Photo by Tim Forbes
The divine, Prince Edward County born, Kingston-based, singer-songwriter Miss Emily (a.k.a. Emily Fennell) is an artist that Eastern Ontarians have known and loved for many years. She has been a fixture on the Kingston music scene, playing just about every venue in town in her many incarnations: with her rock band – The Emily Fennell Band, her country act – Sugarplum, and more recently as soul/rock singer-songwriter Miss Emily. If you’ve heard Emily sing you can’t help but be wowed because she can sing anything and make it sound fresh and exciting. She has one of those rock voices, the likes of which we haven’t heard since Melissa Etheridge released Bring Me Some Waterover 20 years ago. She can growl sexily or softly croon and melt your heart within the context of one verse or chorus! Emily exudes strength and vulnerability in equal measure and the quality of her songwriting is exceptional.
Gene Simmons of KISS recently declared, “Miss Emily has the best pipes we have ever heard, in an unsigned artist! We are moving ahead, and want to sign Miss Emily to our label.” It won’t be long before the rest of Canada and the world discover those awesome pipes!
Emily recently signed with the management team at 333 Music / RomanLine Ent. and credits Cliff Fabri (the man who discovered Avril Lavigne) for being the brainchild behind Miss Emily. “Cliff had this idea of me singing original music, more of my soul/rock stuff, sitting at a piano for half the set and the other half with my electric guitar,” said Fennell. I’m sure that a lot of Em’s fans are thanking him for that now!
I have known Emily a little for the past seven years because I’m a fan of her music and have seen her perform many times. I couldn’t be happier that she now has to decide which major label to sign with because she’s had multiple offers! This couldn’t be happening to a lovelier, more genuine or deserving person and I just can’t wait to hear her debut album as Miss Emily and all the other great rock songs that she’s yet to write. Miss Emily is exactly the artist that this country needs right now!
Hi Emily! So, I take it that the past six months have been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for you? How would you describe what’s happened in your life since you met Cliff Fabri?
Hi Christine! 🙂 Yes! This has been a crazy period of time, in particular 2011 thus far. It’s amazing to me how quickly things happen when the stars align. Everything I’ve done up to this point has moved me closer to this moment and the moments ahead. I feel great excitement about what’s happening and continuing to happen.
Life with Cliff means I now have someone more motivated in my music than myself! 😉 He’s been so enthusiastic and encouraging. I feel blessed to have a team-mate like him, as well as our other contributing team-mates David Peach and Mark Monahan. It takes a village…
The quotes I’ve been reading about you have been amazingly positive and completely deserved. How do you feel when you hear the compliments you’ve been receiving from top music industry officials?
Any and all recognition is always appreciated, as far as I’m concerned. To be recognized and appreciated by some of the people in the music industry as of recent leaves me speechless. I do what I do because I love it and feel driven to do it… Having people listen and appreciate what I’m doing is a bonus!
Photo by KRL Photography
Can you describe the experience you had performing a showcase for Gene Simmons in Toronto?
Gene is a passionate and motivated man. It’s no secret that he’s a superstar both on and off the stage. His business smarts are equally as well known as his stage persona. I had lots of contact with Gene leading up to my showcase for him in Toronto and felt prepared for his larger than life presence and up-front honesty. He was encouraging and constructively critical and I soaked up all of his words best I could. I had put together a band for the evening at Gene’s request and was supported by a number of family and friends at a great venue (The Piston). It was definitely a career high for me thus far!
Is there a little girl inside of you who has always believed that she could make a career with her voice?
Ha! That poor little girl refused to do anything else! My poor parents! When you ask a child what they want to be when they grow up and they answer “a musician”, many a response resembles “but what do you want to fall back on?” I HATED hearing that growing up. I might have even used my dislike of those words to help fuel my passion for my career. My goal from an early age was to live off of my music and I did. Mind you, I spent several months early on living out of my car, but all I was earning at the time was gig money and that made it worth it to me! Over the years I’ve learned to build my career to a point where I could support my family and provide us with a vehicle and a house. Just like everyone, I look to move up in my career as I gain more experience and knowledge.
You write love songs and songs about heartbreak better and in a more relatable way than almost any other female singer-songwriter that I can think of (i.e. Shoo Fly, Another Burning Bridge and Girlfriend). How long did it take you to find your voice as a songwriter?
As long as it took for my first broken heart to happen. Early in my teenage years, the passion of songwriting came about after the death of a schoolmate. From then on, I write about everything in my life that leaves me feeling I need to get something off my chest. I’ve never been organized enough to keep a journal. My life has been documented in my songs and I’m overjoyed to have the outlet of songwriting to help me through difficult times. Having said this, I also have many happy times… some appear in a lyric or two… 😉
Are love songs the easiest songs for you to write because they come from personal experience or is a song like The Sell-Out or Encore easier for you to compose?
