Emily Grove goes in a dangerous direction
American singer/songwriter Emily Grove tells us about her album, her busy schedule and about performing live on television with David Gray:
Hello Emily! Where are you at the moment? How is your day treating you thus far?
Right now, I’m at rehearsal with a cover band I’m in, the Paul Marino Band. We’ve got a couple of Independence Day shows coming up next weekend, and we’re learning patriotic American songs. It doesn’t go over well if you mess up the words on those, I can tell you that.
You’ve just released your excellent new album, The Life of a Commoner. Can you tell us a little about it?
I recorded it in two weeks with Jason Rubal of Seventh Wave Studio in Harrisburg,PA. It varies from just me with guitar to me with full band to me, a capella. It’s all about me, haha!
The album’s sound is noticeably different to your previous EP. Was this a deliberate decision you made when writing/recording, or did this progression in sound happen organically?
I’m extremely proud of my EP, Way Across the Sea. It was produced by Jack Daley (Lenny Kravitz) who brought amazing players on the record, Raymond Angry (The Roots),Dave Eggars(Evanescence) and Nir Z (Genesis). Jack took what I had written at the time, and made it something special. He’s a true friend in a very shifty business.
This time around, I was still discovering myself. I wanted something honest, that shows me in all my glory and with all my eccentricities. I wanted to focus on my voice, and I wanted to be real. I’ve been singing and playing out since I was 11 years old, and I’ve been compared to Linda Rondstadt, Joni Mitchell and Melanie Safka, among others. Very cool, very flattering. But Jason first reached out to me in an email that said, “I love your style. It’s like Nick Cave and Patty Griffin got into a fistfight.” And I said, “Wow, this guy gets me!” So from the beginning, we knew that we were taking things in a darker, perhaps more dangerous direction. I loved it!
The album artwork is cool. What was the thinking behind it?
Yay! I hoped you’d like it! I had the idea that I would be the Queen of Spiders, because of my song, “Spider” and because of my fear of both spiders and treacherous people. And of course I am the Queen of Nothing, because the spiders rebel and throw me over.
My friend, Pete Carter, took the photos at Sandy Hook, NJ in an old abandoned Spanish-American War gun battery. Pete’s an expert at creepy stuff, because he’s invented a character called The Ghoulmaster and puts on spectacular shows. I recently starred in one of his blankmusic videos, which we filmed at night at the abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia.
Will you be heading out on tour to promote the album?
That’s what I’m working on! I’ve got a few dates, but hopefully more to come.
Any plans to head back over to the UK after your successful tour with David Ford and Jarrod Dickenson last year?
I loved that tour, and made so many great friends! And David’s fans are the greatest people ever. It’s definitely a goal to return.
We recently saw you on TV singing backing vocals for David Gray. How did that come about and was it a fun experience?
I got a phone call from Tony Shanahan (Patti Smith’s bassist) with whom I did some session work. He asked, “Have you ever heard of David Gray? And would you be able to sing backup for him on the Today Show in NYC? You’d have to be there very early…” YES to all of it! I’ve been a fan of his for years. And I even got to include my great friend, Reagan Richards, in the experience. It was so much fun! David and his band were so great to work with, and we had a blast. And we even got to meet and take a selfie with Gerard Butler, so ha!
You always seem to be working on about a million different projects… your solo stuff… musical collaborations… fashion stuff… Can you tell us what you are working on at the moment?
You’re right, I do keep busy. Ever since I left Berklee College of Music, my goal was to make a living doing music in any way I could. So, I said yes to every job and every opportunity that came my way, and I’ve had a great time and learned a lot. I’ve played in some big shows, such as “Summer of Love” where we went to Florida and two other states, singing the songs of the Woodstock Generation. It’s always fun to be part of an ensemble, but I’ve decided to step back from those bigger shows, in order to concentrate on a solo career. I hope it works. Of course, I’m always open to recording, and if Reagan asks me for a Fashion Week gig, or anything else for that matter, I’m there! I actually have quite a few friends I can’t say no to, which is how I got in this trouble in the first place.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2014?
This is summertime at the Jersey Shore, so I have plenty of regular working band gigs to keep me busy. I’m also heading to Charlestown, MA, this weekend to meet up with a Berklee friend, Cat Verliccio for a gig, I’ll be back at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC on 7/7, I’ll be playing for Brookdale Public Radio’s “Songwriters on the Beach” with Peter Bradley Adams on 8/7 on the beach in Belmar, a gig in Lancaster,PA, and I’m opening for Paula Cole (“Where Have All the Cowboys Gone”) in September.
Emily Grove interview by Bobby Townsend. Top photo by Yvonne Moss.