Q&A with UK dynamic singer Emma Wilson, heart-wrenching sweet soul licks & raw, real, powerful blues

"I think live music has amazing benefits on people’s mental health, it brings joy, relief, escapism and a warm social environment. As an audience member I have probably been to more gigs on my own than with anyone. You can go to a gig alone and be part of a community, smile at the person next to you when the band play something super cool, chat at the bar with people because you have a common interest. Music is great."

Emma Wilson: British Blues Siren

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. As a result of her incredible talent, dynamic performances, on and off stage presence, deeply personal connection to her fans, Dj's, photographers & promoters; as well as her involvement in all aspects of the blues & soul scene Emma's following as grown exponentially.

(Emma Wilson / Photo by Oleg Katchinski)

All of this combined has also ensured her a well-earned place amongst the best of the British blues and soul scene and has earned her dozens of radio interviews, worldwide radio play, awards, accolades, excellent press & fabulous reviews. 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. With such a rich tapestry of experience and talent you can be sure that Emma Wilson has hit her glorious stride and with her new release 'Wish Her Well' (Release Day: May 13th, 2022) receiving rave reviews from industry professionals, magazines & radio DJ's you can be sure there is plenty more Emma to come! The album is 10 original songs dealing with love, death, lust, rejection, empowerment and simple painful heartbreak.


Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues/Jazz and Rock music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Blues music began to filter into my DNA when I was a teenager, hearing my older brother's records, Ray Charles, BB King, Muddy Waters...I joined a band when I was 16. I sang songs made popular by Aretha, Koko Taylor and Etta James, so as a young woman I was singing lyrics which talked about life and a big unusual world even if I didn't really understand their meaning.

But this was an education, being in a band “knocked the corners off me” because I was a precocious teenager and could be quite mouthy. I learned band etiquette; how to load in and set up a PA, how to communicate with the audience and the promoters, how to learn songs, and in performing respect the original artist and most of all how to work with the guys in the band who were all 10 to 20 years older than me. They were all brilliant musicians, they helped me choose songs and would take time with me in rehearsals, but they didn’t take any nonsense, those were the external influences.

Internally I would say the act of singing is very physical, spiritual and emotional, a singer tells the story with the lyrics and emotively with the music so when I sing a song, that song is becoming part of me and stays with me, so to be honest my perspective on the world and the journeys I have taken have all been through the spectrum of music.

"Be a part of the Blues Community in every way, represent women in the best way you can. Women are doing great in the Music Industry as are men as are all LGBTQ+ community. One of our best Blues radio shows in the UK is hosted by Michelle Evans at “Trans Radio UK” We are all doing our best and as a result of that the Blues Scene is cooking." (Emma Wilson / Photo by John Finlayson)

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from? 

I truly hope my sound is now my own, with reflections of my influences from deep Blues, sultry Soul, a little Gospel and some rocking riffs. The new album “Wish Her Well” is ten original songs. I wrote all of the lyrics and the top line melody, and the band and I wrote the music and arrangements together. This is my first original studio album; I have previously written songs but these new songs are much more confident in feel and lyrically I wasn't afraid to say what I really meant. Each song is a love story, whether it be about a lover, a friend, my father or my love of music itself, the lyrics are exactly as they came out of me, I didn't change one word from when I sang it into my mobile 'phone to when I recorded them. What I have learned through performing is that if you are fake the audience lose interest and rightly so, so when I made this record, I wanted to give the listener a lot to think about. My biggest musical influence is the Singer/Songwriter Ann Peebles, her lyrics are superb, she is powerful and yet so feminine and her arrangements are just sublime. Ann's ”I Can't Stand The Rain” was the first album I ever bought for myself and since then I have been in love with her music. (Now in a beautiful twist of fate her we are now both on the same label, “Select O Hits” in Memphis). I think I am lucky in that my creative drive is within me, I am quite full of energy and when I am making music, I am even more driven. Interestingly I pick sounds up in the strangest places, like a squeaky door or rain on a window, if I hear a rhythm I think “Oh that's groovy!” and I have a lot of internal dialogue, so lyrics are mainly me just expending that!

What were the reasons that made the UK since 1960s to be the center of Blues/Rock researches and experiments?

I don't think it's what I think it's who, The Rolling Stones, Cream, The Animals, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Graham Bond, Dick Heckstall- Smith all brilliant visionaries who took their influences from Blues and added very British twist which still resonates with artists of today including me. Also, we need to acknowledge Chas Chandler who brought Jimi Hendrix to England and the dynamic British Promoter John McCoy who put “Jimmie Hendrix” on at his small club “The Kirklevington Country Club” in North Yorkshire before Jimi was even known. John also was the first promoter outside of London to book The Rolling Stones. The vibe must have been incredible, I am just happy that some of it has rubbed off on me, they paved the way, and we do our best to continue fulfilling their legacy. 

"I sometimes wish I was around in the 50s and 60s as it must have been such an exciting time for Rock & Roll, but the scene is so vibrant now I think we are having a real resurgence of Blues Music around the world and when I say that I mean that it is becoming a more prominent genre, able to sit alongside what is perceived as traditional popular music. Blues has always been there its just some people never noticed." (Emma Wilson / Photo by Graham Hutton)

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Walking into the rehearsal for the Jack Bruce Tribute the day before the gig was surreal. The room was long and narrow and down the side were plastic seats and each one occupied by a superstar; Dennis Chambers, Bernie Marsen, Paul Young, Mick Taylor, Steve Hackett, Trevor Horn, Corky Laing… I was quite overwhelmed so I just said, “Would anybody like a cup of tea?!”.

