INTERVIEW: Emily Chambers – Evanescent

Music will never be perfected. It continues to morph, mixing older and used styles with new ideas. Each artist contributes elements that can never be reproduced but can always be emulated.

Emily Chambers

In walks Emily Chambers, an up and coming singer/songwriter from Vancouver. She has perfected her art, successfully combining old school jazz and R’n’B stylings with modern vibes. She is a cross between Dusty Springfield and Mary J. Blige with the likes of Aretha Franklin and John Legend.

Graciously, Chambers let me pick her brain on her inspirations, her musical beginnings, and who she would love to be…besides herself of course.

Who are your biggest influences, both personally and musically?

Musically, I was introduced to the likes of Donny Hathaway, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, and Stevie Wonder when I was around eight years old. These artists were introduced to me by this fantastic vocal teacher that I had for a decade, from the time I was eight to 18. She opened up my world to Motown, soul, and jazz with artists like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. I take a lot of inspiration from the oldies. I was also obsessed with Christina Aguilera when I was a teenager. Of course, I love Adele and Alicia Keys. Moving into my formative years, I was obsessed with the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. This is one of my all-time favorite albums.

I actually don’t have a musical family at all, which is hilarious. Apparently, I had a great aunt that was a famous opera singer, who I never met. That’s where everyone thinks all this came from. So as far as personal influences, my sister is a huge inspiration to me. She’s just such a go-getter, incredibly hard-working, incredibly creative, incredibly smart, and funny. I just want to be like her forever. She’s one of my best friends. I also look to my parents. My mom is such a strong woman. My dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about 17 years ago, and that’s been a pretty life-changing journey for our whole family, but especially for my mom and my dad. She’s just such a champion about it all. I’m fortunate to have an outstanding community of family and friends. Since I moved to Nashville, I’ve made some of my best friends and everyone here is a hustler. I’m constantly in a sea of inspiration that’s making me work my butt off, which is awesome.

You plan on releasing new music this year. What can we expect?

My plans for 2019 is to drop singles pretty much. I’ll be releasing another single in July. And then after that, probably in September…

I have been writing like a madman, so I’m excited about the new direction that we’re moving in. I’m pumped to release my next single.

What can we expect from your new singles musically? Will they be along the lines of your single “Left Alabama” and your EP Magnolia?

Emily Chambers“Left Alabama” is an excellent gateway between the classicsoul song moving into the neo-soul direction. I love the mix and balance between produced sounds, produced drums, 808s, and elements mixed in with live drums, acoustic piano, electric guitar, and horns. I love the balance between that kind of production so you can expect more of that…I still have a heavy jazz influence in my new material.

I’m gearing towards higher energy material that’s more fun, more geared towards getting a younger fan base, and getting into the accessible circuit. The new music will really reflect where I’m at right now at this point in my life.

What does a day in the studio look like for Emily Chambers? What do you need for your creativity to thrive?

I’m all about the ambiance. I like low lighting. My producer that I worked with on “Real Talk” and “Left Alabama” and that I’m continuing to work with, he’s all about that too. You know, the incense, the sort of high vibe sprays, and setting everything right because you’re in there for 10 hours.

It’s a lot of talking about how my producer and I want things to feel musically and what we are saying with the lyrics. We go through a million different sounds, and I’m singing parts to him. It’s super fun. It’s my favorite place to be, other than the stage, especially when we’re tracking vocals.

Bringing ideas to life is just pretty magical. It’s productive, and I feel like I’m in my element, where I’m supposed to be.

How did your journey in music begin?

When I was eight years old, my mom asked me if I wanted to take singing lessons. We lived across the street from an amazing Canadian jazz singer named Joani Taylor. I trained with her once a week for a decade. I sang my first performance in grade five in front of the talent show and then kind of went from there. Through high school, I won the Idol competition and then started singing all of our national anthems. That led to singing for a local hockey team and then singing for our CFL football league.

My sister was the one that suggested I go to Berklee College of Music…I applied, and I got into Berklee on a vocal scholarship. I didn’t apply anywhere else. I did a year at Berklee and was so fortunate to have that year given to me by my parents. And then they were like, “Okay. That’s your entire education fund in one year, so you’re on your own.”

I made the decision that I didn’t want to take out a hundred thousand dollars worth of student loans to get a performance degree. Not that there’s anything wrong with doing that, but it just wasn’t the route for me. So I decided to leave after that year, and I went to Europe with some, buddies for what was supposed to be three weeks. I ended up singing at an open mic, and some older man said, “You need to come out and busk with me on the street.”

I ended up meeting up with him with my buddies. We played guitar, and we learned a couple of songs. I ended up staying in Europe for four and a half months, busking the south of France and Italy, and into Greece. For me, it was like, “Okay, you tell the world you’re not going to make music anymore and it kind of gets thrown right back in your face.” Europe was the first time where people (I was 19) would just stop on the street and be like, “You’re amazing.”

