CHoHW Lyrics: Johnny

Johnny left.
He walked out.
Flicked his cigarette toward me.
Done without a doubt.

I chased a ways behind him.
I ain’t to proud to plead.
He never he turned around
to see my sacred heart leave.

and I hate you, Johnny.
For what you done to me.
I’ll never have the heart to hurt
you set it free
when you moved on.
Johnny led me on.

Patience is a virtue.
I’d say like being damned
And I don’t want this virtue anymore
Rather have the upper hand.
Granted, half my misery
is no common sense at all.
If I was never given any hope
then I know I’d never fall.


Johnny you were bad news.
I guess I should have known
That your heart was made of aluminum
And you’d turn mine into stone.

I half regret the time we had
and I wish I could take back days
I would rope me up a wild horse
get myself dragged away



Here We Go. Part 8: Come Hell or Haunt Water

Here is the obligatory, “Man, has it been a year almost since I last posted?” blog entry. Geez.   What is with this procrastination thing I got going on with myself?  I don’t even know where I left off, and I certainly don’t wanna look.   Well, just quickly, I suppose.

I left ya’ll with some terrible curtains back in June of 2012, never really completing the saga of what is/has been/was/is/maybe the band which is Come Hell or High Water.  Your baited breaths have long been hissed out, certainly.  Else, you wouldn’t be reading this right now.

Ahhh, yes.  The story of CHOHW left off with me labeling myself as one with the tendency to put things off.  How ironic. Here it is three hundred and forty some days from that last post, and I’m revisiting my little haunt of a blog.

(random awesome thought…we should re-name our band come hell or haunt water….??)

I didn’t really know where the band was going, I guess, when I last wrote here.  We played a show at NYP on a full moon night in August.  I was personally, quite drunk, and it was a terrible show. I kept looking at Rob, laughing and saying, “I have no idea what I’m doing!”  DURNK. 

Somebody let Mama come out, and Mama drank in her freedom. And totally busted up a set of rock n roll. nyprobsuemat

Our last show was in September at, not surprisingly, The Flatiron.  We whipped that donkey. And we’ve played no more.  No practices.  No band meetings.  Nothing.  Flat nothing.lastshow

I’m 90 miles away from my mates with a vehicle that gets 20 miles to the gallon. And my Mama is too old to babysit all the time.  So, I rolled to a stop.

My guitar playing has been limited since September to,mostly, the walls of my bedroom and with plenty of interruption.  Ollie and Fern do love to request things and ask questions at all moments of the day, and especially when I have the guitar in my lap. Though they make it tough to practice, I’ve managed to get a little better at the guitar this year, I think. So. That’s something.

I’ve played three solo shows out and about and, so. That’s something else.

So what’s next? 

I’m supposed to move back to Greensboro soon.  Fingers crossed it pans out like planned. 



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Terrible Curtains.

this ole house starting to feel like a home

all the negative ones I been leaving them alone.

 and I’m feeling more happy

and i’m feeling more fine

than i think i’ve felt

since twenty four twenty five.


9 years since I was feeling so good

9 years is a long time.

9 years since i have felt like myself

9 years since you left my siiiiiiiiiide




And I’m.


Saying Goodbyyyyye.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. (ahhhhhhhhh)

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Here We Go. Part 7: Hide it Under a Bushel.

Seize the day. Get it going.

These are things that are said in my head a lot. A lot of times I have not listened. I have not acted upon my notions, and still find ways to digress from them.

Come Hell or High Water has been a band since 2005. Seven years Matty and I have been playing together, Shane D. joining soon after we got going good.

Seven years as a band, and we have not released a studio album until this year, May of 2012.

And it wasn’t even a full length album. It was an EP we recorded with Snuzz.

come hell or high water

Come Hell Or High Water EP

It’s not that we don’t have the songs. We do. I’ve written 80 songs, at least. And Come Hell or High Water has popped off new songs at the drop of a high hat. Songs keep coming.

come hell or high water

List of songs I’ve written

Perhaps I could blame our lack of studio time on money. I don’t have any. It’s a true statement, but it doesn’t hold ground as a good excuse. There have been avenues where we could have recorded cheaply, even free.

The truth is, there is no excuse. I’m a dawdler. A procrastinator. A dreamer. A hermit. A mother. An introvert.

For a long time I have known that when we did record, I wanted everything to be perfect.

And every time things got perfect with one group of people playing, we’d add another member, have to relearn songs and wait for it to be perfect again. But then we’d add another member. And then I’d have another baby. So on and so forth.

