Emily Wells: 'The future is wide open'
Earlier this month saw the release of Emily Wells' debut European release Mama, swiftly followed by her excellent debut UK show at London's Water Rats (read our full verdict here).
To mark the occasion, the Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist also recorded an entirely acoustic version of the album to come with Mama's UK release, providing a perfect reflection of the impressive workrate of Wells, who performs solo on stage with a multitude of instruments per song.
We caught up with Wells during her European tour supporting Kurt Vile to find out more about Mama and her film work, including appearing on the Stoker soundtrack.
Can you tell us a bit about how you got into music?
I saw a young woman (I think she was 14 years old or so) playing a violin concerto on Johnny Carson, Midori, and was struck by it… Was four at the time and was pretty much bugging my parents to get me a violin from that moment on. Luckily my parents are musical and took me seriously.
I remember getting my first violin in the mail. It came in a giant box with lots of foam pieces for padding. The little black case inside held such magic.
Was there a reasoning behind Mama being your first European release?
I think releasing my own records in the States before just took up all of my time and energy. Having a team to help me made it feel possible for me to make the leap across pond so to speak… I've always wanted to come to Europe to tour, but always wanted to wait until I could do it well.
Where there any lessons learnt from making The Symphonies: Dreams Memories & Parties that you adapted for the recording of Mama?
I learned so much from making that record… Simple things like how to mic the violin, and how many layers of violin sounded good, and when it's more important to get a single take and move on than be tedious about things.
How did your involvement with the Stoker soundtrack come about? Can you see yourself working on more film soundtracks, or even doing a whole one yourself?
The sound editor for the film turned director Park onto my work when they were editing the film. They came to a show I was doing in Los Angeles and Park felt I would be the right person to create the final song. He said later that watching me play was like "watching a lonely child build sandcastles on the beach". In that there was some kinship to the characters in the film and I think for this reason he knew I could get inside of the protagonist to create something unique for the movie.
As for doing more work in film, yes, I'm very intrigued by collaborating with filmmakers. I've just finished my first full length score for a film called This Is Something Beautiful which is about the life of author Richard Brautigan. This process was a unique approach to scoring as I wasn't writing to the picture, rather I was reading Brautigan's work and reacting to it through the music.
These are the kind of projects that excite me. With Stoker, I was almost a character in the film, pretending to be a method actor while writing the song, and with Brautigan finding also new things inside of myself through his rich body of work.
We must congratulate you on your excellent debut UK show last week. How was it for you?
Why thanks! It was lovely to be so warmly received by the London audience. I look forward to coming back.
Can you always see yourself solo on stage, or will there come a time for a full band as opposed to loops?
The future is wide open. I enjoy the live sampling because it keeps me engaged on some levels and allows me to get a lot of ideas across, but I do have fantasies about performing with an orchestra, or traveling to Mali and collaborating with and learning from the musicians there. My hope is that I will always be fortunate enough to evolve as an artist and my live show along with it.
If we were to look at your MP3 player, is there anything on there you'd rather we didn't see? Do you have your own stuff on there?
I'm an open book… Even my guilty pleasures. There's a lot of Lil Kim and dirty rap.
I usually have things of my own I'm working on currently on my phone (aka MP3 player) because I like to listen when I run and work through ideas in my head. It's rare that I'll have something of my own from a record that's already been released however.
Is there any style of music you just don't get?
What's next on the Emily Wells agenda?
I will finish up touring in the US on the West Coast directly after Europe and then I plan to record the new songs and have some time to finish writing the next record. Also, running and enjoying being home for a while.
What's the question we should have asked you today?
What books have you been reading? To which I'd reply I've been on a Murakami binge, most notably, Norwegian Wood.
Mama is out now through Partisan Records. For more information on Emily Wells, visit her official site - www.emilywellsmusic.com or her Twitter @emilywellsmusic