Sue Fink

the one from Chicago

Chicago-based singer-songwriter Sue Fink has been enchanting audiences since 2001 with her whimsical perspective on the world. She is a witty social commentator and perceptive observer of the human condition. Her genre is folk with a hint of jazz, a large dollop of humor, and a drop of sadness for good measure: think Christine Lavin, with a dash of Rickie Lee Jones, Melanie, and Nellie McKay. In a term coined by CatBird band-mate Jane Godfrey, she calls her style “urban campfire cabaret.”

“Your lyrics are original and clever, and I like that you assume we’re intelligent enough to ‘get’ them.” – Steve, audience member

“You make me laugh and think at the same time!” – Michael Greenberg, Booking, Wishbone North

Sue’s original songs have received national and local airplay on numerous folk shows, including “The Midnight Special” (Rich Warren, WFMT) and “Folk Festival” (Lilli Kuzma, WDCB). She performs mostly in the Midwest, and has also toured both coasts.

Her Checkered Past

While Sue has always considered herself a writer (short stories, poetry, commentary), she came to music and performing in a rather circuitous fashion.

As a child she took the requisite piano lessons but wouldn’t practice, so that ended quickly.  But music was as essential to her life as breathing:  she loved discovering artists on the radio, attending concerts, listening to songs over and over, pondering lyrics.  It simply never occurred to her that being a songwriter/performer was something she would ever do.

One night, in the late 90s, while listening to The Midnight Special, Sue heard “Ballad of a Ballgame,” Christine Lavin’s song about being picked last for sports teams.  The lyrics were both funny and poignant – the kind of story Sue might tell herself – and for the first time, Sue saw the glimmer of new possibility.

Shortly thereafter, Sue took a songwriting class with Andrew Calhoun to determine whether something she’d written might possibly be a song.  The verdict:  YES!  Now she realized she needed to learn how to sing and play guitar in earnest.

In 2001, Sue “won” her first gig at an open mic, saying “oops” between each chord change (“the audience thought it was part of my act!” she says).  In 2003 Sue released her EP, Not Quite There Yet; she considered the title also a self-review.  But she was learning.  She learned that despite her somewhat shy nature, she loved to perform and connect.  She learned that she had something to say, and a unique way of saying it.  In the spirit of “fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” her ignorance of songwriting “rules” and her “beginner” status were akin to wearing a “Trainee” button, or sporting a “New Driver” sign on her car:  others were patient and encouraging, affording her the flexibility to experiment and grow.

Inspired by and in love with the Chicago songwriting community, Sue continues building her repertoire and honing her music skills.  Since her dubious debut, she’s recorded three full-length albums (Damsel In Distress, 2006; Thoughts at an Intersection, 2009; and Treasures & Time Travel, 2018) with some of Chicago’s finest musicians.  In 2013, she and singer-songwriters Amy Dixon-Kolar and Patti Shaffner recorded SongSisters: LIVE! – adding harmony and instrumentation to a collection of their own songs and several covers.  Sue has also released several singles, including “Battle of Ages” (2019), a story of collision between the powers of greed and those who aim to keep democracy and hope alive.   She’s also released her CICADA SUITE: two cicada-related songs, released in 2021 on a specially made, cicada-shaped flash drive!

2 Sue Finks


“Amazingly, there are TWO Sue Fink singer/songwriters! Equally wonderful, we are two separate beings. I’m Chicago Sue Fink; the other Sue Fink (Angel City Chorale director, vocal instructor at McCabes), is L.A.-based and may be found elsewhere.”
Odd Jobs Held Along the Way
  • Technical Editor (“I cared too deeply about the right of each comma to exist”)
  • Waitress (“I never improved, unwilling to let go of ‘Trainee’ button”)
  • Flight Attendant for new airline (“got laid off before we ever got off the ground… thank goodness!”)
  • AVP at corporate bank (“waltzed in through the back door, got kicked out the front door”)
  • Computer Instructor (“very similar to being a performer: you have to know your stuff, and engage your audience so they’ll care about what you present”)
Major Musical Influences
  • Bruce Springsteen (“he changed my life!”), Tom Waits, and Rickie Lee Jones: “my trifecta of perfection” (for their story-telling, and the characters and worlds they create)
  • Melanie (Safka)
  • Christine Lavin
  • Harry Chapin
  • Joni Mitchell
  • Elton John/Bernie Taupin
  • Jackson Browne
Sounds Like
  • Christine Lavin
  • Blossom Dearie
  • Norah Jones
  • Nellie McKay
Radio Play Includes
  • The Back Porch (Al Kniola, WVPE-FM)
  • Backroads with Stacy (KDHX-FM)
  • Folk Festival (Lilli Kuzma, WDCB, 90.9 FM) – plus multiple live appearances
  • The Folk Show (Ron Lewis, WNUR, 89.3 FM) plus multiple live appearances
  • Local Anesthetic (Richard Milne, WXRT, 93.1 FM) – “Saga of Pearl” was voted one of Milne’s top ten songs of 2006; frequent contributor to Milne’s “Holiday Spectacular” special
  • Midnight Special (Rich Warren, and now Marilyn Rea Beyer, WFMT, 98.7 FM)
  • Our Kind of Folk (Craig Huegel, WSLR-FM)
  • Wisconsin Public Radio
  • Womenfolk (Ellen Stanley, WFKI-FM) 
Performance Highlights

Venues & Festivals Include:

  • House Concerts (IL, CA, OK, TX, WI) (Sue LOVES house concerts! J)
  • Cafe Carpe (Fort Atkinson, WI)
  • The Coffee House (Milwaukee, WI)
  • Concerts on the Creek (Rockford, IL)
  • Crazy Wisdom Tea Room & Book Store (Ann Arbor)
  • Davenports Piano Bar & Cabaret (Chicago)
  • Edgar’s Place (Park Forest, IL)
  • Evanston SPACE (full band CD Release in 2018! – earlier, opened for Megon McDonough)
  • Fitzgerald’s (Berwyn, IL)
  • The Focal Point (St. Louis, MO)
  • Fox Valley Folk Festival (Geneva, IL)
  • Front Porch Music (Valparaiso, IN)
  • Independent Chicago Songwriters Festival (Chicago)
  • JustGoods Friday Music Series (Rockford, IL)
  • Lake County Folk Club (various, IL)
  • Lake View Musical Society (Chicago)
  • Lost Moth Gallery Songwriter Series (Egg Harbor, WI)
  • Martyrs (Chicago)
  • On the Tracks Songwriter Showcase (Chelsea, MI)
  • Paradigm Coffee & Music (Sheboygan, WI)
  • Schubas (Chicago) – full band CD Release show, 2006
  • Stained Glass Coffee House (Deerfield, IL)
  • The Two Way Street Coffee House (Downers Grove, IL)
  • Uncommon Ground (Chicago)
  • Wisconsin Singer-Songwriter Series (Mequon, WI)
  • Wishbone North (Chicago)

Libraries Include:

  • Addison Public Library
  • Antioch Public Library
  • Barrington Public Library (online series)
  • Batavia Public Library
  • Berwyn Public Library
  • Crystal Lake Public Library
  • Fremont Public Library (Mundelein, IL)
  • Manitowoc Public Library (WI)
  • Neenah Public Library “First Friday Series” (WI)
  • Poplar Creek Public Library
  • River Forest Public Library
  • Rolling Meadows Library

Sue has performed with:

Sue has shared the stage, in showcase setting, “in the round,” or double-bill, with these performers and more.  Sue also curated/produced many of these shows.

  • Al Rose
  • Alison Downey (MI)
  • Amy Dixon-Kolar and Patti Shaffner (as SongSisters)
  • Andrew Calhoun
  • Chris Corsale
  • Chris Walz
  • Eddie Holstein
  • Emily White
  • Heather Styka
  • Jane Godfrey (as CatBird)
  • Jeanne Kuhns
  • Jenny and Robin Bienemann
  • Jodee Lewis
  • Katie Dahl
  • Laura Joy
  • Linda Marie Smith
  • Mark Dvorak
  • Michael J Miles
  • Michael Peter Smith (“The Dutchman”)
  • Steve Dawson
  • Sue Demel

“Opener” highlights:

Sue has opened for the following performers:

  • Dan Navarro (w/SongSisters)
  • Jon Vezner & Don Henry
  • Megon McDonough
  • Michael Peter Smith
Award Highlights
  • “Horiscopically Speaking” was a “top 5 winner (“Outstanding Achievement in Songwriting” in the Folk/Americana category of the 20th annual Great American Song Contest (GASC), 2018
  • “Earth Sings to Venus” was a finalist in the Folk/Americana category of the 20th annual GASC, 2018
  • “Boys are So Sensitive” was a “top 5” winner in the Folk/Americana category of the 13th annual GASC, 2011
  • “Tracking System” was a finalist in the Big Top Chatauqua’s “Celebration of the Song” competition in 2011, and also a finalist in the GASC
  • “Boys are So Sensitive” and Sue’s Thoughts at an Intersection album are nominated for the 2017 Just Plain Folks Music Awards, in the Cabaret category
  • “Alternate Universe” was used in Episode 691 of This American Life

Sue Fink performs in the following configurations:


Sue performs in cafes, music series, house concerts, festivals, and other listening environments. Solo performances may be “themed” musical programs, performed at libraries, clubs, organizations, and senior centers, or general performances, which cover any number of topics and moods. Please visit Music Programs for Adults to learn more.

In all performances, Sue performs her unique original songs as well as a cover song or two. She plays guitar, and sometimes Omnichord (think electric autoharp). When other musicians accompany her, she sometimes plays a little harmonica and other instruments as well.

Sue may be accompanied by Jordi Kleiner, Chicago’s in-demand violinist, and depending on the venue’s needs, may add additional musicians. She enjoys curating performances with other singer-songwriters, especially “in-the-round” performances, and has also produced several successful benefit shows. Contact Sue to select the configuration that best meets the needs of your venue/organization.


Just as the catbird incorporates a multitude of sounds to create its own unique song, CatBird combines the style and energy of two distinct singer/songwriter friends into one entertaining duo. Jane Godfrey (St. Louis) and Sue Fink (Chicago), in a genre they call “urban campfire cabaret,” share songs and stories, humor and pathos, often adding harmony and instrumentation to each other’s work.

CatBird links:


photo by David Sameshima

SongSisters are Amy Dixon-Kolar, Patti Shaffner, and Sue Fink:  Three singer/songwriter friends who discovered that their own distinctive songs and styles — jazz, folk, humor, and poignancy — worked very well together, like contrasting spices that somehow blend to make one very tasty stew. They perform in-the-round, adding harmonies to each other’s songs and favorite cover songs.

SongSisters links:

Music Programs

In addition to general performances, Sue performs “themed” music and instructional programs for adults of all ages. Programs are typically 50-60 minutes, and can be tailored to meet specific needs. Sue performs solo (vocals & guitar), and can add other musicians as requested. Programs include Sue’s original songs and standards. CatBird and SongSisters — Sue’s other musical configurations — also perform themed, and non-themed, programs for adults.