It’s taken seven years to get it just right.

With Snuzz, on that recording we did with him on Pilot Mountain, we sound like the band of souls I wanted to gather with. Life’s been an excruciating journey, the music we’re making lifts me up. Sets sorrows free.

* * *

We began recording with Snuzz in January of 2011 after talking about it for 8 months or more.

The band as a collective got lost on the first drive up to Pinnacle, NC, where Snuzz lives. We rode down the country road a little too long and wound up having to pee, ask directions, and buy coffee and beer at a little pizza restaurant with a grocery store attached to it.

When we finally wound our way around to his house, it was so bright. The cabin on the farm with the cows right there, a dirt path, an inviting porch. The friendliness of Snuzz. The cats.

Snuzz is a wonderful heart and a talented man. He offers his warm personality with an ease unseen in many, and he is a master of his craft. He’s played among many great musicians in North Carolina. I felt so lucky to be in his house, at his studio. I felt so lucky that he was so welcoming and excited. I am thankful for our time recording there and what came out of the process.

Before we could finish recording more than three songs, I found out I was pregnant. With Ollie’s daddy. Again.

I went into hiding about 5 months into the pregnancy.

We played our last show opening up for Jason Isbell, formerly of the Drive by Truckers, at the Blind Tiger on May 15th. I drank a big bottle of water and couldn’t remember any of the words to my favorite song. The rest of the show was great, and I made up for the flubbing by being secretly pregnant and cute, so. No biggie. But.

There was no more recording. Come Hell didn’t practice anymore. I didn’t talk to my friends. I didn’t tell anybody.

I literally hid from the world.

If you’d found out I was pregnant, it wasn’t because I’d told you.

Matty came up to me at the bar one night as I was locking the door and said, “So, Mikey told me you were pregnant?” Mikey. My boss from the Flat Iron. Who’d heard it from somebody who’d asked me if I was pregnant because I’d been drinking water at the bar instead of beer. I’d asked the lady not to tell anybody. But.

That’s how Matty found out. Harry called me one day and asked,”Why am I hearing this ridiculousness around town that you’re pregnant?”

“Cuz I am.”

He didn’t believe me, “How did this haaaappen?”

“Well, Harry.” I explained, “I had sex.”

I didn’t even tell Rob or Shane D. Rob found out from the booking agent at The Blind Tiger one night before Eszett played a show there. I think I finally talked to Shane D. three weeks after Fern was born and told him I’d had a baby. “I heard! Congratulations!”

I didn’t tell my band mates I was pregnant because they were the ones who had seen the trials of my relationship with Ollie’s dad, and they’d seen me raked over the coals, upset and at wits end with him. They were the ones who were helping me to flush out the anger and sadness of our relationship with the music we were writing. They’d heard me cry.

Through it all, I’d loved the boy. I’d had the notion, from what I’d learned of God’s love, that patience perseveres.

Not everything works out like you’d hoped. This I’ve learned from life.

Laura Fern was born on October 10, 2011. I was on the recovery table by eight in the morning. I got my phone out and updated my status on Facebook: “By the way, I just had a baby.” It got lots of “WHAT???” comments.

matty sheets

Matty comes to the hospital to meet Fern

I had no plan for Come Hell or High Water. I had no plan for myself. A single mother of TWO. I had no plan but to FREAK OUT!

ollie and fern

Ollie and her little sister, Fern. First day home.

In a panic, I packed up my Greensboro house and moved 90 miles away back to my hometown, Louisburg, North Carolina, to be near my parents.

I didn’t really tell anyone I was moving out of Greensboro either. I just left.

I didn’t want to, but I didn’t know what else to do.

It was a really tough decision. One of the hardest I’ve had to make.

Inevitably, it was the right decision.

……oh my gosh……so…..close…….the…..end………so…tired…of…writing. (stay tuned for the final installment of Here We Go.)

Here We Go. Part 6: The Year of the Shitbird.

All right. So Harry’s in the band now at this point. It’s January 2010. And it’s cold, and I’m single with a toddler, and Come Hell was starting to play outside of Greensboro more, and we finally seemed to be getting recognized in Greensboro as a band that was good to go see. We were picking up fans. I was happy.

I was back in a band with Dylan. Whom I loved. And loved to be close to, and was.


loving cup.

Dylan told me one day to pick out a van on the internet, because he was going to buy a van. “I’ve always wanted to have a band van,” he said. I diligently went to work looking for an internet van for the band. I was into a Dodge Ram.