Emily ChambersThen I came back to Vancouver, had some career ups and downs, and started the band, Champaign Republic. We were a five-piece soul, pop, funk group, and we ran together for six years. We signed with a management company, and we got a lost in trying to write something for radio. I just lost all inspiration for the project. I think a lot of us did, and so, right as our band agreement ended and our PR plan was going to roll out, I left. I went solo in 2015, released “Magnolia” in 2016, and then I took off in my van to tour the U.S. Now, I am in Nashville.

Now for a little light conversation…

What is your favorite song to cover?

Well, this changes. Right now I love covering “Just the Two of Us” by Grover Washington, Jr. I also love covering Bruno Mars.

If you could collaborate with anybody musically, dead or alive, who would you choose?

Oh, god. Do I just get one? I would love to collaborate with Quincy Jones, but I could name 50 more. That’s the first one that came to my mind.

If you could be anybody for a day, who would it be?

Oprah. I’d love to wake up to this beautiful estate, with a lovely breakfast made for my dogs and me, and then I’d got out and have a super soul conversation with some spiritual leader in the world. I love Oprah.

On April 26th Chambers released her latest single, “Real Talk.” A hard-hitting soul power ballad with elements of classic rock and roll, jazz, and candid honesty.

Chambers artistry is bound for impact. Whether she goes on to sell out Radio City or win a few Grammys, she has made her mark on music using her straightforward lyrics to her evanescent vocals. Keep an eye open, she’s on her way.

Download “Real Talk” today on iTunes and stream on Spotify.

Emily Chambers

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ALBUM REVIEW: Ella Fitzgerald, Sings The Gershwin Songbook

I began thumbing through my records to figure out who I would like to write about. After a thorough examination, I decided to go with the First Lady of Song, Ms. Ella Fitzgerald.

There are quite a few eras in Fitzgerald’s career. She had her time with Chuck Webb until his passing in 1939 where his band was renamed “Ella and Her Famous Orchestra.” Fitzgerald then went on to record for Decca, where she began singing “bebop” and became known for her famous scatting.

It wasn’t until her manager, Norman Granz, created Verve records around Fitzgerald that she broke free from “bebop” and returned to her roots. This is where she began recording her famous “Songbook” records. My personal favorite (that I am lucky to own) is Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Gershwin Songbook.

She sings these songs with such ease. She transitions emotions flawlessly through such songs “(I’ve Got) Beginner’s Luck” to “The Man I Love.” Her fun side comes out on songs like “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” and “Clap Yo’ Hands.” She even gets a little sexy with “Lorelei.”

Fitzgerald makes singing sound easy and from experience, it is not an easy task to adequately sing a song and project emotion in the same breath. As the liner notes on this album states, she got a pair of shaky knees when she entered her first talent contest as a dancer. So instead of dancing she decided to sing. She won 1st place, $25, and the rest is history.

When I listen to Fitzgerald I feel comfortable. Sometimes you would even swear she’s even in the room with you, lightly caressing your ears with her universal vocals.

I purchased my grandparent’s crushed velvet chairs when they moved. They are very comfortable and I can still smell my grandparent’s house on them to this day. In their time they actually took care of things and they look like they are right off the showroom floor.

Fitzgerald is my crushed velvet chairs. Her music may be old, but it will never lose it’s warmth and comfort. Her love is here to stay.

ALBUM REVIEW: Harry Belafonte, Belafonte Sings The Blues

Music takes you places.

I recently found myself in the back of a small blues bar. The kind that has those red velvet seats and old wooden tables. Each setting possessed a marble ashtray and I was using it. I ordered a glass of scotch and it was on its way. I was by myself, not necessarily in a down mood, but in the mood for a journey, something different. I was just ready to be somewhere else.

Then the record needle picked up and I realized it was just a vinyl fantasy.

This is where Harry Belafonte took me with his 1958 release “Belafonte Sings The Blues.” I had listened to some of Belafonte’s earlier material, including his calypso recordings, but this has to be one of my favorites in his catalog.

One must understand that the essence of the blues is communicating your emotions not only through words but tone and assertion. Each song on this album takes on a different mood, whether it be vulnerability, anger, contentment, or happiness. I could write all day on the nature of blues and jazz music, but one thing is for certain, Belafonte has it down pat.

Belafonte_sings_the_bluesHe opens the album with Ray Charles’ “A Fool for You.” This song serves as a prelude for what is to come, especially when Belafonte declares “that you can cry so loud you give the blues to your neighbor next door.” His listeners are his neighbors and I’m not looking for a place to move.

Belafonte then goes into “Losing Hand” explaining how he gambled on love but was done wrong by the lady. At this point, I had taken my cigarette to the roulette table. The next song, “Hallelujah I Love Her So,” tells of the happiness he feels in a relationship. Although It moved me a little more to the bright side, let’s just say one can acquire new chips, but they don’t always last long.

