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A Conversation With Miss Emily



In February of 2020 at the Maple Blues Awards in Toronto, Miss Emily walked away with Female Vocalist of the Year, New Artist of the Year and the Sapphire Canadian Blues Music Video Award. She has a dynamic voice and an electrifying stage presence.



Ken Wallis interviewed Miss Emily for the radio show Blues Source Canada. Excerpts from the interview are below. The one difficulty is it’s hard in print to get across what a delightful person she is. She smiled and laughed through the whole interview. She loves her work and she loves performing.



Ken Wallis

There's a brand-new album out…it is Miss Emily Live At The Isabel and joining us is Miss Emily. Thanks for coming on the show.


Miss Emily

Thanks for having me on the show.


Ken Wallis

First of all, Live At The Isabel…tell us where and when this was recorded.


Miss Emily

So here in my current home-town of Kingston, Ontario, we have this great beautiful theatre called The Isabel Bader Centre For The Performing Arts. And I played six shows over the course of about two and a half years. And they were all fortunately sold out and super fun success story performances. And five of those shows we pulled tracks from that were recorded live off the board and I decided to make a record. Because I was supposed to make a studio album this year and of course the pandemic happened. No studio album, so, gotta get creative.


Ken Wallis

You've got some great musicians accompanying you on this release. Want to tell us all about that


Miss Emily

Thanks. I think so too. So there's about 15 people featured on the recordings in total and some pretty fantastic, special artists like Chad Murphy and Kelly Prescott who were both nominated for CCMA this year, and they sing backups. I have Rob Baker and Gord Sinclair from the Tragically Hip. On a number of the tracks… about half the tracks they play on, Spencer Evans, who's a long time Kingstonian and, has traveled and toured all over with many different acts, a great piano player, and so he's featured …and then a lot of my bandmates, I have kind of a rotation of musicians, I use as regular bandmates when I tour and so they're all featured. Zak Colbert does a bass duet with me on one tune… you don't see that very often. But he's that type of player where you can just put them on a six string bass and watch him soar.


Ken Wallis

When you're doing a live performance that you know is being recorded, do you approach it any differently than a than a normal gig?


Miss Emily

Well, there was no real intention to release the live album. So, with each of those shows, most of those shows, actually all those shows I produced myself. So I'm wearing a number of hats on the day of the performance, as well as leading up to the performance and performer is just one of them. I actually gave no consideration to the fact that we were recording pretty much everything, I just… I always try my best on stage where I'm most comfortable. You know, for years, I played a bar circuit, and I did 250 plus shows a year. So now I feel like I live in the lap of luxury because when I play a show, it's just a set, or it's two sets, not four sets… so you know, performance is where I get to shine. I'm just really fortunate that we had these recordings, and I was able to do something with them.



Ken Wallis

How did you go about selecting the tunes that were included on the album?


Miss Emily

Oh my gosh Ken hours and hours [LAUGHS]


Ken Wallis

I'll bet.


Miss Emily

I whittled it down to a list of about 25. Keep in mind too with these six shows we had a bunch of…we probably had five versions of Hold Back The River, which is one of my better known tunes. And so that happened, there's a lot of repeat tunes…trying to decide which ones were maybe the best version. And then once I got kind of a list together that was a little closer to 25. I sent it out to some of my bandmates and friends and colleagues and got their opinions and then of course, I just chose what I wanted anyways at the end. But that helped the process.



Ken Wallis

You mentioned Hold Back The River. You always… the few times that I've seen you, you always open with that song. It's very a special song for you. Can you tell our audience about that?


Miss Emily

Yeah, I'm a big believer in less is more and so I try and write accapella tunes from time to time. That means something to me when I actually wrote Hold Back The River. It's an accapella call and response tune, which allows the audience to chime in or I've done it with choirs… children's choirs and a full band of musicians on stage singing the response part. There are number of kind of meanings behind it when I wrote it, and then we made a video for it. I think this week is actually.. it's the second anniversary of the video that I made for it and I actually themed it around The Me To movement because there's a sense of strength and hope and togetherness and we filmed a video with 100 women in the now closed Kingston Penitentiary and, and so now that song to me is essentially that is the biggest message of them all. I think that I that I relate with that song.