He found a plush, navy, 1982 Ford Econoline in Burlington at a used car place. We drove there the long way finally finding the place, got there, got out of the car, checked it out. Drove it up the street. Drove it back. And he bought it. Just like that. Band van.

I was thrilled. We had transportation. We could all ride and laugh together. And it didn’t hurt that the van was really a good looking specimen. Ooooooweee!

We were playing the nearby towns, taking a step out of our native streets.

Winston Salem, North Carolina’s a real nice town. As are Durham and Chapel Hill. We would get too buzzed to drive, and would find a motel to crash.

Our first trip in the van was to Asheville to play a house show. It was the morning after that show that the van got it’s official name, Shitbird. We were talking about what a good band name Filthybird was. Perhaps there was some discussion about what kind of filth the bird was covered in? I don’t really remember. If it was covered in shit, it would be called shitbird. Somehow this was funny…and somehow…somehow. This named the van. The van’s name was Shitbird.

On the day before my 32nd birthday in March, Come Hell played a show at The Garage in Winston Salem. I wore a red dress. Greensboro friends came out. Marty, Pete, Lydia, more. Charlie Wood? It seems like he was there.

come hell or high water

Flyer for the night.

32nd birthday

opening up the set, solo on my birthday. with my hair up . i let it down later.

I guess the show was fine. I remember more, the getting drunk afterward. Riding in a backseat, laying across three boys, hoping to find vacancy at a motel a cop suggested wasn’t that great. There was vacancy. And vagrancy.

There were many people singing together in a motel room that night. Even Marty.

I woke up with my head next to Dylan, and arms around. I started singing a Kenny Rogers song.

There was laughter.

There was more laughter at lunch, outside, at Foothills Brewery. Good, long, happy, happy laughs.

A couple of weeks later we played a show at The Blind Tiger. It was a hell of a show. I took whiskey shots on stage. Never a good thing/always a good thing.

Riding high after the show, I asked Dylan what he did on the weekend because I had not seen him. He smiled, “I got married!”

Time to light a cigarette.

I did not have a pleasant bone in my body.


He said her name, I tugged on that smoke, and got up to go get drunker. I was a dustbowl of dreary. And a porcupine of pissed. Israel Darling was playing. I stared at them and swelled up inside. Sent whiskey to join the waves.

We didn’t stay for the whole show. Matty and Harry got me on outta there as I was hammered and breaking down. Matty took the keys to drive. I slumped down in the passenger seat, boots up on the dash. I kicked the windshield. Matty quickly says, “Don’t do that!?”. I kicked it harder and the windshield split into a spiderweb. A calm word, “Fuck,” came from my mouth. Then I rolled down the window and screamed, “Fuck you” very very loudly, and flipped that motherfucker the bird.

Lots of people came to my house for the “Yeah, WTF! That Guy’s an Asshole!” party. The party was on the porch, as Ollie was in bed. Julie had been babysitting. I remember sitting on my floor in the kitchen of 823 Glenwood Avenue, in the corner between the stove and the door, leaving nasty perverted swear filled peace the fuck out messages on Dylan’s voicemail, as Matty stood by the sink, and shook with laughter at what I was saying. I believe my sailor mouth may have dumbfounded Mr. Sheets.

Harry, bewildered by the atrocity of my intoxicated broken heart, wanted to do something for me, but didn’t know what to do. So he started washing the dishes in my sink with Liz. Which was great. I hate washing dishes.

Outside, in the middle of the road, Julie and I stood under the streetlight alone. She told me a secret. The image and action of which, blew out my brain.I burst into a loud, long, breath ripping, serious fit of tear crying, hard hard laughter. Both of us, encouraging more laughter with our laughter. On and on and on in the middle of the road.

Sat on the porch a long time smoking cigarettes, the party dwindled down to just me and Matty and Barry. Matty got out the guitar. Barry got some drum sticks. Matty played the guitar. Barry played the porch column. We wrote a song together. It ended up being called, “Mouth”.

“My mouth is gonna get me in trouble. My mouth said some mean damn things. My mouth is a little regrettable. My mouth strikes straight from my hot vein….A little bit dirty, a little bit honest, a little bit clean. A little bit more honest than I think you’ll ever be. At least I’m not like you, and at night I can go to sleep. I wouldn’t sleep a second if I done what you done to me……”

Despite what you would think, after all that, I didn’t want Dylan out of the band. We met the next morning and talked. He didn’t want out of the band. We hugged, “I guess this means that we really are friends.”

