Published Jan 29, 2012While many singers have to undergo throat surgeries at some point, few have had to endure the ordeal twice. Yet that's precisely what Emma-Lee experienced at the beginning of her career, although it's ended up spurring the Toronto, ON singer-songwriter to greater heights. After drawing comparisons to Norah Jones and Feist with her 2008 full-length debut, Never Just A Dream, Backseat Heroine finds Emma-Lee confidently distancing herself from her jazz influences in favour of more rustic tones. Collaborating on several tracks with Asbury Park, NJ singer-songwriter Nicole Atkins has clearly given Emma-Lee's storytelling chops a boost, as evidenced by the title track, inspired by a line in a Bobbie Gentry song, and she also releases a great deal of pent-up rocking energy on "Shadow of a Ghost" and "Not Coming By." The aching ballads of the first album are still echoed on tracks such as Jill Barber co-write "I Could Live With Dying Tonight," while a duet with Luke Doucet, "Today's Another Yesterday," is a clear highpoint. Just the fact that Emma-Lee has made it this far is a testament to her fortitude, but Backseat Heroine proves that she's only just begun.
What did you want to do differently on this album?
Musically, there isn't really a trace of jazz. I'd call it a pop record, but it's a bit rock, a bit country and soulful throughout. I think my voice has also developed quite significantly; I discovered a lot of new things I could do with it in the past couple of years. Perhaps the common thread with Never Just A Dream is that it's still a bit whimsical. In my head, most of the songs are very cinematic; you can see them as much as hear them.
Was there one song that was the catalyst for this new direction?
The first song I wrote for this one was "Not Coming By." It had a darker vibe than anything from the first record and I think I followed that muse. I think my biggest goal with the new batch of songs was to write music I would have fun performing live.
You've had to overcome two throat surgeries. How have you coped with that?
Being faced with the thought of losing your voice is terrifying; it's so fragile. I have to take care of myself and it's tough because I'm often in loud bars talking over music, surrounded by tempting things that are all terrible for your voice. (eOne)