Suzanne Vega says that recasting a good chunk of her song catalog -- an exercise she finishes with the new "Close-Up Vol. 4, Songs of Family" -- has "really been a success on a few levels."
The New York-based singer-songwriter tells Billboard that the four "Close-Up" sets have been selling well at her shows, to the point where she's "made back the money I've put into it, so whatever I see from here on out is profit."
It's also given her ownership of the songs she re-recorded as part of the project. "The average person on the street doesn't really understand that artists don't own the actual (original) masters," Vega notes. "So there's a little confusion. But if someone liked the original version of 'Luka,' they can buy it for 99 cents on iTunes and that's okay. But that being said, a lot of people love the re-recordings because of the simplicity of the songs and the production and how intimate it is. They really love it."
Vega considers "Songs of Family" to be the "folkiest" of the "Close-Up" sets and, as the title would indicate, the most personal. It also includes the first two songs she ever wrote -- "Brother Mine," when she was 14, and "Sliver Lady" the following year. "I look at them as curiosities, especially 'Brother Man,' which I wrote for my brother, Matthew, who used to get into fights," Vega explains. " 'Silver Lady' has its own story line; it's a real song and I did sing it quite a bit up into my 20s. It's easier to bring them out at this point."
"Songs of Family" will not be the very end of the "Close-Up" series; Vega says that she plans to release a box set during early 2013 compiling all four entries with a fifth disc that will pick up "odds and ends and special versions of some of the songs," including "Marlene On the Wall." Meanwhile, she also has "a batch of songs I've been working on and finishing" for her first studio album since 2007's "Beauty & Crime," which Vega says is "in a nutshell is about a spiritual world."
Without a label deal at the moment, however, Vega is also contemplating how she wants to approach the project. "I'm trying to figure out... am I going to follow Amanda Palmer's lead and see if I can raise $1.2 million on Kickstarter, or do I record on a shoestring and license it out?" says Vega, who's also finishing the latest revision of "Carson McCullers Talks About Love," her stage musical collaboration with Duncan Sheik. "I don't know yet what my options are, so it's a really interesting time. I still love the album/CD format; I know we live in a world that's going back to singles, but I still think about albums, so I'm planning on putting it out probably the old-fashioned way."