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Emily Braden on the New York Jazz Scene

By Nick Hempton

Emily Braden performing live at The Django— Photography by Melissa Hill

Since her arrival on the New York jazz scene, vocalist Emily Braden has gained a reputation as a confident, assured performer, casually moving through jazz, soul, and funk, while delivering her message with clarity and wit. A favorite of audiences and fellow vocalists, Braden’s performance won her the “Best of the Best” title at NYC’s prestigious Jazzmobile Vocal Competition. In the lead up to her Django show on April 27, Emily spoke to us about the journey from Boise, Idaho to New York City, the influence of her family, her love of travel, and her upcoming new release.

 

Check out her interview with fellow Django musician, Nick Hempton, below—

 

NH: Hey Emily, we’re looking forward to seeing you back on The Django stage! You’ve got a new album in the pipeline— tell us a little about it.EB: Yes! The new album is called “Cannon & Sparrow” and will be released late fall of this year. This album is a collaboration with my long-time musical partner, Misha Piatigorsky, who also produced it. It’s an emotionally and musically dynamic album that blossomed out of my sense of personal and collective grief. There is a visual component to the album which I’m currently working on with a graphic designer and am very excited about!  I’m LOVING performing these songs live and will absolutely be bringing a few of them for our show at The Django.NH: How do you choose a setlist? Do you tailor it to the room and the audience you expect, or do you present your show regardless of the setting,EB: I always arrive with a sense of what I’ll be playing but am one of those singers who goes by feel, mood and energy in the room and leaves room for a wild card or two. In other words, the musicians just love me! Ha. I think A LOT about grooves when I put a set together, as a way to keep folks engaged physically and emotionally.  NH: How did you find jazz? Was your family into it? Or did you get there via another gateway music?

EB: I’m from the jazz and soul musical mecca of Boise, Idaho so, needless to say, it all just came naturally to me. Kidding! I was introduced to good music at a very young age thanks in great part to my Grandmother, a knowledgeable music lover who was also one of my closest friends. The spirit of improvisation and musical freedom is present everywhere in Black American Music – straight ahead, the blues, funk, soul, gospel, r&b, folk so I didn’t distinguish so much between the genres initially but grew to love the expectation for creativity within jazz. I love it all! I was a choir kid. After I graduated and decided to pursue music professionally, I moved to Victoria, British Columbia to study privately with my long-time mentor, vocalist and pianist Louise Rose, for seven years.NH: I understand you’ve traveled a lot, and spent some time in my favorite part of the world: South East Asia. What do you love about it down there?EB: I smiled when I read this question! Most of the time I spent there was for a musical residency in Bangkok. I LOVE to travel so I built small trips to Cambodia, Vietnam, Bali and coastal Thailand around that commitment.  Bangkok specifically is a delight for all of the senses with a little grit, which appeals to the New Yorker in me! I appreciate the Buddhist influence and I’m a very adventurous foodie, so I am enamored with the fresh and flavorful street food culture there. The enormous Pak Khlong Talat flower market is out of this world and something I dream about to this day!NH: What do you find to be the toughest part of touring?EB: Traveling as a 5’11” fat (don’t worry, I’m comfortable with the word!) woman has resulted in a number of less-than-savory interactions. When it comes to performance though, I’ve been very fortunate and see music as the most beautiful way to connect with anyone, anywhere in the world. The most challenging part for me as a self-managed artist is the organizational aspect with the moving pieces of working with pick-up bands, booking travel and making sure I have a place to sleep. Once we’re on stage, I’m very much at home!NH: You’ve just finished a great gig, you walk through the cheering audience to the bar– what’s your post-gig cocktail of choice?EB: In keeping with the spirit of improvisation, I usually ask the bartender to make me their favorite mezcal or tequila-based cocktail and they always do me right.  Just nothing too sweet!

 

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