Versatile musical inspiration found at home

  • Arts
Local songstress Emily Fennell keeps busy with five different music projects on the go.
Image supplied by: Supplied
Local songstress Emily Fennell keeps busy with five different music projects on the go.

Who: Emily Fennell

What: Kingston musician

Where you may have seen her: Playing at the Merchant Tap House every Friday night after 10 p.m. Fennell has also opened for Jann Arden, Chantal Kreviazuk and Buffy Saint-Marie in Belleville.

What projects are you musically involved in right now? I call myself a jack-of-all-trades musician. I do a lot of solo stuff, and I do some duos and trios, depending on the gig. I have a jazz trio, and I have two original bands—the Emily Fennell Band, my original rock band, and I also have Sugarplum, which is an original alt-country rock group. And then I have a Motown/R&B band called Soul Flight. And then I have a blues band called the Emily Fennell Blues Band, for lack of a better name. And then periodically I play with a jam band.

Do you have a favourite project or genre?

Probably my baby, out of all of those, are my two original bands. My Emily Fennell Band is just rock—there’s no other way to describe it. We play weekly [at the Merchant], and so it’s probably the one that I pay the most attention to.

You do a lot of collaborations and work with other people. Who’s your favourite person to collaborate with?

You know what, I could not tell you just one. I’ve got a few musicians who really work well with my style—they’re in a number of my groups: Dan Curtis and Zach Colbert, they’d be two of my main guys. Andy Love used to play in every band I have, but now he’s in New Zealand.

My band, my rock band, especially, is my family here. I don’t have family here, so they sort of make up that role.

How do you write songs?

I usually write everything all at once. So I’ll sit down and maybe my daughter will be napping, I’ll have 20 minutes and it’ll be like “kabaam”—and everything will come out. Other times, I’m not so fortunate: I’ll write one verse of lyrics, and then up to two years later I’ll go back to it and finish it.

I used to be more musically driven, and now with some life experience under my belt—a little bit anyway, I’m only 26—in the past few years I’ve been more able to focus on my lyrical content. With the influence of some of my favourite local artists, like Chris Brown and Luther Wright—he’s incredibly witty and he’s extremely original lyrically—I’ve come to appreciate lyrical content more now with age and getting to know other musicians whose music has managed to influence me as songwriter.

What’s the status of your new record, Sugarplum?

I think it’s just the graphics we have to do. It scares the crap out of me: we worked so hard on this—Luther [Wright] worked so hard on this—and it’s done, it’s so weird. I just have to finish the graphics and press it, and then it’s done. I get very, not emotional, about it, but there’s a lot of stuff on that album that’s quite old and near-and-dear to my heart, and the fact that it’s going to be out in the open is a new venture for me, and I’m really excited about it.

It’ll be released in 2008, probably in the summer. [I’m] just finding the right time for releasing it. I love the bar scene that I work in, but being a mom, I wanted to get into some daytime gigs too, some family-friendly events, like the folk festivals and that sort of thing. I feel like Sugarplum could be my ticket into that world.

How do you balance your work life with being a mom? [Fennell shares custody of her three year-old daughter.] When I have her, it’s just me and her 24 hours a day, which is so nice, I think that’s every parent’s dream, but people have to work.

What I do is, the times I don’t have her, I’ll do a bunch of gigs—like right now, I have four gigs in the next 30 hours.

It’s great, I love my life. Nobody’s life is perfect, but I really like it. I like where it’s headed. It’s amazing how you can change so much—you don’t even recognize that you’re changing, you’re growing as an individual constantly. You think you know yourself, and you’re like “This is it, I’m happy,” and the next week you’re dealt another blow that challenges you and makes you think. I really like that. It keeps me writing.

—Meghan Sheffield

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