Dude. That’s what love is.

Come Hell or High Water

Turn it up.

Matty and Harry didn’t understand my woman brained decision to keep him in the band, but they went along with it. Inevitably it didn’t really matter. Our band was falling apart. Just as we thought we were getting started good.

By May, it did fall apart. Gael was dealing with issues with his girlfriend and chickens and dogs and work and futures and life. Where as everyone else in the band wanted to start playing more and practicing twice a week, Gael was pulling away. Missing practices, not wanting to commit any more time. He didn’t know how much longer he was going to be in Greensboro. I told him we were going to be recording and that I wanted the recording to sound like the band after the recording was finished. I told him I thought maybe we should find a bass player that was going to be there. There was a small verbage spat over the phone between us. He ended up quitting and/or getting fired. The only thing I remember him saying is, “Good luck finding a bass player as good as me in this town on short notice.”

We had a show in Wilmington in June, two weeks away. We had a new bass player in three hours, thanks to Harry, we had managed to pull a god of a bass player into the band. That god, is still our salvation of a bass player, Mr. Rob Sinnott.

Rob Sinnott

Bass god of salvation.

I first saw Rob when I was but a Chinese food delivery girl, during the days of Scarlet Harlot, many years before. He lived in the attic apartment of a house off Cedar Street, and I delivered his food a few times. I had gotten to know him better when I worked at College Hill and I served him whiskey and watched him debate people that were wrong. We’d partied at my house across the street a lot. He lent me his bass rig one time for a couple of days so I could try to write songs off a bass line. He was no stranger to the band by any means, but Harry was a very good friend of his, and Harry was the one to ask Rob if he wanted to play. And Rob said yes.

Game. Changer. Rob Sinnott.

come hell or high water

Rob playing with CHoHW

Rob brought a new aspect to the band. He’d never been in a band with a singer, much less played in a band with a singer songwriter. Though his musical background is extensive, he tended toward playing heavier and more progressive rock music. His other band, Eszett, is absolutely magical. Magical, I tell you.

Rob picked up on the songs, made suggestions, sang harmonies from the get go and I think we were all like, “What the hell? This guy ROCKS!” Come Hell or High Water almost instantly moved from alt rock country band to full blown rock and roll band when we we joined forces with Rob.


The chemistry of the band had changed dramatically in just a few months. Things had gone from peachy, to pouty, to puttering, to POW! POW! in six months.

Dylan continued to play with the band for a while, but had moved up near DC, where his wife was living. I had welcomed him playing anytime he could when he was in town, but after a while it just didn’t seem right anymore. Come Hell or High Water evolved immensely with Rob, and we were writing new material and parts, and our last show with Dylan was in September of 2010. The drama of the band’s saga did not cease with his departure, but the current crew hasn’t jumped ship.

Come Hell or High Water has been me (Suzanne), Matty, Shane D., Harry, and Rob ever since then. But there’s still more to the story. And, of course, I’m going to put off telling it. Until next time.

Suzanne Stafford

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Here We Go. Part 5: Turtles, Unicorns, Classics, and Harry.

This morning, as I was pulling Ollie out of the Jeep for pre-school, a pre-school dad turned the corner in his Jeep blaring a tune I’d heard on WUAG twice before. It sounded like the Avett Brothers, but I didn’t think it was them. I’d searched for the song, and hadn’t found it anywhere. The WUAG website wasn’t updating their playlists and I’d let out a dirty sigh of frustration not knowing what the song was. But here it was, coming round the corner blasting out of a preschool Jeep.

It became apparent this morning that I can’t hear. The preschool dad got out of the car as I was getting Ollie’s pillows out for pillow day, and I asked him from 3 cars up, “Was that song the Avett Brothers?” He said something. I didn’t hear. “What?” Said something else. I put my finger to my ear, “I can’t hear you.” I began to walk toward him fast, as he was walking fast.

He said, “Tramplelalaa”.

I squinted, wondering why the hell he wouldn’t speak up. “Trample What?”

“Trampled by tmurblahahab”

“Trambled by whaaaat?


“Oh, Trampled by Turtles . I was wondering. I heard it on the radio and I liked it.”

The chorus, “You wait so long, you wait so long, you wait sooo looong…” got me to thinking right now. And I thought, “I am drawing and dragging out this biography of life and Come Hell or High Water for so long. I better get to work on it again.”

