Saturday, February 14, 2015

Emily Gold

Come out and see Emily Gold when her band plays Hotel Cafe next Thursday, February 19th. Info here. After a debut performance at Los Globos two weeks ago, the band is ready for prime-time and sure to garner attention. The following is an interview with Emily that I've been working on.

With all the new acts that come to Los Angeles, it becomes a daunting task to try to keep up with all the talent vying for ones attention, but this one stood out. A few weeks ago I received a message and a link to a song from a local artist asking me to take a listen to see if I wanted to feature it on my blog. The name on the message was Emily Gold and when I got to the line where she said she was the daughter of seventies singer/songwriter Andrew Gold, a light bulb went off in my head.

Andrew Gold was one of the large group of musicians and writers including Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, JD Souther and many others who brought a Southern twang to the folk/rock movement started in the mid-60s by the likes of James Taylor, and spawning groups like Little Feat and The Allman Brothers and more. As a multi-talented multi-instrumentalist, he was an important part of Linda Ronstadt's touring band during the mid-seventies and that would have been when I'd seen him around 1976 when Linda played the Music Hall in Boston. A concert I still remember well.

I became convinced of his musical bona fides, once I learned that his parents were Oscar winning film composer Ernest Gold (Exodus - 1960) and vocal artist, Marni Nixon, who provided singing voices for three heroines of three of the top musical films of the late 1950s and early 1960s: Deborah Kerr in The King and I - 1956, Natalie Wood in West Side Story - 1961 and for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady - 1964.

I bought his 1976 album, What's Wrong With This Picture?, around this time and loved some of the songs, understood his heritage, and the album was a popular one in my house with me and my friends. So listening to "Cyanide Lollipop" was fraught with a certain amount of nostalgia and maybe a misplaced parental pride. Similar to how I feel when I talk to Inara George, since her father, Lowell George, and his band Little Feat were so important to me in the seventies. I have no real right to feel proud, but I do.

It's a lovely song revealing the probability of an inherited songwriting talent from a family of wide-ranging accomplishments. Her mother was a classical pianist, though never professionally. Here's a link where you can hear the song. I wanted to find out her story so we traded questions and answers last month and here's what I found out. Although born in London, her family moved almost immediately to Los Angeles, though annual travel back to England made her feel like a dual-citizen, and she still toys with the idea of settling there.

When Emily was seven the family moved to the East Coast settling in Connecticut, and over the course of the next seven years, her parents split up, with her father moving to Nashville and eventually back to L.A., while she stayed in Connecticut with her mother. At 14, she decided to follow her father to the West Coast and joined a pop group, making music an early career choice.

Not being a musician, and more of a visual artist, I've always been interested in the motivations that bubble up in a child compelling them to pursue the arts, whether it be music, the visual arts or writing. For me it happened before I can remember...maybe even before I learned to talk, and stuck with me through thick and thin. Like a third parent. I asked her when that choice became clear to her and whether her family's musical heritage played a part... and I'll let her tell it in her own words:

Q: How early did you realize music would be your calling?:

"I used to tell people I wanted to be a singer in elementary school, it’s even in my 5th grade yearbook photo where you say what you will be when you grow up", she told me. " I let that dream go in high school cause it kind of got bullied out of me. I didn't think it was a possibility. Around 18 or 19 I started to go to a lot of shows and I would feel so sad that it wasn’t me on stage so I started to learn guitar and write songs. Then it became crystal clear that that was the most important thing to me and that I had to be a musician and I got tunnel vision.

I think as a kid I didn’t really appreciate the cultural context of what my family did. But that’s just normal for a kid,  I was concerned with kid things, like playing Nintendo 64 with my sisters. My dad was just my weird, embarrassing dad. It never seemed different that we always had a music studio in our house or that my Grandparents were who they were. I started to appreciate my family’s musical history when I got older and started to get into classic rock and realized my dad played on a lot of those albums. Or looked through old photos of parties my parents threw when I was a tot and seeing David Crosby in the background and thinking 'holy shit! I did not care about this old man at all! I had no idea!'

Something to keep in mind is that my parents split when I was about 9 and so I didn’t see him as much and my grandfather had suffered multiple strokes and was unable to really interact for what I remember. But I think I absorbed a lot with out really being conscious of it and at the same time I came across all these genres music in my own time.

I think what stuck with me was not the type of music but the feeling of being in a studio. The smell of black leather couches and studio gear, seems funny but it is a very specific feeling that feels like home for me."

Q: I then asked about any formal musical training:

"I have kind of a hodge podge of 'training' with various stints in choir, orchestra, theatre, dance, and piano throughout grade school. I never took much of it seriously it was just a given, I could’t have imagined not doing some sort of music or performing. [Meanwhile] my mom actually had a big part in cultivating an appreciation for art and culture in me and my sisters. She always took us to the ballet or theatre or whatever."

Q: How did you develop your own musical style. I hear a bit of your father's musical vocabulary in the song I heard, plus a little of the lush orchestrations I would associate with your grandfather:

"It’s hard to say how much I learned from my family and how much I just happened upon my style.  I was never directly taught by my father or really listened to my family's music until more recently. I’m sure I subconsciously absorbed certain tastes and styles but I always gravitated towards lush, thick arrangements . I used to make songs in garageband when I was 14 with the preset loops they have and I would have like 20 tracks weaving in and out of each other. I just love layers and effects. I am very similar to my dad in that way, I had to learn how to use restraint."

Q: Did you find it helpful or a hindrance to have your family heritage when breaking into the local music scene?

"It had been both helpful and frustrating at times. Since my fathers passing, many of his friends and colleagues have come out of the woodwork and offered me advice and spiritual guidance. A few opportunities have definitely been handed to me because of him, however I pride myself on being a self taught, self sufficient musician and I don’t really push the family card too much, I don’t feel entitled to peoples help but when it is offered or even just to hear stories about my father in his earlier days I am super grateful. The only annoying thing is when people tell me I should rearrange or rewrite songs to be more like my dad. He was a frickin’ genius but I’m not trying to be like him, I’m a different kind of artist completely."

Q: And what are your goals for the near future?
I finished my LP this year and I am planning to release it in 2015, I also hope to license some of the songs for film and TV. I am collaborating on a music video for the single, “Cyanide Lollipop” with my drummer, Sean Draper, which will also come out early next year. I do have a band of some awesome dudes [David Burris, Sean Draper, Nolan "Danger" Schneidermanand] and we will be playing as many gigs as we can get our hands on all over town! We love the east side venues such as the Bootleg, Echo, Satellite etc. so hopefully we will be making the circuit!"

Thank you so much, Emily. It's so nice to hear about context and background from a developing artist. I'll be at the show at Hotel Café on Thursday, February 19th when The Emily Gold Band takes stage at 11.