Emilia’s Excellent Extravaganza

Cashbox Canada Sept. 12 Emilia Cover.png

Submitted by Lenny Stoute

It’s a beautiful day in the neighbourhood here in Toronto, with a brisk touch of excitement in the air. Bees are buzzing, acorns are falling and squirrels are squirreling. Across town at singer/songwriter Emilia’s house, the excitement is downright electrifying. Her voice comes over the phone as bright, pumped up and studded with the laughter of a 22 year old in love with her life. Emilia has every reason to be excited, given her recent career trajectory.

F’r instance, a recent flashpoint was the placing of "Young And In Love", a song from debut album "E" as part of the soundtrack for the upcoming feature film "After The Ball" starring Chris Noth (The Good Wife, Sex In The City, Law And Order), Portia Doubleday (Carrie), and Lauren Holly (Dumb and Dumber, Motive, NCIS).

“It was amazing to hear that, a total surprise as there was no forewarning. Up until I got the email, I had no idea anything like that was up. Then when I saw the movie, it was just awesome, totally exciting and so interesting to see how they used the song.”

She’s still humbly overjoyed at the critical reception given her debut album ‘E’, even before its official release, which comes Sept. 16. Tipsters across the spectrum are wowed by the range and fluidity of Emilia’s vocals as well as the song writing chops. Stylistically, the material genre hops subtly within vaguely defined pop, nu-dance and jazz boundaries. That she pulls it all off is another high-bar mark. Currently just a few credits off a Fine Arts degree with a major in music from York U., Emilia credits the formal training with her highly honed songwriting.

“I was sure I would be a singer by about age five. I made my dear parents drag me around to all kinds of shows. So that came natural. The song writing was a different thing with a huge learning curve. What was the biggest challenge making the album? For me it was a double-edged thing; my idea of a good song is one with an honesty of feeling or emotion, an honesty crafted by both the lyrics and the appropriate music. That and a really good hook.Even with a bunch of songs like that, I wasn’t there yet. The ones that made the final cut had to be those that best stood on their own as an individual, as well as contributing to the cohesiveness of the album.”

Emilia readily admits she’s hardest on herself, a sometime obsessive who’ll go back and pick and pick at a song in the making until it’s where she feels it should be. And still… “I’m so lucky to work with (producer/ musical arranger Joel Lightman. We worked on the Flying Colours EP so he knows my writing habits; eventually, there comes that moment when I just have to take the chance and pull the trigger.”

Given that backstory, ‘E’ is the Emilia manifesto writ large. From the wicked pop hooks embedded in “Young and In Love” and “Turn Up” to the smooth and intoxicating nu-jazz of “The City Misses You”, Emilia’s vocal always know which way to turn it on. On the dance-inciting “Bombshell,” she flirts with dubstep, LA dance sounds and dirty r’n’b to create something that gets all sexy without crossing over into the salacious, while working a vocal line referencing Beyonce and Kylie Minogue; staying true to itself.

The lady modestly cites all the wonderful people who brought her songs to shimmering life and the songcraft, for one of the most buzzed-about debuts this year.

“I guess I write mostly from experience. Then it becomes a thing of finding elements in the personal that a listener can grab onto and attach their own experience to the song. “The City Misses You” started as a simple song about just that, missing someone intensly. Sometimes when I feel like that, it’s like everyone around me knows how I feel and they’re in empathy with me. So it’s not just me, the whole city misses you. I’ve been asked what I want this album to do for me. It’s done so much already for me that I don’t know if I should be asking more. If there’s one thing I’d like is for some of the songs to become like the soundtrack to people’s lives. Those songs where you can remember what you were doing the first time they hit you.”

That being an aspiration that’s part of divahood, the question arises as to how it feels to be a diva in waiting for the megafame and the bling bling.

“That word gets misused so much. Not even sure what it means now. For me a diva is a singer such as Billie Holiday, Whitney Houston; it was all about the music for those artists. I don’t care about the pop culture concept of diva but I aspire to the quality level of the true divas. It would be fantastic if I could get just a small percentage of their success.”

Obviously the most high-profile member of her group of close-knit pals and likely the best looking, it’s a wonder her friends haven’t started hating her yet.  “ No, no !“ she protests amid big warm laughter. “I’m very lucky to be surrounded by people I’ve known for a long time. It  keeps you grounded and helps keep you honest. My friends are supportive and happy for me.

Of course, none of this could have happened without the support of my parents, always there for me.

“After I graduated from high school, I decided if I was going to do this music thing, I needed to know everything about it. When I told my parents I planned to take music in University they were immediately on board.”

With ‘E’ set to drop Sept.16, Emilia’s focused on the album release gig at Revival Sept.23, her biggest live show to date, for which she’ll be backed by a eight-piece band, all the better to replicate the clever twists and turns of the material.

“What I’d like people to take away from the show is that at some point during it, they hear something that makes someone think, ‘That’s exactly how I was feeling”.

As to album title, and only because you’ve been asking, here’s how it came down.

“As I said, each song had to have its own identity but still have some relation to each other. I was thinking about cohesiveness, what made the album a cohesive unit above all and I thought, well, me. I tie it all together so it’s called ‘E’ for Emilia.”

Not entirely taken in by this clever spin on the self-titled album, and looking for a Miley Cyrus moment, I ask if E is also for Ecstasy.

Big laugh, then “Oh God no! I wasn’t thinking of anything like that at all.” Laughs some more, adding, “No, I’m sorry, I don’t have any drug addict stories.”

Since she doesn’t have any Chris Brown stories either, it’s gonna be all about the quality of the music to get Emilia to the next level of attention. She’s just fine with that. “Each song turned out exactly the way I wanted it. Apart from giving me more experience in the production area, the album gave me a ‘sound’ that defines my music at this point in time.”

That folks, is the confident sound of a diva in waiting. In a very good way.  

For more visit: www.emilia-music.ca