I had a brief intermission (record flip) and I was then thinking about my past. “Cotton Fields” were a reality for far too many families during this recording and the years before it. He explained the struggle while also dealing with segregation. I find it interesting how Belafonte later led many civil rights causes and was a good friend of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s. This song expresses the strife he was fighting against.

The true gem of this record is the Billie Holliday penned, “God Bless The Child.” By Harry-Belafonte-with-guitarthis time he was just Harry and we were sitting at the table just partying in a slightly drunken pity. We just can’t rely on anybody. We realized the best way to be is to “have his own.” He sings this as if he is having a conversation with you. Through his interpretation, the words opened a new meaning through a perceived back and forth dialogue. This has to be one of the best rendition of this song ever, rivaling Miss Lady Day.

By the time I got home that night, I reeked of smoke. Yet through all the haze, clarity seemed to seep through, giving me a relaxed feeling for the time being. It’s going to be tough. I will be singing the blues again, but I now have a sense of satisfaction that life is going to be ok.

That’s what the blues does for you. Through its depression it brings hope. Belafonte’s record is one that can truly take you through that journey.

ALBUM REVIEW: Neil Diamond, The Jazz Singer

I have to first off state that I have never seen the movie The Jazz Singer, but I will correct that soon. So this review will be strictly over the music and hopefully not completely out of context. Forgive me, I am just more of a music man then a movie man.

Neil Diamond has been a staple in music and pop culture since 1963 when he released neil-diamond-the-jazz-singerhis first solo single, “Clown Town.” Although this was predicted to be a hit, it failed to chart successfully. Diamond began to spend the majority of the following years songwriting. He wrote for many legendary performers, including Elvis Presley and the Monkees, and wrote some legendary tunes including “I’m a Believer” and “Sweet Caroline”.

His first hit came as an artist in 1966 with “Solitary Man.” He began performing and opening for many big name bands and artists, but began to feel restricted by his record company. He then switched over to MCA Records and his solo career gained serious traction with a string of hit songs and albums. He also became extremely well known for his stage performances.

In 1980 he had planned on starring in a movie with Barbra Streisand titled after the song “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.” He instead opted to star in a remake of The Jazz Singer. He agreed to write songs for the film, thus my album review starts.

TheJazzSingerNeilDiamondalbumcoverFrom this soundtrack/album alone I am amazed at Diamond’s songwriting. It takes a lot to be a songwriter, but he has a special quality I feel many don’t. That’s adaptability. He was able to adapt his lyrics to a storyline, instead of writing from just his personal experiences.

The album opens with the hit “America.” I think most Americans know this song, even if they don’t know where it came from. It’s an anthem for every American and could be considered an anthem for many immigrants. The songs talks about coming to America for freedom, a home, and ultimately to pursue a dream, all set to an uptempo musical style. The last seconds of the song use lyrics from the classic song “My Country Tis of Thee.” A great ending to an optimistic ode to this great nation.

The album then goes into the classic “You Baby.” A definite concert pleaser and a tune you are slightly embarrassed to admit you dance to alone. The next gem comes with “Love on the Rocks.” The lyrics tie in a double meaning, not only is there a love relationship that is over, yet there is also slight drinking involved. My favorite line, “Love on the rocks, ain’t no surprise, pour me a drink, I’ll tell you some lies.” This ballad goes on to explain how love can often be a hardship. He actually encourages one to leave a relationship once “they” know they have you. Lesson to be learned: don’t ever totally give yourself to one entity, for that provides the furthest fall.

I enjoyed the religious references in “Amazed and Confused” and “Jerusalem.” It seemsjazzsinger that, although “Amazed and Confused” is from a movie where Judaism is prominent, it has much to say to Christians. It talks about someone waiting on the other side of the Jordan (As a Christian, I would say Jesus), casting stones as they cross (sins), but that they will abide (God’s grace and law).

Lastly, I just have a slight comment on “Acapulco.” This song seems to be an 80’s version of the Andrew Sisters “Rum and Coca-Cola.” This sensed connection had to be expressed.

For me, this is a prelude to the movie. I have read where the movie was not quite as successful as the album, but the songs were recorded live on set. This is a huge testament to Diamond’s vocal talent as well. Although, the title of the album and movie can be a misconception, for there is not any jazz, but pop music performed.

So although there is no Jazz actually performed, the soul and heritage of Jazz are portrayed within the music. Jazz is about hurt, emotion, and overcoming obstacles. It’s in the genre’s history. This album’s title is a perfect correlation to these facts.

This movie is Diamond’s first and last. It has taken the hit of ridicule and acclaim, but the music is golden. Unfortunately, I now want to see this movie, and Netflix never has that one movie you need.

I guess today I will be off to all the used DVD stores.