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'I would love to tour ireland again – it's a beautiful place'

POOR Suzanne Vega, always answering questions about Tom's Diner. If the American singer-songwriter has grown sick of the 1987 track (later remixed by British dance duo DNA to become a worldwide smash), it doesn't show.

"People seem to have got this weird idea that it's a fancy place," says Suzanne, laughing. "It's not at all – it's not even that good."

The 'Mother of the MP3' (her vocal was used to test the format), Suzanne loves to mix things up. Now on her eighth album (the first in seven years), Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles finds the 54-year-old in top form. It's her first proper album since parting from her label, but Suzanne was just "fooling around", trying to figure out how to produce a record after spending years re-recording and re-releasing her back catalogue.

Thankfully, guitarist, producer and collaborator Gerry Leonard was on hand to nudge her along. "If it wasn't for him, we'd be another year," she says.

A Clontarf native best-known for being David Bowie's right-hand man, Gerry played a major part in Bowie's shock return to music last year. But he never let it slip. "He never said anything, so I was furious with him for about a week," Suzanne says.

I presume Gerry has given her a tour of Dublin, then? "Usually, we go around to see his sister," she answers. "And also, my sister's husband is from Malahide. I'd love to do a tour of Ireland again. It's a beautiful place."

The mother of one laughs at the idea that she ever had a back-up plan. As a teenager, she studied modern dance at New York's High School of Performing Arts before turning her attention to poetry and song-writing. By day, she earned money as a receptionist. By night, the aspiring folk singer entertained crowds in Greenwich Village.

"Playing music was the Plan B," she says. "I worked in offices and I was okay at it. People used to like my voice. I quit my job in 1984 and, fortunately, I've never had to look back."

I read that her second and current husband Paul Mills proposed in 1983, and Suzanne said 'yes' on Christmas Day 2005. What happened? "I think he figured out the answer was 'no' (at first)," she tells me. "I guess we just had to go through certain things to get back together again."


What about her other big hit, Luka? The name was borrowed from a child who lived upstairs in her old apartment block. Did she ever come across him again?

"After the song became a hit, he came back to my apartment," she says. "He came back with a girl, knocked on the door and said to my roommate, 'Could you please tell this girl Suzanne Vega used to live here?' I think he was impressing his girlfriend."

Suzanne Vega's album is out on January 31. She plays the Olympia Theatre on February 20.

> Chris Wasser