We’re back with another ‘My 5 Biggest Influences’ feature this week!
This time, we spoke to New York based singer/songwriter Emma Frank, who is set to release her new album, Come Back, on September 6th
‘My 5 Biggest Influences’ is when we talk to some of our favourite upcoming and established artists, delving into their greatest influences and inspirations, to see how bands, records, tracks, friends & family, hobbies and even environments have impacted on their work and music
More about the new record below, plus a beautiful new acoustic track, but first, here are Emma’s 5 Biggest Influences…
My mom is a somewhat classically trained singer. Her mom taught classical piano, and all of her siblings have studied classical music for at least a little while. My mom taught me to sing – in her bedroom, before I could read, she would teach me whole songs by singing each phrase to me. Then she would take the harmony or I would learn the harmony. When I was eleven or twelve and started trying to belt Broadway numbers (like ‘Tomorrow’ from Annie), my mom promptly found a voice teacher to help me learn my instrument and avoid hurting myself. She introduced me to Motown, to Aretha, to Nina Simone, to Roberta Flack, to Joni Mitchell. My mom taught me how to sing, but I also developed partially in reaction to how she sang. I remember getting so mad when she would sing Aretha Franklin songs – like that’s not how that’s supposed to sound. And Opera drove me crazy because my mom would blast it and sing along while vacuuming. So I got into what I’m into, and I started pulling away from her and her often very strong opinions. Just last night she told me she was worried about my voice, and I just have to take that with a grain of salt – I appreciate that she cares about me and has this specific interest and investment in what I do, but also that ultimately my voice and my art are mine to do with what I will.
I went to school for literature and I got really into short stories. I love how the form condenses all of these powerful truths into such a short narrative. I spent a lot of time thinking about songs and how they behave similarly to short stories. An early writing challenge that I gave myself, while in college, was to choose some of my favorite short stories and try and craft songs out of them. It was really hard, and I’m not sure how effective some of the songs were, but it helped me organize my thoughts about what song, as an artform, can do.
Cafe Resonance is a music venue and vegan cafe in Montreal that my friends opened. It’s a gathering place and intersection for so many creative music scenes in Montreal. I was lucky to work there for three years. Apart from playing there, and it feeling like my living room in many ways, I also saw a show there almost every night. There was a real focus on improvised music, and just on creative new music in general. It was such a supportive and inspiring environment to be in and opened my eyes and ears a lot. Some of my closest friendships and collaborations were born around Cafe Resonance, and I still love to play there so much.
I moved to Montreal straight out of high school to do my bachelors degree at McGill University. It’s only a five hour drive from Boston, but it was a complete culture shock for me. Growing up outside of Boston, I just hadn’t realized that it was possible to live as an artist, unless you were wildly successful and like a rockstar. Not to say that there aren’t many people making it work as artists in the U.S., but in an expensive city like Boston, it just wasn’t that visible to me. In Montreal, the rents were so cheap, and there was so much support for the arts both provincially and nationally. It supported an artistic community that was often working outside of the pressures of commercial success. It was just really cool to see that level of dedication in people, without the same level of anxiety about how they’re going to get by. Even the very basic fact that everyone had guaranteed health insurance just created a greater sense of security and well being that I think makes people feel more free to explore artistically. I learned how to songwrite in Montreal and I learned how to dedicate myself to the work, even when there’s no money coming in. I was able to work very few hours at the cafe, and then spend the rest of my time writing, workshopping and teaching. I learned that in order to write songs, I need quite a bit of quiet time and solitude. I learned how to value my artistic practice regardless of my lack of commercial success, and I learned that being part of a rich artistic community is incredibly fulfilling.
I started practicing yoga in college and it was a life saver. I was generally feeling pretty awful at the time and didn’t have the tools to process those feelings. I began practicing hatha yoga in Montreal and it did a few things – it helped me discover joy in my body, it helped me to process grief physically, and it provided a sacred healing space that became the basis for the kind of musical space I wanted to build. Not to say that my shows feel like yoga classes, because they don’t. But I do think that the quiet of the studio and this environment where people are showing up with the intention of fostering their well-being and gentle strength – there’s something so beautiful about that. It made me feel more empowered to write about my own development, and to think of music as a healing tool, something that can make any space feel sacred and healing.
Born and raised outside of Boston, Emma moved to Montreal in 2006 to study literature at McGill University. Whilst there she began performing regularly, releasing two critically acclaimed albums under her own name on the Montreal-based label, The 270 Sessions and performing vocals and brass with art-pop ensembles She’s Got a Habit and Malcolm Sailor’s Songs. After coming to New York in August of 2015 to perform in Franky Rousseau and Dominic Mekky’s chamber opera April, Emma decided to move to Brooklyn. It’s there that she penned the songs on Ocean Av and Come Back.
Depending on when you walk in on a song, Emma’s music might sound like folk, jazz, even R&B. It’s music that never stays put, full of moving parts, shifting tempos, and winding melodies. Her songs are journeys of self-discovery, framed by insightful lyrics and her warm, gossamer voice that songwriter Leif Vollebekk described as “like leather on silk.”
Her fourth album, Come Back, features Aaron Parks, Franky Rousseau, Tommy Crane and Zack Lober, and is due for release on September 6th.
This week, Emma unveiled a fantastic video, featuring an acoustic cover of Wilco’s ‘Either Way’ – take a listen below…
Forthcoming shows as follows…
SEP 6 – Brooklyn, NY – The Knitting Factory
SEP 14 – Paris, France – Ducs des Lombards
SEP 15 – London, United Kingdom – Kansas Smitty’s
OCT 6 – Cambridge, MA – Club Passim
OCT 8 – Burlington, VT – The Lamp Shop
OCT 9 – Montreal, QC – Cafe Resonance
OCT 11 – Wakefield, QC – Black Sheep Inn
OCT 12 – Toronto, ON – Burdock Music Hall