Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Emily Arin: An Interview With The Singer-Songwriter

While Ithaca has a great and vital music scene, new bands and musicians are what help keep it vital. So it was with great pleasure that I first heard recent transplant Emily Arin playing a lovely set at the Montour Falls Harvest Festival of all places. I was sitting on hay bails with my wife kids listening —pretty blown away. Her performance is definitely a nice highlight from 2008. Emily combines folk, a bit of country swing (ala Patsy Cline) with a great voice and really good tunes.

Another great thing about Emily Arin is she‘s approaching the rapidly changing music industry in a smart way, allowing her to start to build a career as an independent artist. She accomplishes this through a subscription music program. In fact, a new 6-month music subscription series is about to launch. Coming soon, subscribers will be able to purchase subscriptions on her website for $15. In return they receive one newly written and recorded song each month for six months. These are emailed as an mp3 file along with the story behind the song. Dynamic Meter recently got to ask Emily Arin some questions.

Dynamic Meter: You're pretty new to the area, how has it been going breaking into the Ithaca music scene?
Emily Arin: It's been a gradual and interesting process. I moved from Los Angeles to Montour Falls in August of 2007 to help my parents run The Harvest Cafe and to create a lifestyle for myself more conducive to reflection and songwriting. Eager to make friends and meet kindred spirits, I spent the first few months going to shows and handing my “Time and Space” CD to musicians whose work I enjoyed. I met The Common Railers in September 2007 at the Americana Jubilee held at the Rongovian Embassy. We kept in touch and performed along with the Yardvarks at The Harvest Cafe's first evening of live music in December of last year. As more people heard my music, the more I'd hear "you really should meet Jennie Stearns." I ran into her one night in the bathroom at a Keith Frank show at the Rongo and, without thinking, asked if she would like a CD. She graciously accepted. To my pleasant surprise, she got in touch with me about a month later, eventually asking if I wanted to sing backup at one of her shows. That's the beautiful quality of the Ithaca music scene—it's full of amazingly talented musicians and songwriters who are, at the same time, down to earth, welcoming and accessible. Because of this, I've had the good fortune of collaborating with Peter Glanville and Gordon Rowland—of The Common Railers—and Jennie Stearns and her band. I've grown so much as a songwriter and performer in these last several months as a result.

DM:How did you start playing and writing? Did you always write your own material?
EA: I grew up studying classical piano and attended the piano program at LA County High School for the Arts, but was never—for lack of the intense discipline required—a contender for being a serious classical musician. I knew I loved music though and, with a fantasy to join a band, I asked for a guitar in high school. A little too shy and clueless to start or join a group, I strummed away absent-mindedly from time to time in my bedroom. Around the same time my older sister played Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" for me and my mind was blown open with the possibility of what a song could communicate. I wrote a couple of song snippets before going away to school, but the urge to write songs really kicked in around sophomore year of college. I've been writing ever since.

DM: Who are your influences?
EA: In no particular order: Leonard Cohen, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, Caetano Veloso, Townes Van Zandt, Os Mutantes, Asha Bhosle, John Prine, Van Morrison, Hank Williams, Joni Mitchell, West African Kora music, Glen Gould, Paul Simon, Billy Bragg, Miriam Makeba, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, The Carter Family, Frank Sinatra, Brian Eno, Neil Young, Tom Waits, Yo La Tengo, Nick Drake, Edith Piaf, Amalia Rodriguez, Yann Tiersen, Cat Power, Buena Vista Social Club, Enya, Peggy Lee, Beatles (together and apart), Coleman Hawkins, Phil Ochs, Calexico, Thelonius Monk, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Ennio Morricone, Billie Holiday, Gordon Lightfoot, Josh Ritter, Will Oldham, Emmylou Harris, Nick Cave, Orchestra Baobob, Willie Nelson, Cesaria Evora, Tom Petty, Memphis Minnie, Glen Gould, Cat Stevens . . . there's so much amazing music in the world that this list could go on forever, but these are some of the people/groups who've made a big impression on me over the years.

DM: You've started playing around a lot. How's that going?
EA: It was recently suggested to me that I needed to learn to crave the stage. A light bulb went off. Instead of fostering a dread of performing—which I did have when I first started several years ago—I'm now getting excited about shows and the possibility they hold of connecting with an audience. A show with heart and soul and laughter can really transform an evening for someone. Also, I can't say enough about playing with Peter, Gordon and now Brian Dozoretz. They're passionate about music and so much fun to perform with.

DM: Who are you listening to that might be kind of under the radar?
EA: I don't know how under the radar, but I don't hear of them often: Fionn Regan, Benjamin Biolay, Nicolai Dunger, Super Mama Djombo. Little Joy's first album recently came out—and it's great.


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