Suhanna Cree was born in Spokane and grew up in Kettle Falls. When she was very young, she remembers her mother softly strumming the guitar and singing her to sleep.
“I remember humming the tune in my head as I began to dream,” she said, “and thinking that someday ‘I want to sing just like my mamma.’ ” They lived on a mountain and every winter, they lost power. “That’s when my mother would teach me to play the guitar.”
Cree, 28, began writing songs. Her first, “Just Me,” was written to help deal with her own issues of self worth and body image by urging herself and others to “love yourself.” Another, called “Dedicated to Justin,” came after a close family friend was involved in a devastating car crash, and “Independent Mother” was written for her sister. “I’m very emotional about the songs that I have written as all of them are about my personal life or lives of very close loved ones. I know and remember every occasion that a song came to me,” she said.
In 1998, she was the first solo performing artist at Battle of the Bands. Though she didn’t win, they played one of her songs on a local radio station for a week. After that, she quit performing in public for a while, sticking to private gatherings, the campfire and the occasional open-mike event. “I really didn’t believe in myself,” she admitted.
In a society where entertainers and others in the public eye are scrutinized and judged on things like fashion choices and weight, Cree wasn’t sure how she would be received. Heavy all of her life, she often dreaded stepping onto a stage to be judged, not by her talent but her size. “People have been mean to me all of my life over my weight but, as a musician, I am confident and try to be encouraging to others,” she said, adding that she is sure her experiences were “meant to be” and have taught her about empathy.
Newly married and with a 2-year-old son, Benton, Cree is “so over it” and ready for a change. It might take a while to shed the weight but for the last two years, she has shed her fear of performing and has taken the stage at every local farmers market and dozens of social events including weddings for which she wrote love songs, art openings at Gina’s by Design and regular gigs at Madeleine’s Café.
Her sound is soulful and heartfelt. You can tell that she is moved by the songs that she sings and the feeling is contagious as she tells stories through music about love, loss, rejection, acceptance, and other universal emotions.
Cree has done vocal tracks for local musicians’ recordings and played in a band. Recently she and her family moved to the Corbin Park area, where she is putting a studio together in which to record and where she sings her son to sleep – songs that her mother sang to her.
“All I know is how good it made me feel when my mom would sing to me and if I can do that for someone else then I’m happy with just being me and doing what I love to do, sing,” she said.