Bangles front woman and ’80s icon Susanna Hoffs, 64, isn't obsessing about aging: 'I don't want to waste my energy'

"It's really nice to not be focused on every new wrinkle, and just go with it. I like to think about all the positives" to getting older, she says.

Even at the height of her Bangles fame, says Hoffs,
Even at the height of her Bangles fame, says Hoffs, "I never felt like that person." (Photo: Shervin Lainez)
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If you've not followed Susanna Hoffs since her days as the big-haired, honey-voiced, side-eyeing lead singer of the seminal ’80s band the Bangles, you've got some catching up to do. For starters, she's 64 — a fact sure to jolt Gen X-ers — with adult kids of her own. She's also released a slew of other albums over the years, from solo efforts to collaborations, and has a brand new one dropping in April.

Hoffs is also in the midst of a late-in-life career pivot: With the April 4 release of her book This Bird Has Flown, she is officially a novelist.

"I just kind of threw myself in," she tells Yahoo Life, likening her technique to the title of her new album, The Deep End, and giving much of the credit to her elder son, Jackson, 28.

"He said, 'Mom, why don't you write a novel? You've always wanted to,' and that's all it took … my kid posing that question to me. I thought, if not now, when? I have always wanted to do it and I've always got my head in a book. I love disappearing into stories."

But Jackson's encouragement — spurred on by that of her younger son, 24-year-old Sam — didn't end there, as he told her, "'Tomorrow, I want you to sit at the kitchen table. Open your laptop, stare at the blank page, and just start to write,' and I did. I did that," she says. "I didn't know what would come out."

Hoffs book
"I thought: If not now, when?" recalls Hoffs about embarking upon the writing of her first novel, out now. (Photo: Little, Brown & Company)

Turns out it was an a charmingly effervescent love story between a British professor and a fading pop star who meet cute on an airplane, with a lovely balance of levity, sex-drugs-rock-&-roll and redemption.

The process of writing the book, Hoffs says, "felt quite different" from that of creating music.

"With songs, it's more like you're writing a poem that needs to work to be sung … It's more confining. Whereas, I felt a freedom in writing the book, and a different kind of pleasure, because it's almost like working out the puzzle — a Rubik's Cube, or something," she says, explaining that she’d work for about six hours a day and give herself "a pep talk" if she felt stuck. "And then it was as if going through a portal into my imagination. It was like this movie screen would come down and I would just watch it … and music would trigger scenes [that] would just bloom to life, like cinematically."

As for Hoffs relating to the protagonist of her story, she says, "Well, I definitely know what it's like to worry if your music will connect with anybody. You never know when you sit down and create something if anyone will care or whether it will resonate or find an audience." And she remembers, from the very early Bangles days, what it felt like to "not be a pop star."

Susanna Hoffs onstage with the Bangles, circa 1988, in Los Angeles. (Photo: Lester Cohen/Getty Images)
Susanna Hoffs onstage with the Bangles, circa 1988, in Los Angeles. (Photo: Lester Cohen/Getty Images)

But even at the height of her fame, she says, "I never felt like that person. I never felt quite comfortable," noting that it was more of a role she learned to step into.

"You know, you're just this human being trying to get through life and then suddenly your job is that you walk out onto a stage and this other persona has to be set free … you have to let her out," she explains. "You could be home folding your laundry and washing the dishes and living your life and paying the bills and then all of a sudden, you're in a costume, you walk out and there's people staring at you, like, waiting for the magic to happen. And you've got to turn on some other part of yourself. But the minute the music comes out, the minute that first quarter of that drumbeat kicks in, you know, it's like, OK, now I get it. It's magic. It like casts a spell out over you."

As far as being an aging pop star, Hoffs has a sunny attitude, whether she's poking fun at folks who say she’s too old for TikTok by posting a TikTok, or gushing about the influence of her parents, 90-year-old Joshua Hoffs, a psychoanalyst, and her mom, Tamar Simon Hoffs, 88, a filmmaker and artist.

