New York based singer-songwriter Emma Frank is releasing a new album “Come Back” via Nettwerk in September, following the success of her critically acclaimed 2018 release, “Ocean Av.” The forthcoming album feels very subtle, a bit like Laura Marling in places, and features Aaron Parks, Franky Rousseau, Tommy Crane, and Zack Lober. “Come Back” is due for release on September 6.
Emma has a sound so multifaceted it intertwines folk, R&B, and even jazz to create shifting tempos and winding melodies that are poignant, propelling and all-engulfing. Previously, Emma shared her leading single “I Thought”, (released via Justin Time/Nettwerk Music Group), along with a stunning video directed by visual artist Ayo Tsalithaba filmed in the suburbs of Toronto.
Throughout the new album, Emma taunts with ideas of love, lust, self-doubt, commitment, and sadness to relinquish the most intimate corners of her mind with her listeners. Emma’s 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.” Of “I Thought”, she says,
“My mother to this day reminds me that I have a tendency to polarize things. ‘I Thought’ is a reminder that we can grow and change and still be committed to those we love and the work we do.”
The subdued strings and soft strokes of the piano keys enhance the raw, honest feeling driving this track. Depending on when you walk in on a song, Emma’s music might sound like folk, jazz, even R&B. It’s a 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 which feels like leather on silk.
At Celebmix, we sat down with Emma Frank and talked about her upcoming album, music journey so far, her creative style of recording compositions, family and much more. Read the whole interview below to know more!
You’re making a fierce “Come Back” in 2019 with your upcoming album. What should we expect from the album and its theme? Are you feeling nervous about the release?
I’m always a little nervous about a release, but also so happy to have the music out in the world and eager to keep writing. “Come Back” is sort of a mantra that I kept telling myself during the last two years. I was finding that I would almost disassociate from my body when things got challenging, just start mentally cataloguing all of these worst-case scenarios. Basically, just me thinking “I’m uncomfortable, I give up.” So, I would remind myself to return to the moment, to experience whatever discomfort and to trust that it would pass – and that I was learning and growing.
You’ve previously released a fresh single “I Thought”. What was your inspiration behind writing that song?
This was a good example of me kind of going down a rabbit hole of negativity and later, gaining some perspective on it. This was me contemplating how things never turn out as badly as I’m afraid they will, that my path is usually gentler than I think it will be.
The single came with a music video which was spectacular. How was your experience of working with Ayo Tsalithaba?
I’m so glad you liked it! Ayo is super talented. I found out about Ayo because they had done the music video for my friends’ band Bernice, a song called “Passenger Plane.” It’s such a great video. It’s shot at an Alpaca Farm and it manages to be gorgeous and elegant and also funny. For “I Thought,” we wanted to work with images that conjured construction and destruction, and trying to control elements that are out of our control.
Your compositions feel like thoughtful arrangements, both in terms of the sound and placement. What is your creative process while working on a project and which element are you most comfortable with?
Thanks! I always feel better at the part of the project I’ve been working on the most. When I’m writing songs and it’s flowing, that feels like the right place to be. But I also love rehearsing, and I love working on music videos, and sending emails, and choosing photos, and performing. I even like applying for grants and doing whatever administrative work. And I love working with the people I work with! I ask for a lot of help and I’m really lucky to have some excellent collaborators who are also great friends and just totally committed to the project.
Who are your major musical inspirations from the industry – dead or alive, who help carved your signature style? Have these influences changed over time?
Becca Stevens was and is a big inspiration for me. Her music really inspires me. When I started to analyze it, I realized how far I am from having the skill set that she has. And that was interesting. Because after I let go of the “I’m not good enough,” I said, “ok well how can I make something that’s meaningful to me using the somewhat limited skill set that I have?” Really, so much of my development as an artist has sprung from this deep admiration for someone and realizing that there’s no way that I can imitate them and also be authentic. In high school and college, I listened to Nina Simone every day and I tried so hard to sound like her. But our voices and our life experiences are so vastly different. The same thing happened with Aretha Franklin, with Stevie Wonder, Eva Cassidy, Hanne Hukkelberg, and Erykah Badu. So after a lot of frustration and working to stretch my sound, I would develop a few new skills, but I also would have to accept myself where I was and accept my love for these people, but let go of the wanting-to-be-them part.
On some days, we all face certain internal struggles that are haunting and create hindrance in our work. Have you ever found yourself in such a situation while recording or during a specific composition where you struggled lyrically, rhythmically or emotionally? How do you deal with that?
I had a bit of depressive episode while in the studio with my good friend Simon Millerd, making his album “Lessons and Fairytales” with Pablo Held’s trio. It was right before I decided to go on Prozac, and the episode was a big reason that I made that decision. Now that I have a little chemical help, moments like that come up less often. But my inner voice can certainly get out of hand. She can be mean and it can really bring me down. I’m working on it. Generally, I communicate with the people I’m with about it, and that helps make it less real, just hearing it out loud.
Since you’re living in hot-shot New York, how does the vibe of NY affects your music style and creativity?
I feel like I’ve grown into myself in a new way while living in New York, partly because it’s such an overwhelming place. Everyone I meet is so fully themselves because it’s the only way to deal with that kind of overstimulation. There’s already too much to do, so I need to be very focused on how I spend my time. I spend a lot of my songwriting time resting and thinking in bed or taking a walk around the park. I don’t like writing from a place of ambition or stress – it never feels good – so I take a lot of quiet time, and try to give myself as much space as possible to let songs blossom naturally.
Where do you get your songwriting inspiration? Are you someone who pulls inspiration from personal experiences or create lyrics around music?
My songwriting is pretty personal – I guess you’d call the narration “confessional.” That being said, I’m not so interested in the specific ins and outs of my life, as much as in the more universal truths of whatever my experience is. So, I definitely pull inspiration from my life, but I do try to sit with my experiences until I feel that I have a broader perspective on them.
How do you go about choosing who to collaborate with? If given a chance now, who will be your top three picks from the industry?
I tend to work well with people that are very detail-oriented because I am often more interested in the big picture, and can be not-so-great with the detail work. So I’m drawn to people, like Aaron Parks, like Franky Rousseau, whose skill sets really fill out the (substantial) gaps in my own. I think I would have a lot of fun working with Becca Stevens, with Blake Mills, and with Andy Shauf. They’re all such geniuses with such unique perspectives and I would love to work on something with them.
Emma, tell us about your three major inspirations in life that keep you going every day?
I don’t know if there are three distinct things. Let’s see. I certainly love my husband and am excited to see him every day. In general, I simply like my life. I definitely have gone through periods where I had trouble getting through the day, where I would just lie in bed and feel hopeless and think about dying. And that was not fun. I put a lot of emphasis now on taking pleasure in small things throughout my day – like watering my plants, or having a little snuggle, or just taking a nap if I start to feel worn out. I’m definitely inspired by the people in my life. There’s a lot of love out there that makes me excited to get up every day.
Lastly, what kind of future do you envision for your career or the biggest goal you hope to accomplish in the future?
It would be really awesome to make more records and to travel and perform in different places for audiences that are receptive to the music. Maybe even to make my income off of music, but I try not to worry about that too much, not because I’m independently wealthy, but because I waitress a lot and not only do I enjoy it, but it gives me the space I need to do my creative work. I want to keep developing artistically and tracking my evolution as a person through art and music. And I want to keep using songwriting as a way to connect with people, and as a way to feel a sense of belonging in the world.
Watch her latest music videos for ‘I Thought’ and ‘Either Way’ on YouTube!
Are you as excited for “Come Back” as we are? Share your thoughts on Emma Frank with us on Twitter at @CelebMix!