Another lovely memory is how I wrote the title song for the new album, I was at a Blues jam at a venue called “The Alley Cat” in London and the audience were saying, 'do an original' so when my turn came to sing I said to the guys 'just play a slow change 12 Bar and I will sing', I already had the  lyrics for the first few lines and I just riffed the rest, the audience loved it and I was so buzzing! That song is now “Wish Her Well”.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I sometimes wish I was around in the 50s and 60s as it must have been such an exciting time for Rock & Roll, but the scene is so vibrant now I think we are having a real resurgence of Blues Music around the world and when I say that I mean that it is becoming a more prominent genre, able to sit alongside what is perceived as traditional popular music. Blues has always been there its just some people never noticed.

I hope people continue to buy music and go to gigs, in fact I want them to do it more, just step out of your door and see Live Music it's the best tonic. I also wish there were more venues in the UK, the venues we have and the festivals are excellent but we need more. Fears? I try not to have fears and if I do I put it into a song.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Be Humble and Rock! 

"Internally I would say the act of singing is very physical, spiritual and emotional, a singer tells the story with the lyrics and emotively with the music so when I sing a song, that song is becoming part of me and stays with me, so to be honest my perspective on the world and the journeys I have taken have all been through the spectrum of music." (Emma Wilson / Photo by Christopher Reed)

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you?

Music and Gigs mean you meet hundreds of people and probably make connections with them that you wouldn't in other walks of life, and for that I am grateful. However, I would say that the people I have met that have had the greatest effect on me musically are the following:

Terry Reid with whom I recorded 2 of my songs in lockdown 2021 “See You In the Morning” a duet & “Nuthin” (which Terry turned into a real Stonesy number for our version and has a totally contrasting Northern Soul feel on my new album) We are great friends and he has been an incredible mentor as what he doesn't know about the music business you could write on the side of a dime!

Pete Brown (Lyricist with “Cream”): Pete asked me to join his Blues band many years ago, he is a great singer and percussionist and through his band I met a lot of incredible people. Pete and Malcolm Bruce later invited me to perform at “An Evening for Jack” the tribute to Jack Bruce at Shepherds Bush Empire, London in 2016 alongside legends like Ginger Baker & Mick Taylor and of course Terry Reid.

The DJs of the “UK Independent Blues Broadcasters Association” (IBBA): Since I released my first EP in 2019 the guys and girls of the IBBA have consistently supported me, played my music and pushed my first 3 EPs to No1, No2 and No11 of the IBBA charts. They have given me such great quotes, helped me with technical stuff and generally been there to look out for me so I am so grateful to them and as I always say they are “independent” so they can play what they want!

Frank Roszak: Who has believed in me from the start and is now my publicist and introduced me to ... Johnny Phillips: Who has signed me to his label “Select O Hits” in Memphis, to be recognized by such a legend of the music industry is quite magical. (“Select O Hits” are distributing “Wish Her Well” digitally and in North America). Lynn Lancaster of “Proper Music” who sends me motivational emails and has been so patient in navigating me through this brand-new experience (“Proper Music” are distributing “Wish Her Well” in UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand).

"I think I am lucky in that my creative drive is within me, I am quite full of energy and when I am making music, I am even more driven. Interestingly I pick sounds up in the strangest places, like a squeaky door or rain on a window, if I hear a rhythm I think “Oh that's groovy!” and I have a lot of internal dialogue, so lyrics are mainly me just expending that!" (Emma Wilson / Photo by John Finlayson)

What does to be a female artist in a Man’s World as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

My brother said to me when I first joined a band “Always be a lady, don't pee in the sink” I don't think he meant it literally, but I got it. You have to strike a good balance as a woman in the music industry. Respect people, your band and your peers, know your stuff and be prepared to be challenged, know who plays in the current Robert Cray band, know who won the Best Contemporary Blues album at the 2022 Grammys and by the same token if you don't know something say “I don't know” its alright not to know, it's alright to have weaknesses, but admit them and ask, be inquisitive and interested. Be a part of the Blues Community in every way, represent women in the best way you can. Women are doing great in the Music Industry as are men as are all LGBTQ+ community. One of our best Blues radio shows in the UK is hosted by Michelle Evans at “Trans Radio UK” We are all doing our best and as a result of that the Blues Scene is cooking.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

I think live music has amazing benefits on people’s mental health, it brings joy, relief, escapism and a warm social environment. As an audience member I have probably been to more gigs on my own than with anyone. You can go to a gig alone and be part of a community, smile at the person next to you when the band play something super cool, chat at the bar with people because you have a common interest. Music is great. 

I remember visiting my Grandfather, I was about 12 and a friend of his who was there said to me “So Emma what are you going to be when you grow up?” and I said “A Singer” he looked at my Grandfather and said rather scathingly “Well it looks like you'll have to support her financially then” to which my Gramps replied “I lived through the depression, people will always need to be entertained, she will be alright..” I've kept this in my heart ever since.

Emma Wilson Music - Home

(Emma Wilson / Photo by John Finlayson)

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