Today we are featuring US singer/songwriter Emily Scott Robinson for the first time, who’s latest single “The Time For Flowers” released last Friday is a perfect tonic for anyone struggling to see light at the end of the tunnel during these challenging times.
Hailing from North Carolina, Emily loves the freedom of the open road, living a nomadic existence in her RV for much of the year. Before becoming a professional musician she worked with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and her experiences from those times coupled with her current lifestyle out on the road are often channelled into her song writing…..she is definitely not afraid to use her music to help raise awareness of some harrowing subjects.
Following on from her two EPs, last year saw the release of Emily’s debut album aptly titled ” Traveling Mercies” to much critical acclaim including outstanding reviews from Billboard, No Depression and American Songwriter. It made several ” best of ” year end lists, and one of its most moving track ” The Dress” which is particularly hard-hitting and personal to her ranked at No.14 in Rolling Stone’s Top Country and Americana Songs Of The Year.
It was great to get the opportunity to ask Emily a few questions, her answers are some of the most interesting I have had the pleasure to read. I hope you enjoy our e-chat, I can’t believe I’ve only come across her amazing music recently and if you are not familiar with it already I hope this will inspire you to check out her back catalogue.
1. LH I always like to ask my interviewees to set the scene and describe where they are when answering my questions… probably this is even more relevant with you, given your wanderlust! So can we start off with that one please!
ESR Indeed, I am answering these questions with a cup of coffee in the kitchen of a beach house looking out over a rainy morning on the North Carolina coast! Since most of my summer tour dates have been postponed, I decided to return home to visit my family. Our grandparents have a little spot for two weeks every summer on the coast that they cannot use this year because they are under lockdown, so we drove down to enjoy some beach time.
2. LH Congratulations on your beautiful and uplifting new single “The Time for Flowers” which I gather has been a ” quarantine project” for you …the inspiration came at the start of this pandemic I understand? Can you tell me more about what fired up the song’s idea?
ESR Thank you! And yes, this was my “quarantine anthem,” per se. I got the idea for the song at the beginning of the pandemic when I was reading a lovely book called “A Gentleman in Moscow” about a Russian aristocrat who survives the 1917 Revolution and is confined to live in the attic of a hotel under house arrest during the new Communist regime. His life becomes very small, as all of our lives became very small under lockdown. In a moment where his hope is flagging, he spots the small shop of a florist that has been boarded up and abandoned and says to himself, “Ah, but the time for flowers will come again.” That line hit me like an arrow to my heart. I started crying when I read it. I knew it was a song idea in the making.
3.LH And how did you go about recording the song given the current restrictions? Was it a particularly challenging undertaking?
ESR It was actually quite simple, thanks to technology! I have a simple recording setup in my RV that I use— a decent mic, a small mixer and my laptop. I recorded the song acoustic. Then, I sent my track via Dropbox to my friend who plays fiddle in Nashville (Eamon McLoughlin – he’s the resident fiddler for the Grand Ole Opry). Eamon recorded a few passes on the track and I picked the one I liked best. Then we sent all those files to my audio engineer Dylan Alldredge for mixing! After the mixing was through, they went to Jim DeMain to master. It was all done in one week!
4. LH What do you hope the listener will take away from the track?
ESR I hope the listener will feel hope and a sense of relief. We’ve all been living with a lot of stress and grief as this pandemic has played out on a global level. In this song, I wanted to consult the archetype of the elder— the woman who has lived through everything and seen dark days and also seen the light come again. I wanted to draw on her wisdom to give us all a message of hope.
5.LH I understand that most of your songs are solo writes….that’s pretty unusual these days isn’t it? Is that through choice or circumstance?
ESR I’ve never gotten into the Nashville style of co-writing! Every one of my songs is a solo write as of now. It’s something I’d be interested in doing because I think something tremendously magical can happen when you open up your creative process to another writer. For now though, I still have a lot of songs to write on my own.
6.LH Going back to your upbringing in N Carolina, what music were you listening to that inspired you to want to start writing and playing?
ESR James Taylor, Nanci Griffith and Joni Mitchell were my big three growing up!
7. LH As I mentioned in the introduction, you don’t shy away from tackling some hard hitting issues in your songs and write with a genuine social conscience. Is the fact that your music is often very thought provoking something you set out to do from the start of your creative journey?
ESR Yes! I want to use my voice to tell stories and songs that are potent and powerful. I honestly don’t believe in wasting a listener’s time. There’s a lot of noise out in the world— a lot of songs that are just filler — and I don’t believe in releasing any songs that are filler.
8. LH Is there any of your songs that you are particularly proud of when it comes to helping raise awareness of a particular issue?
ESR Yes! I am so proud of my song “The Dress,” which is about my experience as a survivor of sexual assault. It took years to heal from my assault and to write about it. When I finally felt ready to do it, I wanted my song to be a beacon of light in the darkness to other survivors. I wanted people to know they were not alone, not crazy, not broken. I’ve been vocal about my experience and told my story on stage frequently because it’s something that people are reluctant to talk about but need to hear. I get messages all the time thanking me for the song and telling me that it has aided in someone else’s healing. That makes every ounce of my own pain worthwhile— the fact that I can turn something awful into something that can be of service to the world is the best part of my work.
9.LH Maybe not right now but when it’s possible I gather you spend a of time travelling around in your RV. Are you something of a restless spirit, and does the ever-changing scenery and people you encounter help fire your creativity more than staying in one place would?
ESR I feel like I’ve learned in the past four years of touring and living in an RV how to feel at home in the world pretty much anywhere I go. My constant travel and changing of scenery inspires so many song ideas— usually more than I can keep up with! Three months at home was almost excruciatingly boring for me and my husband. Ha! We are excited to get back on the road when it’s safe to play shows again.
10.LH With 2019 being such a great year for you particularly with the reception your album received how are you cooping with the frustrations of having to put tour plans on hold this year? You were set to be out on the road with one of my favourite bands American Aquarium I see…
ERS Honestly, my spiritual practice helps a lot with this. I believe that every detour in life happens for a reason and can be a gift and an opportunity if we choose to look at it that way. I was SO excited to tour with American Aquarium this summer, but 2020 is shaping up to be very different than we all thought it would be. I was sad and fearful and had to take time to grieve the loss of my plans. But I also believe that if we surrender our plans and allow the Universe to carry us along, the detours can be meaningful and powerful and beautiful. There is a lesson in all of this! Right now, I’m writing and spending a lot of time in nature and that is good for me.
11. LH And when things do get back to some type of normality, are there any plans afoot to visit us here in the UK?
ESR Yes! We don’t know yet when I’ll be able to tour in the UK, but as soon as its safe, I will be there!
LH Oh fantastic, I’m really looking forwards to meeting you and seeing you play live!