Over the last decade of her career gifted songsmith-vocalist Vicky Emerson has lived in St. Paul, Chicago, St. Paul, New York City, the Left Coast and, now, back to Minnesota—just in time to catch the cold.
“My career has provided,” she says, “the opportunity to travel the country and share music, stories, laughter, and tears with fans and friends who in turn inspire me to continue to write and explore the human condition. I have been lucky enough to marry a wonderful man who supports my writing and is happy to don the Mr. Mom cap so I am able to continue touring. These are things to be thankful for, and I have been blessed beyond my wildest imagination.”
Fine. Whatever the reason for her wanderlust, while she’s in the parts long enough, music lovers who enjoy country-laced soft-rock done to a fine turn would do well to be at the Dakota on January 25 to catch her release show for the album Dust & Echoes, a nice, tight affair that features first-rate material, a splendid singing voice, and excellent backup. With high, clear vocals on quietly reflective ballads, Dust & Echoes tends toward the melancholy without slipping into the maudlin. It’s good for those times when you feel like just turning off the phone, brewing a hot, tasty cup of tea, and sitting to simply stare out the window and be with your thoughts. Even if Santa did bring you want you wanted for Christmas, there’s no law that says you can’t top things off with a special little present from you to you.
Taking a minute from family, friends, and music, Emerson granted an e-mail interview.
Why the move back to Minnesota? From, of all places, California. Did you miss the frigid weather that much?
No, I’m sorry to say that I did not miss the cold. Not one single bit. But there are so many other reasons to love Minnesota that in the end, it was a rather easy decision to move back. The major catalyst for the move back was my husband’s job, and also because we will be welcoming our second child in March. This is where we were raised, where our extended family lives, and ultimately, where we wanted to raise our children.
Some pretty interesting songwriting going on with the new album. You weren’t a slouch to begin with, but it’s stronger. What happened?
In December 2010, my life changed forever when we welcomed our daughter into the world. I decided to take a year off of touring to be with her. Motherhood is wonderful, but it’s also exhausting. I was awake for about six months straight! I also didn’t have the luxury to flesh out song ideas for extended periods of time. Instead, I worked in very small increments and was extremely judicious about what I felt was a strong song worth the time and effort.
Who influences your melody writing?
I am influenced by many artists, but the past year I have been listening to Gregory Alan Isakov, Emmylou Harris, James Vincent McMorrow, Kathleen Edwards, the Civil Wars, Adele, Rose Cousins, and Patty Griffin.
For a happy wife and mom, you pen some pretty dark lyrics for “Arrival of the Tempest” and “No Glory.” In fact, the album has an overall melancholy feel to the vocals, arrangements. Do you take a different side of yourself into the studio, call on a different side to make your music?
My daughter and husband do provide a lot of light in my life but where there is light, the natural order of things is to have darkness. To be honest, I had a lot of long nights to reflect upon my life and the roles I play to and for other people. I don’t feel I took a different side of myself into the studio but rather was able to draw upon a more mature side of myself to deliver a tender, touching, and melancholy vocal performance.
How do you decide on which musicians to work with?
I had such an incredible experience recording my last album with Matt Patrick at The Library Studio in Minneapolis that it was an easy decision to record Dust & Echoes there. I tend to work with the same musicians on projects especially when we’re under a time crunch. I flew from San Francisco for a week in July and the band recorded all the bedtracks and I completed all the vocals and piano within seven days.
Did you accomplish everything you set out to do with this album?
Creatively, I am at peace with this album. I truly love how it turned out and I am very excited to share it with my fellow Minnesotans.
Coverage of issues and events affecting Central Corridor communities is funded in part by a grant from the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.