“Emm Gryner finds darkness more interesting than light."

By Jason Tanamor

Emm Gryner is one of the best kept secrets in music. I first heard about her in the late ‘90’s when her song “Acid” came into my life. I knew she was something to get excited about because the first line of the song is, “You left a good drug on my tongue.” With its soft piano and dark tone, “Acid” was a breath of fresh air from what the music scene was offering.

Gryner recently chatted about her new album and the real meaning behind “Acid.”

Q - Not only are you a talented musician, but you’re also a label owner and producer. How much work goes into putting an album together when you’re behind the scenes as well?

A - It's almost too much for one human to handle, so I'm starting to see what I can get other people to do. I wouldn't advise anyone running a label alone. Luckily the other artists on the label are hard-working mofos. Or else it'd all be a failure. We're a community, we exchange ideas and our music gets under each other's skin. We're a tiny army.

Q - You formed your record company, Dead Daisy Records, back in 1996 as a result of putting out music that major labels would otherwise ignore. What advantages and disadvantages do you come across from being an independent musician?

A - If you don't get others to help, you end up mastering the art of using a paper cutter and CD burner over writing songs and singing. You're licking envelopes instead of being creative. So you have to find a balance, find some help, find some comrades. Then again, half the time nothing gets done right or gets out there unless you do it. You should be the biggest champion of your own work. If you're not there's a problem. So it's a total double-edged sword but I wouldn't say my friends who are on major labels are totally happy all the time. In fact, they're mostly complaining. So can you win? Maybe, if you just choose one and get behind it and do your best.

Q - I first heard of you when your song “Acid” came out. The song, about dropping acid, has non-traditional lyrics for a soft sounding ballad, which it seems that you are known for. How would you describe your music for those who haven’t heard it?

A - The song isn't actually about dropping acid but more so about the sting of love. I hope I haven't ruined it for you! My music is made up of emotional, piano-based melodic songs but they also rock too. It's like music for tomboys.

Q - A lot of your songs are dark in nature. Was there something in your life that triggered this?

A - My imagination goes there, and I also find the worst in every situation and then I see the best in it. I find darkness more interesting than light - it's where we triumph, where we find ourselves. But I'm also an optimist, so you'll see I have very miserable lyrics framed in a pop setting. I like to dance through the shit.

Q - What do you think of the musical landscape today?

A - It's fabulous. So much great music. Everyone and anyone is making music and though I might not love it all, the good stuff is finding its way through. I hardly listen to commercial radio because often they're still stuck in that mode of playing what the major label rock guy wants them to play. I'm much more interested in the underdog, the person who does what they want to do instead of trying to have hits, the person who'll take an orchestra on the road, the person who listens to old vinyl LPs and doesn't give a fuck. Everyone can have a platform now and it's brilliant.

Q - Tell me about your new release “The Summer of High Hopes.” What do you want to accomplish with this album?

A - Well it's been out for a while so I've accomplished so much with it already. I've toured Ireland a few times in support of it and it led me to getting a publishing deal and working on a new album which should be out soon. Nathan Larson who produced and co-wrote much of it, really pushed me to analyze my lyrics and be a better singer. The artwork by Sean Odell is gorgeous. I love the folks who played on the album - Lyle Molzan, Dana Feder, Nathan - it was a labor of love, without knowing where it was going.

Q - How long did it take to write and record this album?

A - 3-4 years.

Q - What snags did you come across along the way?

A - Nathan is a film composer so I'd have to work around his schedule. I was also on the road a lot. But it gave us the time to make sure we really liked what we were working on. I also recorded a few tracks at home - that's always a challenge sonically - trucks going by and loud noises creeping into the mic. But who cares, I love “Blackwinged Bird” which I recorded on a few mics on my mother-in-law's old upright. That actual recording led to a version of the song for “The Cake Sale” album, and it was also featured in a movie called “One Week.” So it goes to show you even the snags can amount to something.

Q - What your favorite song on the album?

A – “Blackwinged Bird.” I don't know if I can write a better ballad. It came from a very dark place. Too much reflecting can bring out nice tunes I guess.

Q - How has your music evolved from when you first came out as an artist?

A - I don't know other than that I try to improve and I'm inspired by my live shows. Some of the albums have been very pop in nature, and I'm starting to want to be able to play these songs live and have a great energy about everything. My singing is better now that I'm older. There's more chilling out going on, and nothing good ever happens when you're not chilled out.

Q - You come from a long line of indie musicians who have fared well in the industry. Liz Phair and Ani DiFranco also are up there. How do you think the advent of the Internet and music sharing have helped you gain a wider audience?

A - The internet has helped everybody. I used to photocopy flyers and mail them. Not only does that suck for the environment, it's a pain in the ass to stuff envelopes and buy stamps. It's the new town crier, so in that way it's helped a great deal. But I feel people abuse the Internet heavily - they send out mass mail-outs or they don't know how smart you can be with it. I'm still learning, but all the same principles apply as when I was gluing posters to telephone poles in Toronto - you have to maintain a personal connection with people. I do this with my journal and regular letters to my Facebook group. I check my own MySpace and try to keep up with it. Most importantly, I can get new music easily, and as a music fan, that's super inspiring.

Check out Emm Gryner on the web at: http://www.emmgryner.com.


Jason Tanamor is the Editor of Zoiks! Online. He is also the author of the novels, "Hello Lesbian!" and "Anonymous."

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Tom said...

I love this woman. She has some of the darkest stuff. Great interview.

Jerry said...

She seems interesting. I'll have to check her out!


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