Ken Wallis

What other song I've got to ask about is dear CBC.


Miss Emily

[LAUGHS]


That song stuck out right away.. Tell our audience about that one.


Miss Emily

So, you know, it's so funny that it almost did not go on the record. It's a funny tune that I wrote one night. Well, I was sitting around, and CBC is the Holy Grail. I'm always trying to get my music on CBC. I've been trying to do this since I was like 12 and I'm not exaggerating. I have since I was 12 years old. I would try to get CBC to play my music so CBC Radio One now plays some of my music…there's some great people who host shows programs that play some of my music from time to time…but I've always tried to get on CBC Radio Two or Radio Three… they have their top 20 or top 40 or whatever it is. Anyways there's a few more programs I'd just love to get my music on… can't do it. Still can't do it. And I wrote a song that specifically was reaching out to those stations, asking if they would play my music.


Ken Wallis

All they got to do is listen and they will want to play it. I can't believe that they haven't so far.


Last year, you walked off with a fistful of awards from The Maple Blues Awards. How did that impact your career?



Miss Emily

Oh, the highlight of my career life. No doubt, no doubt, I've had some pretty cool moments, like few and far between, generally speaking, the past couple years, I feel like I've been on this fun little like, upward climb…it's a lot of work. It's a lot of hours in front of a computer screen, and a few in front of my piano. And, and some in front of audiences, which is really the reward for all those hours in front of a computer screen. But the Maple Blues is just even being nominated, being recognized was by far one of the greatest, if not the greatest career thing that's ever happened to me… winning, winning some was like, you know, icing on the cake…just being recognized means so much and kind of when you feel like no one's noticing to have that national stage, really to recognize me was just so special.


Ken Wallis

Well, it's interesting, because I had heard your name quite a few times, I'd never seen or heard any of your music. But then I went to the RBG in Burlington to see you. It was first performance I ever saw you. And I was with a bunch of my friends, all blues fanatics, and we were all just a agog. We just went, this woman has got it. And I'm so happy that you won those awards. Because your career is …you're right, it's taking off and I can't wait for live music to get going again, because I want to see you again and again.


Miss Emily

Thanks, Ken, I remember that night That was such a fun night. And it was great. It's an outdoor performance…it feels like the energy just moves around. It's not limited to a room. It's just floating everywhere. And what a beautiful space. But thank you so much for the kind words I just, it means a lot and I've worked really hard and I want to continue to work hard and get better and better and, and I'm 100 years old. So I'm like why stop now? [laughs]


Ken Wallis

With live music on hold right now. What have you been doing with your spare time?


Miss Emily

No spare time in my world. [LAUGHS]


Ken Wallis

[LAUGHS] I had a feeling you were gonna say that


Miss Emily

It’s funny because people say… you read things online… you hear people talk about boredom. I was like, I've never been bored for a minute in my life. There is always something to do. And the next step maybe in life is to pick up a hobby. Well, I'm a worker, I work work work.


Ken Wallis

I guess the important question right now is where can people purchase your new CD?


Miss Emily

So my album is available on the all the digital platforms, as you can imagine, Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, all that good stuff. But for people who like CDs still, which turns out there's a lot of people like that… I have pressed a bunch of CDs. And they're available to order through my website themissemily.com


Ken Wallis

Well, it's a great album, and I encourage people to go out there and buy it. And I thank you so much for your time.


Miss Emily

Ken, thanks so much. So great to see your face today and hear your voice.



Website: themissemily.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/themissemilymusic

Twitter: twitter.com/TheMissEmily

Instagram: www.instagram.com/themissemily




 

 

 

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