So, where were we?

Ahhhh, yes. The break in the clouds.

Dylan joined the band with his guitar and pedal steel in August, I became a single mom in October, and was happy to be with my friends for band practice once a week. We would practice at my house on Glenwood just after I’d fed Ollie some dinner, and band practice felt like a party. I would get tipsy drinking wine, singing and playing. Ollie would lay down on the couch or in her bed and go to sleep. She would talk to herself sometimes as she was drifting off in her crib. “I got a nose. Go to bed. I got hair. Go to bed. I got teeth. Go to bed.”

Ollie Girl

Ollie almost age 2. At the park across from Pam’s house.

Sitting on the porch with Matty and Shane D. and Gael and Dylan during cigarette breaks, is something I will always treasure, and I miss it right now. Gael peeing on the front lawn facing the street, smoking a cigarette and telling a story; sitting beside my best friend Matty on the top step; feeling lovely and nervous toward Dylan, Shane D. looking for something in his truck or standing there, pressing his fist into his palm. Everyone flicking cigarettes in the grass. These were classic Come Hell or High Water times.

come hell or high water 2009

Dylan’s first show with us at the Flat Iron

We played a show in January, 2010, at the Blind Tiger. The old Blind Tiger. The one on Walker Ave. We played to a big crowd, played a great set. Felt good.

Harrison was there. When I was bartending at College Hill, back in February of 2009, Harrison had come up to me at closing time,very happily drunk and said to me, “I’ve seen you walking with your kid in the stroller. She’s really cute. She’s reeeeeally rrrrreally cute. And I just want you to know that if you ever need a babysitter,I’m a really good babysitter.”

I was about to wet my pants with the laughter on the inside of me thinking, “No fucking way everrrrr, duuude. Are you fucking serrrrious right now? You gotta be kidding meee! Nooo fucking way! Hahaha.” I looked at him, wide eyed, bemused. Pam, my fellow bartender, was shaking her finger and head, “Nuh-uh” rolling her eyes and grinning. I can hear her now, after he left saying, “Suzanne, you better not let that boy babysit Ollie. Nuh-uh. NOT gonna happen.”

Harrison continued, “I’m a really, I’m a really good babysitter. I have two little brothers and I used to take care of them, and I miss them so much, and your kid is just so cute, and I’d love to baby sit her sometime. If you ever need a babysitter, I’d be glad to babysit. And I know I’m drunk right now, and you’re probably thinking who the fuck is this guy, but I’m a really good babysitter. Really good.”

“Okay, Harrison. See you later.”

Drunk Harrison

This is Harrison around the time he asked to baby sit Ollie.

I did see Harrison later. I got stung by the Alcohol Law Enforcement one evening at College Hill, and accidentally served beer to a 19 year old. Whoops. There was this whole thing with lawyers and courts. I got off from having to pay any fines, but I lost my job. Damn it. It was my 31st birthday the day I got fired. I took time off from working and stayed home with Ollie until I got a job at Link Fish working with Harry in September.

One day, as I was scrolling down the clock in screen trying to find my name on the computer, I looked at Harrison’s name, and his last name was Barrow. I stuck my head in the room his desk was at…the “B.O.sphere”…and I asked him if he knew an Owen Barrow. Harrison said, “YEAH! That’s my big brother!”

“That’s your big? brother?” I questioned this, because Harrison had a lot of gray hair. Owen had none. “I worked with Owen at Camp Don Lee for a few years.”

Harrison said, “I KNEW you looked familiar. But I didn’t know where it was from! CAMP DON LEE! That’s it! You were my counselor or support staff or something one year! Back when I was like 6!”

Oh my gosh. I remembered him. !! “Wait! You were with Webster? and Owen and Mary Aiken??” Memorable kids from camp. With memorable names. Very memorable. It had been 12 or 13 years ago that they were campers when I was working at Camp Don Lee. I worked there enough summers in a row that Owen eventually graduated from being a camper to a staff member.

“YYESSSS! Mary Aiken’s my big sis!”

“WOW!” We had a moment of memories, and it was exciting. I totally remembered the group of kids Harrison was in. There would be a thousand kids that would come through that camp each summer, and only a few stand out clearly. Harrison was one of them. And now we were working together!

