hour.

Do you Google yourself?
I have a Google News alert, so I know what's out there.

If so: What's the most memorable thing you've ever read about yourself on the internet?
I found a blog that said I was like a dram of Dalwhinnie Scotch. I really like that review.

Most treasured possession?
Aside from family and pets? My books. and my Buddhist object of worship.

Fill in the blank: In a previous life, I was a servant of some kind.

What's your favorite thing about yourself?
My sense of perspective.

What's your greatest skill in the kitchen?
I can roast a chicken pretty well.

Who are your heroes?
Audrey Hepburn, Vaclav Havel, Emily Dickenson, Aung San Suu Kyi (Burmese oppostition politician who was under house arrest for 15 years).

What scares you?

What's the loftiest goal you've yet to accomplish?
I want to write a book.

Fill in the blank: I'll know I've really made it when I can relax about earning a living.

Best piece of advice you've ever received?
It was from Peter Gabriel: “Blow up your idiosyncrasies.”

Tweet your obit (140 characters or less):
I like a tombstone 'cause it weathers well/if it stands or if it crumbles, only time will tell. [from Vega's song “Tombstone']

Suzanne Vega, Joe's Pub, 7:30 and 9:30PM; tickets here.

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