Since releasing her debut album, In Technicolor, last year, Emily Bell has quickly become an integral part of the Austin music scene. Her soulful sound mixing blues-rock and pop gets feet moving and listeners noticing. And the singer’s getting noticed in a big way.
The Austin arts non-profit Black Fret, recently nominated Emily Bell one of 20 local artists who are up for a $10,000 grant in support of their craft be in recording a new album, touring, etc. 10 out of the 20 nominees will be awarded the grant. Other nominees include Danny Malone, Wild Child, Little Radar, Graham Wilkinson, Quiet Company and more.
Black Fret hosts its inaugural Black Ball gala tonight, Saturday, Nov. 8, where the winners will be announced.
I spoke to Emily Bell about being nominated, her aspirations for the coming year and her passion for rock n roll.
Sound Dessert: Where were you when you heard you were nominated for the Black Fret Award?
Emily Bell: I think I was in a meeting. Drinking coffee. I have a terrible memory, leaning more on the end of time and places and stuff like that. But I’m great at remembering feelings! And I remember feeling incredibly honored and pretty blown away. Looking at the list of all the nominees, and how many musicians I respected were on it, seeing my name up there with them was more humbling than it was an ego boost. Ego boosts are nice, but they last about as long as a good yawn. This is something I will always be extremely grateful for and proud of.
SD: What are your aspirations for 2015?
EB: I’m writing my new record now. Really just diving in deep and exploring completely new territory. So, 2015, my sophomore record is coming out. And I think it’s definitely going to surprise people. I’m not holding back on this one.
SD: Hanging with rock n roll bands in Houston turned you onto songwriting. What do you love most about rock n roll specifically?
EB: I love the freedom of it. Rock and roll is a widely interpreted genre that really obeys no boundaries. You know, rock and roll was birthed from rhythm and blues and it gained popularity in the 50’s and 60’s and it became more than just a sound, it became a part of a movement. It reached all races and crossed those culture barriers that had been in place for so long. It was the sound of free love, the sound of protest, unrest and change. It changes with the times we live in because rock and roll is an uncensored voice of the times we live in. Rock and roll has been inspired by so many different kinds of genres and has in itself created countless sub-genres, it’s the style of music that will constantly evolve. It’s rebellious by nature. And I’m pretty rebellious by nature, too.
SD: What’s your favorite decade in music?
EB: That’s a tough one. I honestly couldn’t say.
SD: You spent time recording in New York and Los Angeles before returning back home to Texas, how did these cities shape you as an artist?
EB: New York did a good job at kicking my ass. I was 17/18 and definitely needed a good metaphorical ass kicking. It thrust me into adulthood, I guess. New York has a special place in my heart for that reason, like the mean kid at school that taught you how to stand up for yourself. As an artist, you need that. Because nobody is going to give a damn about you in the beginning.
LA shaped me a lot – I mean I spent years there. And it was more the people that I worked with that made the biggest impact. I call those my college years. Full blown course load in professionalism, musicianship, songwriting, recording, and also how crooked this business can be. I mean it was a lot. I was fortunate to be working with musicians that had so much experience and were in the top of their field- they became like family and I learned so much from them. They were also there to lend advice when things on the business end became more and more controlling and suffocating. And when it came to that, it shaped my ability to cut through the bullshit.
The world doesn’t owe you anything. Nothing is for granted. Nothing is guaranteed. You’ve got to be able to trust yourself. The decisions you make in your career will have a lasting impact. And the people you choose to surround yourself with can end up being the best decision you ever made or it can end up being a really bad one. But it’s never the end of the world.
SD: Which city was the biggest adjustment?
EB: Probably L.A. because it was my first real job in the industry. I was really young, in a very demanding and fast paced environment. I had to adjust quickly. I was in the studio recording literally the day after I moved there. No time to be scared, just dive in and hope you don’t embarrass yourself!
SD: You created the performing-arts fests Summer Camp! and Winter Camp! to benefit local non-profits. What inspired you to create this outlet for adults?
EB: At that time, I was ready to get out and start playing. I had just finished my record but wasn’t going to put it out right away. I wanted to get familiar with the city, work out our live show and play as much as I could. The thing about Austin that initially struck me is how rich it is in community support. I knew I wanted to get involved in some way with certain organizations like HAAM, Austin Pets Alive, AMP, the list goes on. I also knew I wanted to build relationships with the other bands in town- the relationships musicians have with one another here is also extremely unique to Austin.
So it just made sense to me that I create my own festival of sorts that supported these non-profits and brought the community together. So many amazing local musicians came on board and at the same time I got to kind of introduce myself as an artist. Win win situation. The idea for summer camp came up because, I mean, why not? I come from a theatrical background so I just went for it. I love throwing a good party. And I love good people that fight for good causes.
SD: If you had a ‘Freaky Friday’ and could be one person for a day, who would it be?
EB: It would probably be really cool to be Bill Murray for a day. Especially if it was on a boat. Who knows what could happen.
SD: What can fans expect next from Emily Bell?
Expect the unexpected.