(Photo Credit - Shervin Lainez)
We caught up with emerging alt-pop artist Emma Frank for an Artist Spotlight! She is releasing her sophomore album 'Come Back' on Friday, September 6. Check out what she had to say below!
1. How did you come to pursue music and how long have you been at it?
I’ve been singing for a long time in different scenarios. I started trying to write songs on a regular basis my first year of college. I was super heartbroken, and writing songs was a way to process that. It was such an amazing feeling to take all this pain and make something beautiful with it. And then to share the music with my little college community - everybody living with their own private challenges, and them feeling strengthened by the songs, and sharing their stories with me. It felt deeply healing and I wanted more and more of it. Over the last ten or twelve years, I’ve definitely used songwriting and singing as a way to track my evolution as a person, and I’m so grateful that I get to do that and share it with people.
2. Could you walk us through your process of writing music?
I generally start by improvising something at the piano, singing while playing fairly simple harmony, and recording it on my phone. Other times, a whole song will come out while I’m on a walk. Then I sift through what I’ve recorded and keep what’s working and leave what’s not, trying to see if I have enough to start a song with. I build from there, and when I have something that looks like a completed draft, I start to live with it. Hopefully it becomes this secret soundtrack for my life for a particular period. When I have more quiet, I’ll walk around my apartment, or Prospect Park, and I’ll try to hear different feels for the song, to see what parts feel more or less energetic, and that helps me sketch out how I want to approach it with my band. Once I’m ready, I try playing it with other musicians and we fine tune from there.
3. What artists have inspired you in your career?
I love hearing a musician craft a context for themselves that might not make sense for anyone else but makes perfect sense for them. I think I was drawn to music because it offered me a sense of belonging when I often felt like an outsider. Making art has really been about creating a space in which I belong. I was never the best singer in the world, or the most virtuosic musician - I can’t nail a pop anthem, or take a killing vocal solo. But I love that I get to build a world tailored to the skills I do have. Musicians that have pointed me towards my own truth include Hanne Hukkelberg, Gretchen Parlato, and Becca Stevens. So many more who I absolutely love, but those three artists definitely inspired me to find a context that worked specifically for me.
4. Do you have any favorite music gear (guitars, amps, effects pedals, keyboards, etc.) that you love to use? If so, what’s the story on them?
Not really! I’m not exactly a ludite, but I’m pretty close. I do love my Sennheiser microphone though. And I love working with the OP1 in my set for additional synth sounds. Mostly, I turn to my band members for gear knowledge though.
5. Can you describe the vibe at your live shows? Also, what do you enjoy most about a venue when you do a show?
The vibe at my live shows is pretty warm. I’m grateful to be there, and I’m happy to see everyone in the audience. I like to think that the music invite people to connect with their tenderness, to feel vulnerable to themselves in ways that feel cathartic, also also to laugh, and relax. Ultimately, I want to be strong and vulnerable and funny and infuse the music with a certain kind of spirit that makes other people feel opened up and nice! In terms of venues, I love being able to easily get a glass of water and a good sound person is always wonderful.
6. What is one thing that you want the public to know about your music?
Well, I’m not sure who ‘the public’ is exactly, so I don’t quite know how to address them. But I do feel very strongly that people should engage with art that speaks to them, and not engage with what doesn’t. I’m personally a big supporter of walking out of movies if I’m truly not enjoying myself, or not finishing a book if I’m truly not engaged. Nothing is for everybody, and that’s OK. But it is such fun when something is for you! Some of my favorite records have accompanied me through life like a familiar landscape, or a wise old friend. If my music speaks to you, I hope it can accompany you whenever you need it, you know?
7. Can you tell us about the writing, recording, and promotion process of Come Back?
I started writing the songs on “Come Back” as soon as I finished recording my last record, Ocean Av. It’s hard to move to New York, and I was just generally really tired that year and overworked. Then I made the record and it felt so good and like a weight had been lifted off my chest. I just felt overwhelmed with gratitude. So “Come Back” started there, kind of as a meditation on the roots that I was putting down. I worked closely with my good friend Franky Rousseau on this music - he produced the record and plays guitar on it, and also with Aaron Parks, who plays piano and helped me develop some of the songs. He also contributed a composition - “Come Back”(originally “Lilac,” a song on his latest recording with Little Big). We recorded all of our bed tracks at PM Studios in Montreal, and some of them remain exactly as we recorded them in studio. But my husband, Pedro Barquinha, and I added sounds in our house with the help of Franky Rousseau and Dominic Mekky - synths, strings, some new vocals and general ambiance. It was fun, and actually a slower, more intentional process than I’ve had before, so that was awesome. I learned a lot and feel motivated to write more music because I have a better idea of how I want to actualize it now.