The Bushwick Book Club began in January 2009 on a dare. Songwriter, Susan Hwang, dared Goodbye Blue Monday owner Steve Trimboli to let her have a night of new songs inspired by literature. He said, “Sure.”
They started with Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions and now meet monthly employing the talents of local songwriters, artists and chefs who plumb the depths of a chosen literary gem to create that rare and beautiful thing – a new song (or visual art, dance, film or snack). These literature-themed live shows have been inspired by everything from Raymond Carver to Charles Darwin to George R.R. Martin to the thesaurus.
The Bushwick Book Club now has several branches all over the world, including Portland, Los Angeles, Seattle, Santa Barbara, New Orleans, Greenville, London and Malmö, Sweden.
The Bushwick Book Club Podcast includes excerpts from the live shows plus interviews with authors and songwriters.
Founder, Curator & Host
Susan Hwang tells stories and makes things that are usually collapsible, like songs and times. Her instruments take up space (accordion, Janggu—traditional Korean drum, piano) but other physical objects she can’t play, wear or eat intimidate her. She founded the Bushwick Book Club in 2009 when she was a new employee at Steve Trimboli’s pioneering Bushwick venue, Goodbye Blue Monday. She continues to manage, curate, host and perform new songs for BBC in addition to recording and touring with Lusterlit, her musical duo with songwriter/producer Charlie Nieland. They refuse to play anything but songs about books.
In addition to her experience recording and touring with groups like cabaret-pop power trio, The Debutante Hour; stoner/math rock band, Murderizer; and neo-soul band Soozee Hwang and The Relastics, she's hosted and produced her own TV variety talk show—The La La La Show— broadcast on Manhattan Neighborhood Network. Susan plays accordions because they are pretty and lighter than pianos (barely). She plays drums because it's healthy for a girl to hit things.
Susan insists that from the beginning, Bushwick Book Club has always been a sheer hedonistic pleasure—something that should probably be done alone, naked in a closet. This would be impractical for so many reasons, but it illustrates the amount of pleasure she receives from the BBC shows—indecent, bordering obscene. She finds endless satisfaction in the surprise and delight of witnessing the infinite variety of creativity from all the contributors in each show. Speaking of witnessing, she explains "My mom's a Jehovah's Witness, so it means I grew up with a healthy skepticism about the accepted ways people do things, but it also means I grew up with no Christmas. I feel like Bushwick Book Club is more than making up for a childhood of no Christmases by giving me the surprise and delight of unwrapping the gift of each new book-inspired creation. Every one is something you couldn't have guessed or have dreamed of, and it will move you and bring your thoughts and experience to places you haven't gone before. What better gift is that? If that's not Christmas, I don't know what is."
When she began Bushwick Book Club in 2009, she wasn't sure if songwriters would be interested in the challenge of writing from designated source material on a deadline. It turns out they will, and they’ll like it. So will the audience and readers all over the world. It's one of her favorite instances of being completely incorrect ever (and there are many).
Charlie Nieland is a musician/producer in Bushwick Brooklyn. He's evolved a seamless mix of production, songwriting and musicianship, co-writing and producing material with Debbie Harry, Rufus Wainwright, Rachelle Garniez, Jessie Kilguss, Sweet Soubrette, Her Vanished Grace and more. He scored the feature film THE SAFETY OF OBJECTS (starring Glen Close), the pilot episode of The L Word on Showtime and the documentary NY77: THE COOLEST YEAR IN HELL. Charlie was awarded a Gold record (UK) for his production work on Blondie's GREATEST HITS SIGHT & SOUND and achieved a Top 10 Billboard Dance Chart Position with Debbie Harry's single "Two Times Blue", which he co-wrote and produced.
Charlie is half of the literature-inspired songwriting and performing duo Lusterlit with Susan Hwang, who are currently at work on their fourth release. Mixing audio, producing podcasts, editing video and more as the technical director for Bushwick Book Club, he loves helping the fearless participants of BBC bring their book-inspired work into the world.