After we figured out we knew each other, it was really easy to get to know Harrison. He was hilarious, coming to work in the same clothes for days on end, hair unbrushed, sitting at his computer blowing out giggles silently through his nose the whole day long, searching the internet for anything that amused him, chatting on the instant messenger constantly, photoshopping. He had commentary on EVERYTHING,the conversation in the room was lively. He introduced me to pudding farts. And cake farts. Working with him, there was always laughter in the room.

Unicorn Harry

Harry as a gay unicorn. Photoshop courtesy of Peter Attia. (i think?)

Harrison came to the show at the Blind Tiger that January. After I stepped off stage he came up to me and he said, “If you ever want a piano player, I would love to play with you guys.” I had heard him mention at work that he played piano, but never really thought about it I guess.

I said,”Sure, yeah. I’ll ask the guys to see what they think. I think that would be cool.”

Matty, Shane, Gael, Dylan. They all agreed, and at our next practice, Harrison was there apologizing for his nervousness and tapping his fingers on his lips, pulling his hair. As soon as he started playing on “Cuss and Roll Over” I looked at Dylan,we were both smiling, giddy. Dylan was nodding his head with a big ole grin. Harrison played awesomely. Though he kept apologizing saying he didn’t know what he was doing…he knew what he was doing, and it was obvious from the get go that he had made himself the newest member of Come Hell. Like Gael when he joined, and like Dylan, when he joined, the music sounded renewed and so much better than before. It was good with the five of us, but with the six of us, there was such a full full sound to the songs. I shook my hips with excitement during the cigarette break.

Harrison told us, “My friends call me Harry. You guys can call me Harry.”

I kept calling him Harrison for a while until it sunk in. I don’t remember when I got comfy enough to call him Harry, but writing this just now, I almost forgot that I used to call him Harrison at all.

So. That’s how Harry joined the band.

first show for Harry

Show at Studio B. I think this was Harry’s first show. He’d only had a few practices with us.

Still more to come.

Suzanne Stafford

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Here We Go. Part 4: Gael and Come Hell 2006-2009.

Let me just start by saying, I could kiss Gael on the mouth if I saw him again. I would love to hear his voice right now. Gael, if you’re reading this, I can hear you giggling, and I miss you. I hope you’re doing wonderfully.

Gael has a deep New York voice, and an affinity for funny stories. He would pee four feet in front of you, facing the other way, smoking a cigarette, and still be telling you a story, making you laugh. He remembers jokes, he tells them well. I don’t remember jokes, so I can’t tell you one that he told. Perhaps I’ll email him on the matter and have it be another story.

Gael McKeon

Gael in the bathroom with his girlfriend.

When Gael joined Come Hell or High Water in 2006, there was a new excitement for the sound of the music. His upright bass playing, rugged good looks, and easy hilarity lent itself to forming a complete sound and feel and comradery in the band. When Gael joined was right around the time that The Avett Brothers were coming on the scene (i guess?), and folksy, americana rock was making an impact. With Gael, Come Hell fit the genre. The songs we were playing: Johnny Led Me On, Cuss ‘n Roll Over, Alibi, 1234, Back Off You Go Again all worked well with the upright bass sound. Matty and Shane and I marveled over how different and wondrously better we sounded with Gael.

It wasn’t too long after Gael joined the band that I got pregnant with my boyfriend, Ethan, in 2007. Ethan and I moved out of the back of the blue house across from the bar and into the Glenwood neighborhood a few blocks away. Undeterred, and with life brewing, Come Hell or High Water kept right on practicing and playing shows around. We played a show at Two Art Chicks two weeks before Ollie was born on December 3rd (2007). She heard my guitar the whole time she was in my belly, it was right there pressed against her.

best baby

Suzanne and Ollie the Newborn

When Ollie was born, though, Come Hell or High Water stopped playing music. My procrastination set in. I was content to sit at home with my baby at night reading, playing video games in the dark, and eating after she went to bed. After a year of nothing, by 2009 I certainly got the itch to get some music going again, and graciously Harvey and Carolyn offered to shoot some videos of us for their website, Monkeywhale. That was a fun, fun, springy Winter’s day. Though it was a motivator to play some shows, Come Hell or High Water didn’t play a out again until summer of that year.

Our first show back from me having Ollie was a lovely June evening, 2009, at Westerwood Tavern. My Daddy was in the hospital in Raleigh after having a heart attack a couple weeks earlier, and my Mama was going to stay with Ollie that night at our house. Before I left for the show, my Mama got a call from my brother that Daddy’s heart was having trouble. She left and took Ollie to my brother’s house in Hillsborough so she could go back to the hospital to stay with my Dad.

