She was bound to be noticed. She’s 6-foot tall, and her last name is Large. Who could miss that? Everyone had something sassy to say about the big, brassy singer. According to her memoir, “Crazy Enough,” adolescence wasn’t much fun.
Born Susan Storm Large, the singer survived and thrived. She embraced her middle and last names, dropped her first name, and learned to sass people right back, in a big way.
In 2006, she took control of her own image, on national television. She made it to the next-to-last round of the TV talent contest series “Rock Star: Supernova,” making a big impression with her version of The Who’s “Pinball Wizard.”
Since then, Storm Large has been in charge. Performing first with her raucous rock band, The Balls, and later with the sophisticated jazz and standards ensemble Pink Martini, she has established herself as a singer who can rock the house or carry a torch song with equal ease.
At 45, Storm has taken her career in a slightly different direction with her cabaret band, Le Bonheur, debuting on tour last year and releasing an album this fall.
Out on the road again this year, she and her trio will perform Sunday, Oct. 5 in the new 250-seat Schroeder Hall at Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center.
Storm recently chatted about her music and career by phone from her home in Portland, Ore.
Q: How do you define the musical style of your new act, Le Bonheur?
A: I incorporate originals with standards and unexpected songs that we twist into standards, like songs by Black Sabbath and Tom Waits. We take punk rock songs and make them a little more palatable for a symphony kind of audience, but still have fun and maintain the energy.
Q: What are you aiming for with this music?
A: Really, it’s just about enjoyment and storytelling. That’s the essence of cabaret, taking the audience out of normalcy, making them think or laugh.
Q: Is this a totally different songlist? Are your more sexually explicit songs like your big video hit, “Eight Miles Wide,” and “Ladylike” in this show?
A: No, “Eight Miles Wide” still exists in the hearts and minds of everyone. It’s such a fan favorite. But I’m careful. If it’s a symphony audience, or there’s little kids, I take the temperature of the room. If I’m playing somewhere conservative, I’m careful with my language.
Q: Does that mean you’ve changed? Is this a new Storm?
A: It’s maybe a more responsible Storm. I’m a little less spontaneous with my filthy mouth. I’m a little more measured with all my banter.
Q: Is that a part of your lifelong growth, or more a matter of choosing a specific style for each band? Do you have one person a with Pink Martini, and another with this band?
A: I definitely behave differently onstage with Pink Martini, because that’s Thomas Lauderdale’s band. He is the band leader and we are all individual soloists. I’m absolutely encouraged to share my personality and be myself onstage. But it’s a not a typical band where the singer is the focal point. Pink Martini is an awesome collective of killer musicians, and they all shine in their own way. It’s trained me to control my energy.