"They're so beautiful to me in their old age," she says of the pair who ushered her and her brothers through a "bohemian" 1960s Los Angeles upbringing, filled with books and music. "It was a very liberal atmosphere. We could talk about anything, we could ask questions about anything and my dad would answer frankly. Even when we would ask a question about sex or something … " At one point Hoffs, inspired by her dad, even tried traditional psychoanalysis, with a "good chunk of time on the couch." This was long before mental health was part of the popular culture, she says, noting that the intensive process helped her when she was in the Bangles, "scared and insecure and under a lot of stress."

Now, she says, both her parents are still inspiring her. "My mother is like those images of Georgia O'Keefe, you know? The art that she made and the life that she lived." In turn, Hoffs has learned to age with grace, by honing in on the things that bring her joy, such as watching movies with her family and listening to music that she loves. "It's really nice to not be focused on every new wrinkle, and just go with it. I like to think about all the positives" to getting older, she says. "I feel like there's a sense that life is precious, and I don't want to waste my energy on obsessing about aging, because I feel like if I can make friends with it, and do my work which brings me great joy, and commune with others who love similar things."

Hoffs adds, "I just try to go to a place of gratitude that I've gotten this far and I get to be doing a thing that I love and be around people that I love," including her sons, her brothers, her close friends and her husband of 30 years, filmmaker Jay Roach — whom she calls "such a feminist," and recalling, "I was struck when I met Jay by how much he had educated himself." They, in turn, have raised "two feminist children who could not be more sensitive and thoughtful," which, though she's reluctant to credit for, makes her "proud."

Now, three decades into her marriage, she says the secret to their relationship has been simple: "We're very fond of each other, obviously, and love each other, but we also support each other's work," she says. "I'll read three drafts of a script and just give him my notes and he gives me notes on my stuff. It's kind of symbiotic."

That could also pretty accurately describe Hoffs's personal relationship to the decades — how she's served ’80s-icon realness while in return feeding off of shifting zeitgeists, from the culture of the 1960s to the present, with her seeming comfort with social media.

"I love it," she says of Gen Z being enamored with the 1980s. "I know that, in the Bangles, we wanted to drag the ’60s kicking and screaming into the ’80s … and I love that new generations are still tracking with the ’80s." As far as saving her legendary outfits from those days, she adds, "I didn't have the foresight to save all of them, and I so regret that, but I have quite a few things," like a recently shared white Norma Kamali bustier, for example.

With TikTok and Instagram, Hoffs adds, she's somehow managed reap only the benefits. "I mean, as challenging as it can be to be to stay active on social media, it's like a treasure trove of, like, instant connections, and is kind of brilliant that way," she says. "I love that."

Her mix of nostalgic, Bangles-era posts mixed with up-to-the-minute song- and book-release news and just general pop-culture commentary has brought her lots of love on both platforms — just as all that old pop-star footage of her has prompted lots of self-reflection, and a feeling of a recognizable through-line.

"I look at videos and footage from tours and interviews and such, and I think, I have always been the same person, you know? Sometimes I read interviews from where everybody was talking over each other, like in Creem magazine, and I'm like, wow, I was pretty sassy and brash and not as articulate as I am now, probably," but, in spirit, the same. And that includes having some of the same worries, despite her positivity, about relevancy.

"For the most part, I felt empowered going on a stage and putting on my electric guitar and plugging in. There was a power in that. There was a power just in the force of the sound coming out. There was a power in being on a stage with three other badass women," she recalls.

"Alternatively, there was always a feeling of: Am I good enough? What is expected of me? I mean, I know I want to be present and do my best performance. But there's always a little side thing of like: But have I been put out to pasture? Now that I'm 60-something, will I be judged?

"But I just say I don't give a f***," she adds. "I'm gonna make art until I can't make it any longer. You know what I mean?"

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