When Susanna Hoffs talks about her love of 1960s pop music, you have to wonder what she even remembers about that era. She was barely knee-high when the Mamas and the Papas, Petula Clark, the Beach Boys, and the Velvet Underground — all of whom inspired the melodious spirit of her new solo album, “Someday” — were making their marks.
“I was born in 1959, so at the very beginning of the ’60s I was a baby, but by the time the Beatles hit America in 1964, I was about 5,” says Hoffs, who plays a rare solo show at the Center for Arts in Natick on Friday. “I was very tuned in, and my mom claims that I was rocking and rolling in my crib — literally. It was on a wooden floor and I would roll this thing as she played music.”
Some of Hoffs’s earliest musical memories were courtesy of her mother, who was a big Beatles fan and also used to play Dionne Warwick records around the house. It turns out Hoffs shared a love of that music with Vicki and Debbi Peterson, with whom Hoffs formed the Bangles in Los Angeles in the early ’80s and went on to a string of hits, including “Walk Like an Egyptian,” “Eternal Flame,” “In Your Room,” and “Manic Monday.”
“When the Bangles started, that was the common bond for Vicki, Debbi, and I. They also had Beatles-loving parents who woke them up to watch Ed Sullivan when the Beatles were on the first time,” she says. “I was inundated with melodies, and I think that’s always informed everything I’ve tried to do musically. I always want it be heavy on melody.”
There’s been evidence of that throughout Hoffs’s career, both with the Bangles and on her own. The Bangles revamped Simon & Garfunkel’s “A Hazy Shade of Winter,” and Hoffs has often covered tunes she grew up loving, including Lulu’s “To Sir With Love” and a particularly gorgeous rendition of the Velvet Underground’s “I’ll Be Your Mirror.”
“In the early ’80s, when the Bangles were first starting out, I worked in this ceramics factory that my aunt and uncle ran,” Hoffs says. “I was stuck alone in this room with no windows, and all I had was the oldies station on the radio. That’s when I heard Simon & Garfunkel’s version of ‘A Hazy Shade of Winter.’ I thought, I’m going to rehearsal tonight. This is a perfect song for the Bangles!”
“Someday,” which Hoffs released on her own label, Baroque Folk, brims with buoyant melodies and orchestral arrangements. More than a straight homage to the ’60s, the album embodies the spirit of that decade, a time Hoffs considers was a melding of pop music with country and soul influences.
“It wasn’t a conscious idea: this is the assignment — make a ’60s record. It wasn’t like that,” she says. “It evolved into a more formal concept when Mitchell [Froom, who produced the record] started to play piano and sit in the room with us. We could have done a stripped-down, more folk version of this record. But then we got so excited about the idea of really studying up on what made those ’60s records sound so cool: horns, flutes, strings, that kind of architecture.”
“Someday” reminds you that Hoffs is perfectly suited to sunny, winsome material. In fact, her voice has hardly changed at all over the years; her performance on “Someday” isn’t that removed from how she sounded on, say, “Eternal Flame.” What’s her secret?
“People have been asking me that,” she says. “I don’t do anything really special. I feel like I’m learning every time I sing how to sing better. I’m having more fun with it. The truth is I’m just writing to my voice better.”
“Someday” is only Hoffs’s third solo album and first since her 1996 self-titled release. Given the long lapse between albums, she says part of the new album’s success was that it inspired her to write again.
“One thing that surprised me was that it was a lot easier to write at this point in my life,” Hoffs says. “There is a good thing about getting older: You have nothing to lose and become a bit more fearless. You can see your life from a different vantage point. You can look back and think, ‘OK, I did this and this and this.’ And now, what do I want to do?”
“The music business is so turned upside down from the music business I knew when I was in my 20s and running around the world as a Bangle,” she adds. “When I think about what my life was like then versus where I am now, it’s kind of nice to be in a place where I’m doing it just for the love of it.”James Reed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.