I guess we had a good show that night? I don’t remember anything about it except for smoking cigarettes by the ravine behind the bar with Gael and maybe Julie? And I think Matty. Ethan showed up after he got off work and sat with us a while. I remember nothing else about the evening until Ethan and I got back home.

We walked in and our house had been robbed. Television was gone. Ethan’s Playstation was gone, along with his games. Whoever it was took my precious coin savings, the bastards. I had many a glass apple juice jug full of silver that those thieves robbed me of. They were kind enough to leave me with about two hundred dollars of the $1,500.00 I had saved; makes me think it was somebody we knew, because I had been sedentary in that house at night for nearly a year and half. The night our house got robbed, somebody knew I was not going to be home, and made themselves an opportunity to break a window and come on in. The bastards.

A bit of hell began to break loose in my life soon after that night. That shattered window was a precursor for things to come.

In August, Come Hell or High Water played a show at the Flat Iron. Dylan was there. Oh, Dylan.
He was back from France or where ever he had been since our old band, Scarlet Harlot had broken up. It was nice to see him.

It was very nice to see him.

I asked him if he wanted to play in the band. He said yes. And badda-boom-badda-bing, Come Hell grew wings. Now we had a pedal steel/extra guitar player. Musical excitements!

Back at home, there were no roses. Ethan was an asshole. He beat me up. In the face. We broke up fall of 2009.

I became a single mom in a newly rejuvenated rock and roll band that hardly anybody had heard of.

And Ethan moved across the street. Literally, across the street. By November of that season, Come Hell or High Water had a song written about it…

Break In The Clouds

I know you’re living in the house across the street from my house.
I seen you peeking through the curtains trying to see who’s hanging around.
Put your binoculars up. Close the blinds.
I ain’t cheated on you once, you tweeted on my three times.

You could have picked a better spot to live than across the street.
You got no right to ask me anything, be discreet.
Close your mouth, there’s a break in the clouds and I’m running for the sunshine.
Cutting my ties and I’m leaving you behind…..

(…stay tuned…more to come in this epic bio of Come Hell or High Water. up next, Here We Go. Part 5)

Suzanne Stafford

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Elegant Harrison by Suzanne

Harrison Barrow. Photo by Suzanne Stafford.

Out at On Pop of the World Studios during our last session, we took some photographs of each other.  Here’s some of Harry taken by Suzanne.  More to come.

Harrison Barrow. Photo by Suzanne Stafford

Harrison Barrow. Photo by Suzanne Stafford

matty sheets

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Here We Go. Part 3: Suza and Sheets

I got back to Greensboro from my two month heartbreak recovery bicycle trip feeling absolutely on top of the world. I felt badass. I cut my hair off and was ready for life to continue.

I had hopes that maybe Scarlet Harlot would resurrect itself, but my hopes were quickly dashed when D.Pants said he was moving to France.

All this time in my music making career, I’d always had someone else make the music and I write the words and sing. Shane brought that part of me out, and Dylan had helped me find my true passion in music. Rock and Roll, baby. Rock and Roll. But now, just like that, both of them were gone and I was left to fend for myself in keeping my songwriting alive.

That’s when I really started to play guitar. I wrote quite a few songs with those fake chords Dylan had taught me. They were all about him.

One night at New York Pizza I saw Matty Sheets. I didn’t know him well at all. I knew who he was, of course, because, who doesn’t? He was the guy with the pony tail that ran the open mic at the Flat Iron. He’d played in that band, The Deviled Eggs.

photo of Matty by Suzanne

Matty Sheets. Photo by Suzanne Stafford.

Over beers, I found out that Matty had been through a heartbreak summer, too, when he and his fiance of 7 years had split up. He had cut his hair off as well.

I told him I wanted to be in a band, he asked me if I needed a guitar player, I said yes, and there you have it. We started playing music together. I would go to his house, we would practice in the living room that had been chewed up by his roommate’s pitbull, and he would come to my house where we would practice in the kitchen or on the back steps. He learned the songs that I’d written and he taught me more how to play guitar. He taught me how to hammer a string. I wrote more songs.

We played out just he and I, calling ourselves at one point (for one show) Two Dollar Tall Boys, then changed our name to Suza and Sheets. It was Mike D. who finally named our band. We were on the back porch, hanging out the screen door, discussing band names. He told us the name of his next band was going to be Haystack and he suggested, “Why not, Come Hell or High Water” for us. It stuck. And the name of Mike D’s next band was not Haystack.