Songs about love lost are definitely the easiest for me to write! I wear my heart on my sleeve which leaves it exposed to the elements… 😉
What themes most inspire you to write?
Aside from love lost, I write about things that make me angry. The Sell-Out is a great example of a moment in my life where I felt I was being unfairly judged. By taking a moment that makes me feel inferior and writing about it I feel like I’ve taken back some of the power of the original statement(s).
My daughter is also inspirational songwriting material. So far my songs written about her include a struggle of my desire to be the best mother I can be for her and fearing I’m not. I call them my mom songs. According to the mothers I know, the feelings emoted in these songs are universal. To have others feel connected to your songs is one of the most rewarding feelings!
How, when and where is your perfect setting when it’s time for you to write and do you have any talismans that you have to have with you?
Ideally I have my songwriting book close by (I’ve got a couple). Songwriting for me comes when I have time to sit and feel creative and expressive. Being a mother and a business woman on top of a creative person is often stifling to my songwriting. Time alone or away from the house (the car, a Wolfe Island ferry ride, etc.) is ideal!
Do you prefer writing on the piano or with your guitar?
Either! Whichever is closer! Lately the piano has been winning as it sits beside the bed and I can reach it first!
Photo by Mark Aidan Bergin
What model of guitar is that beautiful red baby that you play?
Ahh, yes! My Gibson ES-335 in cherry red finish! I love that guitar!! It was a gift from my boyfriend in 2009.
How long will it be before we can buy Miss Emily’s debut CD?
Soon! We’re just mixing several tunes now for an E.P. due out later this Spring!
Do you have a title for it yet?
Pretty sure… but haven’t fully decided.
Do you know who your band will be when you tour the new album or will you tour solo?
The Miss Emily band as it stands now is Chris Brown (keys and band leader), Chris Koster (guitar, keys), Kirt Godwin (guitar), Ryan Gavel (bass) and Rob Radford (drums).
I remember you playing gigs at The Merchant Tap House when you were very pregnant with Piper. What does your five-year-old daughter think about her Mommy’s rock’n’roll lifestyle?
Piper gets to attend all of the ‘fun’ shows. The norm to her includes backstage passes, dressing rooms and free food. She hasn’t seen too much of the struggle and I’m happy about that because she’s so young. She would tell you that SHE is the singer and dancer of the family. Mommy sings because it’s her work. 😉
When you start to tour across the country, will you take her with you or how will you balance motherhood and your music career?
Piper is in school now and that is important to both her and I. Scheduling will depend on the time of year and other logistics. I intend to have her with me whenever possible. I’m fortunate she has an AMAZING father who shares custody with me and he and his family have been very supportive of what’s been going on in my career. At this point, motherhood and music have gone hand in hand and I expect that to continue!
You have opened for some of the cream of the Canadian music crop (The Jim Cuddy Band, Sarah Harmer, Jann Arden, Chantal Kreviazuk and Steppenwolf to name a few) and have undoubtedly met some pretty interesting characters in your travels. Who would you still like to meet and/or collaborate with?
Probably my #1 choice would be Craig Northey of my favourite Canadian band the ‘Odds’. I had the honour of working with Craig and co-contributing superstar Rob Baker (The Tragically Hip) last Fall as part of their second Strippers Union album. That was an awesome moment for me!
I’d also love to spend some time with Susan Tedeschi and G-Love… I’m huge fans of both of them!
Have you made a decision about which label you’re going to sign with?
Not yet. There are so many things to consider and when it comes to legal negotiations, I have a great team of people with far more experience helping to make educated decisions. I feel like I’m in VERY good hands and am excited as to what the following weeks will bring on paper!
Can you tell us or is it still top secret?
Ha! I’m good at keeping everyone else’s secrets better than my own, but nothing concrete yet!
Did you have fun on your recent vacation in Jamaica? Did you perform some reggae with any of the locals?
Yes and yes! Vacation was a new word to me and now I know why everyone who takes one LOVES it so much! I made some great local musician friends and did some performing, writing and recording. It wasn’t a typical resort stay and definitely one I’ll remember! 🙂
Miss Emily by The Crystal Ball (in support of the Limestone Learning Foundation)
What does the rest of 2011 hold in store for Miss Emily?
I’m excited to find out! So far some GREAT performing opportunities and an album!
Press +1 and I thank you very much for this opportunity to talk to you before your schedule hits warp speed! I feel very fortunate to be one of those people who can say I know Emily a little and I’ve always known she’s special. All the very best to you Miss Emily!