Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Emma Murray

A guy named Bill Murray sent me an email asking how his 14 year old daughter who plays the piano and writes songs could get an opening slot at the Iron Horse. His tone implied that he perceived getting a gig was like making an appointment, merely procedural. I responded politely and joked about the old "how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice" thing and gave him the reality check on the situation. But then I went back and listened to his daughter's music some more and some of us in the office checked it out. You can too, here. These are six songs Emma wrote when she was 13. I felt like perhaps I had been condescending in my response and wrote back to tell him that we were actually finding her music quite charming. And the joke about Carnegie Hall, well, it's true. She isn't "ready" yet. It's about practice and dues and for Emma it sounds like that's not even an issue. She has the same matter of fact confidence that her dad seems to. She's unapologetic. Obstacles are just formalities. Emma's going full tilt on these songs, almost as if it's a race. But imagine when she finds some room in the songs and dwells in them a little more. Imagine the energy and talent you hear in raw form here a few years down the road, when she's had more life experience; logged more time on the planet and at the piano, discovered some old Sandy Denny songs or new ones by Nellie McKay. Maybe she should come to the Iron Horse to see Vienna Teng do her thing on Monday, December 8th. It's a school night but the show's done by 9:15 or so.

It's easy to chuckle too, and say isn't that cute, she's singing about homework and school, but these songs draw from her life and experience. Think back to when you were 14. Remember the euphoria of stepping off the bus on the the afternoon of the last day of school? Summer vacation. Three months of NO SCHOOL. An eternity then, laid out before you, filled with possibilities and adventures and risks and freedom...and you're IMMORTAL. But you feel pain as strong as any adult, and love maybe even stronger. And this is in her songs. She's confessing feelings. The ones she has. She's not making stuff up. She's reporting, playing with words and images a bit too, seeing the wind, the sun spinning, and her rhymes are creative "the teacher's boring, I can't ignore him."

I took piano lessons. I sucked. I didn't want it at all. For me it was merely an appointment. I was an instant gratification kid. I listened to music but I didn't have the patience to make it. Why bother? It was already there. So when I wrote Bill Murray back I sent him this video (at bottom) and suggested he show it to Emma. Joni is in her mid-20s here and you can be sure she was playing when she was 14. (Note: The photos are not of Emma's hands.)(Note 2: Bill says the songs on her MySpace page were sung with a bulky dental retainer stuck in the roof of her mouth!) So maybe it's the area's open mics next...the few with a piano. Or maybe she plays guitar? Meanwhile, she has a bunch of new songs that she plans to record in Zing Studios in Westfield. Can't wait to hear them!

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