Matty and I were fast friends. We were/are both Pisces. That may sound silly and crunchy, but seriously, we’re a lot the same. Musical, observatory, witty, social but shelled. Neither of us had a license at the time, and probably neither of us still do. We used to drive around in my car, in the silence because the radio didn’t work, and I would hum either the “Mission Impossible” theme song, or the music from the Wizard of Oz during the scene where Mrs. Gulch is bicycling down the road with Toto in her basket. That was the “don’t get caught by the police” caution music, because my tags were out of date, too. My eyes were trained to the rearview mirror.

During this time I was working as a bartender at College Hill Sundries and a Chinese food delivery girl at China Wok on Walker Ave. Two of the best jobs you can have in Greensboro, NC, I am sure. It was easy to book shows at College Hill, so I did. That’s where we played many a early show. Then we hooked up with Shane D. who volunteered to be our drummer.

Shane D. photo by Suzanne

Shane D. Photo by Suzanne Stafford

I don’t really remember when our first practice with Shane D. was,but I know we had auditioned at least 2 or 3 other drummers. The early years are fuzzy now. I had met Shane D. three or four years earlier, and Shane D. was the first person I played my first guitar song for. That was when I played guitar with one finger, one string at a time, using the same finger. He volunteered to play drums, and he just fit well. I was comfortable with him, because I’d known him for a bit, and he was perfect. You can still hear the lyrics over his drumming, which is crucial to the music we’re making. The lyrics of the songs are an important part of what makes Come Hell or High Water so relative. Shane D. recognized that and he’s been a steadfast member of the band all these years. Always there when you need him, with a kind word, ready with a microphone and some sort of sneaky recording gear, always modest and humble, fixing shit you thought was definitely broke, disappearing in the blink of an eye, and showing up right when the set’s about to start, never bitching about anything, generally on time or early. He was, has been, and still is an exemplary bandmate.

Come Hell or High Water played out as a three piece for a good while. We’d had offers from bass players interested in playing with us, I don’t know why we didn’t have one. Well, I do know why we didn’t have one. Above all else, I wanted to be comfortable playing music, not nervous or anything, and the thought of playing music with someone I didn’t know gave me a bit of anxiety. We briefly played with Emily Clancy on bass, but after one show the butterflies got to her, and we were bass-less again.

Gael approached me one night after a show at The Four Corners Market, and said he played bass, and said if we needed a bass player, he was interested. Six months later he came up to me at the Flat Iron and said the same thing. That time I was drunk enough, and said yes, come play with us.

And he did.

……….stay tuned. Up next, Here We Go: Part 4….

Suzanne Stafford

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Here We Go. Part 2: Absolutely Electric

It’s only a few days after I said I was going to write this. I’m pulling in on that procrastination thing.

I picked up a guitar and started tootling around with it when I was 24.  I played with one finger at a time, one string at a time. I lived on the third floor of a very old apartment building at that time, and the walls were paper thin.  There was somebody down the hall, likely the girl with the red hair, who liked to scream and try to get me to stop playing this Pixies’ish song “Hangover” I wrote.

It was around this time that I met Dylan.  Oh, Dylan.  He became my new best friend.  He taught me fake chords on the guitar and my guitar skills progressed.  Slightly.

We started a band called Scarlet Harlot, after I casually said “Let’s start a band” the first night we met.   It turned out he lived a block away from my old apartment building, and we enjoyed each other’s company. There was a unique bond there. He would play guitar and some sort of words would just come out of me.  The first practice we had, trying out our first drummer, was electric.  We made up two songs, “Stuck In a Rut” and “Ex-man” that first practice. My heart beat so fast wondering where these words were coming from. I remember his hand being shaky smoking his cigarette.  It was absolutely electric.  And it was rock n roll.  And he was my best friend.

Over months, I fell in love with him. And we had a thing.  A most beautiful thing.

scarlet harlot

Suza & Dylan. 2003.

As life will have it, things got twisted.  Just as we got started good,  Scarlet Harlot split up.  Two years of wonder then my heart got a terrible heart crushing.

I got drunk for a month and played guitar on  the steps of my blue house, smoked a lot of cigarettes, before I decided I needed to go on  a bicycle trip to clear my head and find my way again. Riding your bike from NC to Boston, Mass. will do that for a person.  Head cleared.

It was when I got back that Come Hell or High Water would get it’s beginnings. But.

I’m going to put off writing that until next time.

Suzanne Stafford

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