"I think it is important for all of us, whether it is fans, musicians, DJs or journalists, to ensure that Blues music is continually acknowledged as the highest form of art, I think even in the last 5 years the "Genre" of Blues has re-emerged as a strong part of contemporary music, and that is a really good thing. I hope my small contribution will show how much I respect the beautiful soulful music that is 'Blues'."
Emma Wilson: Memphis Calling ...901
British Rhythm & Blues Singing Sensation and winner of "Emerging Blues Artist of the Year" 2022 at the UK Blues Awards. Emma Wilson - follows up her hugely successful debut album "Wish Her Well" (2022) with a brilliant new release recorded at 'Sam Phillips Recording' in Memphis. New album "Memphis Calling" (2023) is produced by Scott Bomar and features some of the worlds most revered, talented and soulful musicians, including members of the Hi Rhythm Section - Charles Hodges, Leroy Hodges and Archie 'Hubbie' Turner, and legendary drummer Steve Potts, (Booker T & The MG's). Memphis soul royalty, Don Bryant, also makes an appearance, duetting on "What Kind Of Love" a song he wrote with Scott Bomar, and asked Emma to sing. "What Kind of Love" is Longlisted for the Grammy Awards in the category "American Roots Performance" Emma's skill as a songwriter is also shown with tracks co-written with Gary Burr (Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame Inductee), Terry Reid & Scott Bomar. The rest of the album tracks are carefully chosen songs by other writers that Emma particularly wanted to record in this setting - with this band. (Emma Wilson / Photo by John Finlayson)
Hailing from Teesside in the North of England, Emma Wilson with her fabulously dynamic voice moves effortlessly between heart-wrenching sweet soul licks & raw, real, powerful blues. Emma's unique, tender vocals & gorgeous tone lend themselves beautifully to recordings with shades of early Aretha Franklin & hints of another of Emma's all time favourites Ann Peebles. Live Emma Wilson Shows are vibrant & visceral delivered with true passion, heart & soul with Emma giving all of herself to her audience. Having performed with her band in blues bars and at festivals across the UK including the Ealing Blues Festival, The Crawdaddy Club Richmond, The legendary Ealing Club, Howzat Blues Festival & many of the wonderful blues & soul nights around the country it is fair to say that Emma has certainly paid her blues dues. Emma is also a well-loved guest singer which in October 2016 saw her join an incredible line up of artists at the 'An Evening For Jack' tribute concert for Jack Bruce, Shepherds Bush Empire. The supergroup also included Bernie Marsden, Terry Reid, Mick Taylor, Steve Hackett, Dennis Chambers and many more incredible artists.
Interview by Michael Limnios Archive: Emma Wilson, 2022 interview
How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started making music? What has remained the same about your music-making process?
Primarily I think my confidence as an artist has grown, my voice really is the same since I really started singing professionally, however it is the opportunities to use it which have changed. I began singing songs made popular by Aretha Franklin, Ann Peebes, Etta James, this gave me a vocal sound, a way of interpreting songs. I believe I developed as a singer when I began writing my own songs, and deliver them in my own style. In June this year, I visited Memphis where I made my new album "Memphis Calling" the producer Scott Bomar and the musicians in Memphis treated me as an equal - even though their experience far outweighs mine. Their nurturing and support in the studio allowed me to really "fly". I opened up my voice, opened up my soul and sang the best I ever have. I channeled every gig, big or small I had ever performed at sang my heart out.
As an artist on the international stage that has taken some adjusting to... it has all really happened in the last year. Being signed for distribution with Memphis based "Select O Hits", making my album at "Sam Phillips Recording" and having a USA based publicist in Frank Roszak has hugely increased my profile and I am just learning to love and embrace it!
My music making has remained the same in that I throw all of myself into each gig and recording...I am able to mentally put myself in a space which pulls in all my influences sing the songs from the heart, I also think I am good at finding great people to work with!
"However Frank Roszak taught me a good lesson, he said to me that I needed to learn to say "I have made a great record, we sound great, I sound great", I am essentially a product and I need to firmly believe in what I create otherwise all these marvelous people working for me promoting and selling my record are going to be a bit cross!" (Emma Wilson / Photo by Tony Cole)
Currently you’ve one release titled “Memphis Calling”. How did your relationship with Memphis Music come about?
