Emily Scott Robinson — American Siren interview
With her latest album American Siren, Emily Scott Robinson is delving into the shadowy places and offering listeners an expert class in character study. By marrying her contemplative storytelling with her hypnotic voice, the singer-songwriter has crafted a record meant for the deepest of dives.
I recently sat down with Emily Scott Robinson to discuss her creative confidence, musical mutations, and the Adele factor.
Americana Highways: First and foremost, I love your voice so much. It whisks me away—out of my life—and to a place where I can escape the day-to-day headaches. As an artist, are you comfortable with the instrument you have or, like so many of us, do you get self-conscious at times, even in those areas of yourself where there’s confidence?
Emily Scott Robinson: To be honest, I’m really comfortable with my voice and I lean on my voice in times where I’m feeling less confident in other areas of my life. I love singing and it feels like a natural expression of my energy. There are some nights on tour when my voice can get a little exhausted (I try and combat this with sleep, lots of water, and extra vocal warm-ups)—on nights like those, I try to lean on the storytelling aspect of my show.
AH: How long did it take you to find your voice as a songwriter and do you recall the song you had written where it all just clicked and you could say to yourself, “Yes, this is the kind of artist I want to be”?
ESR: The first song I wrote where I felt like I found my voice was “Marriage Ain’t the End of Being Lonely.” That was in 2014 when I was first taking songwriting seriously and dreaming of a career in music. I knew that song was powerful and I got confirmation of that power when I performed it for audiences. I first started dabbling in songwriting when I was in college, but never worked at it seriously until I was in my mid-twenties. Once I started writing seriously in 2014, it didn’t take me long to find my voice. I knew pretty quickly the kind of artist I wanted to be.
AH: The beautiful thing about music is that it changes as we do as humans. With that said, how has your songwriting changed the most since the earliest days of your writing to where you are today on the eve of American Siren being released?
ESR: I think my songwriting has changed most significantly in that it’s less traditional and formulaic than it was in the beginning. When I first started, I wrote in pretty traditional country forms—with American Siren I decided to break out of some of those forms and rhythms, particularly on “Old Gods” and “Every Day in Faith.”
AH: The new album was released just a few days ago. What kind of emotions do you juggle with as you prepare to release new music into the universe?
ESR: I am SO excited to share this record with the world. I’ve kept these songs to myself for the past year and I know they have the capacity to help, heal, entertain, and provide catharsis for a lot of people. I’m eager to let the songs out in the world so they can do their work!
AH: What would someone learn about you today in sitting down to listen to American Siren front to back?
ESR: I think they would learn that I absolutely LOVE unpacking the roles that religious, cultural, and moral beliefs play in our life choices! I like to take my characters into their shadowy places and explore their inner lives.
AH: We always talk about what influences artists, but I love to hear about how artists hope to influence others. With that said, what do you hope your music does for people that those influential records you listened to as a fan did for you?
ESR: I hope they inspire other songwriters! I, personally, was so inspired to write by artists like Patty Griffin, Nanci Griffith, John Prine and Brandi Carlile. Listening to those records, I felt this implicit permission and deep inspiration to go write my own songs, so I hope my music inspires other writers in that same way.
AH: Did you have a mentor on your musical journey, and if so, did that person help shape your career in a way that would be dramatically different today had you not built that relationship?
ESR: I have not had a specific mentor on my musical path—instead, I’ve had truly wonderful and rich friendships with fellow artists who are my contemporaries. They have helped me along on my journey, been a sounding board when I needed one, and cheered me on through my growth! A few of those close artist friends are Rebecca Loebe, Abigail Dowd and Michaela Anne.
AH: As a music fan, I love how much new music is coming out every week, but as an artist, is it daunting to see how many albums are due out during the same span as your release, or, is the more the merrier?
ESR: I’m not gonna lie—I had a little competition this month putting out records at the same time as Adele and Brandi Carlile. (Laughter)
AH: For some, it’s the music itself that they get lost in, but as a writer, I think for me the lyrics are always my deep draw/focus when it comes to songs. What is a favorite lyric of yours that you have written and why?
ESR: I think the lyrics on “Every Day in Faith” are my favorite on this record. I wanted to write about some universal truths without being cliche—I love the line, “I thank my darkest teachers for the scars that I have earned.”
AH: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
ESR: Yeah, absolutely I would jump in that time machine. I have a feeling that 10 years down the road will be an amazingly creative, collaborative time in my music career and I’d love to see a glimpse!
For more information on Emily Scott Robinson and American Siren, visit www.emilyscottrobinson.com.