I recorded my debut Album "Wish Her Well" in the UK with great session players and was due to release it myself in 2022 through the online distribution platform Distrokid. In a last-minute flash of inspiration I thought I would send the tracks to every person of influence I knew in the Music Business -about 30 people- to see if anyone wanted to sign me or distribute the record. I already had some presence on the Blues scene having released some EPs that had radio play and through my live gigs, but nobody was interested in this new record, until I had an email from Frank (Roszak). Frank, who lives in LA, and I am in England - had been keeping a keen eye on my progress and when he heard the tracks from the album the yet unreleased "Wish Her Well " album he emailed me and said "Stop what you are doing! Do not release this on Distrokid! I need to introduce you to somebody!" ..
Frank then connected me with Johnny Phillips, who is the nephew of the great Sam Phillips and is owner of the Memphis based distribution company "Select-O-Hits". Johnny signed me up for a distribution deal and we put out the album. From that point my career started to build, I won "Emerging Blues Artist of The Year" at the 2022 UK Blues Awards and the "Wish Her Well" album sold very well and charted across the international blues charts and was played by DJs around the world. I was supported by Johnny and his team who helped put me on a much bigger platform.
By January 2023 I was beginning to write my next album and I went to Nashville to co-write with Gary Burr (a very successful and well-known songwriter - he has dozens of ASCAP awards and No.1 hits) Gary and I wrote 4 great songs 2 of which are on my new album. So, I am in Nashville and I take the Greyhound to Memphis to meet with Johnny Phillips, really to say Hi, Thank you, give him a hug! We got on so well, he asked me to sing for him and we did a fantastic podcast interview. During the Podcast Johnny said to me "You really should come and record this new album in Memphis, we have a fantastic refurbished STAX board over at Sam Phillips Recording"...I was actually stunned, the day before I had been at the STAX museum looking around, fawning over the equipment, thinking of all the amazing artists who had recorded there and now I was being invited to come and record on one of the original boards at one of the most iconic studios in the World!...By June 2023 I was back in Memphis to make the album.
"As an artist on the international stage that has taken some adjusting to... it has all really happened in the last year. Being signed for distribution with Memphis based "Select O Hits", making my album at "Sam Phillips Recording" and having a USA based publicist in Frank Roszak has hugely increased my profile and I am just learning to love and embrace it!" (Emma Wilson / Photo by John Finlayson)
Do you have any interesting stories about the making of the new album “Memphis Calling”?
The whole experience was magical. I had arrived in Memphis late on Sunday night, my plane was delayed. On Monday morning I got into a cab and asked to go to '639 Madison Avenue (the address of 'Sam Phillips Recording')... even saying the address gave me goosebumps. The cab pulled up outside the studio and there was a guy up a ladder right over the front entrance painting the top of the porch, he looked down and said "Good Morning Miss who are you here to see?" it was just funny...it was so normalizing in such a weird and wonderful situation.
Scott Bomar was waiting to welcome me and opened the glass front door, I shuffled past the ladder giving Scott a hug, this was the first time we had me other than on 'Zoom'. The building is an old muffler shop, very low and cool looking, very '50s. The Phillips family have kept is exactly how Sam decorated it, the ice cream colours, the sputnik style light fittings - its amazing. The live room is spectacular, huge, probably 60 by 80 feet... the ceiling is chopped into angular V shapes and there are long panels attached to the back wall which Sam used to open and close to change the sound in the room. There are vintage mics and wurlitzers and hammonds everywhere and the original neon plastic chairs and in the vocal booth 3 little brass hooks to rest your 'cans'...it's just gorgeous.
Scott and I spent 2 days preparing our music for the musicians who came on the Wednesday. I was nervous, they are some of my heroes, musicians who's names I had written down in a little book as a teenager, I had studied their music for my whole life. They arrived - Charles Hodges, Leroy Hodges, Archie 'Hubbie' Turner & Steve Potts, all of them elegant, calm, kind and so happy to be there, Joe Restivo is a younger cat, he would look over at me sometimes as if to say "I get it!" The band were great, I immediately felt comfortable in their presence and ready to sing. We recorded some absolutely beautiful music, and all 'Live'. After we recorded "Hoochie Coochie Mama" Hubbie Turner sat back in his chair and said "She's not from Middlesbrough-She's from Mississippi!" - and Steve Potts said to me when we were recording the song 'Water'... Emma can you cue me the ending?" that was a surreal moment, I almost didn't feel worthy...but I did and it was great!
I recorded with the band for 2 days and we nailed 9 songs, then we had a day recording horns with two brilliant people who for me embody the 'Memphis Horns' sound Kirk Smothers on baritone & tenor saxes and Mark Franklin on Trumpet. I also have to mention Don Bryant, a delight of a man, funky, fun and what a singer. He came into record "What Kind Of Love" with me a song he wrote with Scott. Knowing what a master of vocal delivery he is I asked Don if he had any advice on how I should perform it, he took my two hands in his looked me in the eye and said "Just sing it honey". We recorded "What Kind Of Love" as the others- live, Don and I looking at each other, singing to each other, with the band rocking behind us. It was truly a dream come true, if you listen to the song, you can hear the joy in my voice, we vamp off each other at the end - I listen back to that a lot and it makes me so, so happy. (Emma Wilson / Photo by Tony Cole)
"I think honoring the roots of blues is essential, all music stems from the blues, 'The Rolling Stones' still call themselves a blues band, and they are. The more involved I am in the Blues community the more I realize what an amazing family it is, and its a joy to be part of. The blues DJs are super fans of the blues, I learn so much from listening to their shows, and I am a 'geek' over the blues."
What moment changed your music life the most? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?
Getting my distribution deal with "Select-O-Hits" and recording my new album "Memphis Calling" really are probably the biggest highlights of my career so far as you can tell from my previous answers, it has already changed my life, even doing interviews like this, the interest in the album and me as an artist has been wonderful. I am gradually getting used to it and never take anything for granted.
I have also been lucky to have performed with and learned from some very talented and soulful musicians in my career so far, most of whom you may never have heard of, people who dedicate their lives to music, whether it is playing in bars, in colleges or studio sessions, I have learned from every one of them, every time I sing it's a highlight, I just love it.
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?
I know it's a cliché but 'be humble' it is a fine line between putting something on your Facebook page about how great your album is doing and actually realizing how fortunate you are. However Frank Roszak taught me a good lesson, he said to me that I needed to learn to say "I have made a great record, we sound great, I sound great", I am essentially a product and I need to firmly believe in what I create otherwise all these marvelous people working for me promoting and selling my record are going to be a bit cross! As an English person I think we have a characteristic which means we play everything down, 'oh I'm not bad, oh I can sing a bit'... which doesn't fill people with confidence in you, so I have really forced myself to say in interviews "We've made a sensational album"...and once you say it once, it becomes so easy!
"I have also been lucky to have performed with and learned from some very talented and soulful musicians in my career so far, most of whom you may never have heard of, people who dedicate their lives to music, whether it is playing in bars, in colleges or studio sessions , I have learned from every one of them, every time I sing it's a highlight, I just love it." (Emma Wilson / Photo by Tony Cole)
Why is it important to we preserve and spread the blues? What is the role of music in today’s society?
I think honoring the roots of blues is essential, all music stems from the blues, 'The Rolling Stones' still call themselves a blues band, and they are. The more involved I am in the Blues community the more I realize what an amazing family it is, and its a joy to be part of. The blues DJs are super fans of the blues, I learn so much from listening to their shows, and I am a 'geek' over the blues. I think it is important for all of us, whether it is fans, musicians, DJs or journalists, to ensure that Blues music is continually acknowledged as the highest form of art, I think even in the last 5 years the "Genre" of Blues has re-emerged as a strong part of contemporary music, and that is a really good thing. I hope my small contribution will show how much I respect the beautiful soulful music that is 'Blues'.
Do you think there is an audience for Blues/Soul music in its current state? or at least a potential for young people to become future audiences and fans?
Yes, I do think there is an audience, I am encouraged to see younger people coming to concerts and I know from my fan base I have a lot of younger fans. I did a gig in Leeds (England) last week and my nieces Kitty & Daisy came, they are in their 20's they brought 15 of their friends and all of them loved the gig, they danced sang and said how much they enjoyed it. They have been sharing my songs on "Instagram" and messaging me about the album and their favourite tracks...you could say that without my nieces bringing that group along they may not have ever found my music...who knows? I think what is says is that we need to ensure that younger audiences have access to Blues gigs and music, how we do that I am still working out! I probably need to do a duet with Taylor Swift !...she is a Nashville girl so watch this space!
(Emma Wilson / Photo by John Finlayson)
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