The Emily Bell Nashville Interview

photo courtesy Emily Bell

photo courtesy Emily Bell

I’m definitely from a more Soul and Rock & Roll background, you know, and it’s cool getting to meet other people in Nashville and different writers that go against the grain a bit.” – Emily Bell

Austin based singer/songwriter Emily Bell has been spending a few days in Nashville getting ready for her set premiering her latest album In Technicolor  featuring the single “Back The Way That I Was” Thursday night at The Basement with an early 7Pm set. The album shows a varied background since Emily has been involved in music and performance since growing up in Houston and attending Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

emily bell album coverEmily Bell spent some University time in New York City before eventually ending up out on the West Coast working with former members of Tony!Toni!Tone! cutting her teeth on multiple songwriter sessions for a long stretch at Raphael Saadiq’s Burbank Studio before returning to Texas and laying down roots in Austin with Co-writer and life partner, John Evans.

Emily combines “rootsy” soulful vocals reminiscent of Imelda Mae meets K.T. Tunstall and Elizabeth Cook with the visual beauty that ties her to the King of Rock & Roll with Elvis-era Ann Margaret looks and a sultry Lisa Marie Presley gaze.  She is making her Nashville debut this week.

Brad Hardisty / The Nashville Bridge: Have you been off tour for a few days?

Emily Bell: Yeah, well I’ve had a couple of days off.  I have been these past few days in writing sessions in Nashville.

TNB: Really! So you have been in Nashville?

EB: I am in Nashville right now. I am currently parked on the side of the road. I just picked up John Evans [Co-writer, partner] from the airport. He has writing sessions this week. 

TNB: When you talk about writing sessions is it for your own thing or doing something on the side for the publishing company?

EB: This is stuff for my own thing. You know, while I am really busy with the tour and supporting this record, we’re starting the ground work of, you know, writing the new songs for the new record and I came to Nashville last month and met with a bunch of different publishing companies and they really helped me set up good sessions with some of their writers that I would really blend well with. It has been really great so far and I have been really excited to be writing again.

TNB: Is there any writer in particular that you think is somebody you will definitely end up working with yet?

EB: I am really excited to write with Mike Krompass. He was the drummer for Smashmouth and he has this Rock and Roll background. I am excited to get in and write with him.

TNB: You will find all kinds of people here in Nashville. There are so many people moving here it’s crazy.

photo courtesy Emily Bell

photo courtesy Emily Bell

EB: Yeah, I know. I’m definitely from a more Soul and Rock & Roll background, you know, and it’s cool getting to meet other people in Nashville and different writers that go against the grain a bit.

TNB: I noted that you are pretty eclectic and I was looking at John Evan’s stuff and he seems more focused in sort of a Marshall Crenshaw kind of way. How do you guys work together as writers? Do you mainly write and then do arrangements with him?

EB: When John and I first kind of ran into each other we kind of knew each other for a long time and I was very familiar with his music, but, we both just kind of collided and it was really a natural experience; how we write together. It comes up in so many different ways. I’ll come up with lyrics and he’ll come up with melody or I’ll come up with melody and he’ll come up with musical instrumentation. It is really organic the way we work together. His style and my style, they are very different but, we found a way to complement each other and almost create something very different and that was new to us. So, it’s really a great partnership and I’m always surprised and excited when we write together.

TNB: The band you work with, is that The John Evans Band basically?

EB: When we tour we share bands. I have some core musicians and he has some core musicians. When we are on tour we have the same players and it’s nice. We have been sharing the band recently.

TNB: Are you going to stay in Austin, is that your hometown for now?

EB: Yeah, you know Austin is a really great home base for us. We love that city and they have really embraced John and I and it’s also, it’s a great launching pad and getting to travel to Nashville and travel to New York and travel to L.A.; we are happy with that for now. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. I, for one, like to move around a lot.

TNB: I noticed you have been between New York, L.A. and Austin and Houston. Have there been other places you have lived in?

EB: Those are the primary places I have lived in. I lived in Oakland for a while. Between moving from L.A. to Austin, I took time off and I just wanted to just really get out and get my brain fresh so I travelled to India and I travelled around Southeast Asia for three months.

TNB: Was India kind of a spiritual thing, like with The Beatles?

EB: I mean it was more, it wasn’t a spiritual quest, it was more of… I didn’t go to Ashrams. I had been to Ashrams and I had visited the Temple. It was a spiritual quest in some way but, it was more of an adventure quest. I wanted to experience another part of the world and that is always spirituality in some form.

TNB: Did you bring any instruments back with you?

EB: No, oh my gosh, but, I wanted to. I had this man teach me how to play the Sitar. I mean, he gave me like an hour lesson. Those instruments are just so gorgeous. I mean they are huge and it is so expensive to bring those instruments back. I really wanted to though.

TNB: What do we expect when you play at The Basement this week? Are you doing an in-store at Grimey’s before? Or, just doing the show?

EB: I’m just doing the show at The Basement. This is kind of like my first time here. You know you first have to kind of break into the Nashville scene.  It’s a slower process, so, we decided to just hit up The Basement and invite as many people out as we can and see what happens from there and hopefully once people get to see us they will want to book us more.

TNB: Even though The Basement is small, if they agreed to have you there that’s good. They are kind of picky so that is a good choice.

EB: I was really excited to do the show there. When they hopped on board I was really excited.

TNB: Are you familiar with the Soul scene here in Nashville?

EB: No, I’m not familiar with it. I’m not familiar with Nashville in general. I’m still new to this town. It’s exciting and I’m kind of learning something new about it every day.

TNB: You ought to check out G.E.D Soul Records. There are a lot of retro-soul acts and they are all out of here, former students of Belmont University and stuff like that. There may be some acts you might want to book with next time.

EB: That’s good information. We will look them up.

TNB: They specialize in vinyl. If you go to Grimey’s and ask about G.E.D. Soul Records, they will have a whole section.

EB: Very cool. I love that. Last time I was here I had to go to Third Man Records. I love what Jack White is doing with the 45’s, it’s so cool. So that was really cool for me.

TNB: Did you record a song in the recording booth that presses records?

EB: We wanted to, but, it was out of order that day. That was one of the biggest reasons for me going.

TNB: Guess who was the second person to use that booth?

EB: Who?

TNB: Neil Young.

EB: Oh God, wow, that’s amazing.

TNB: Who do you guys gig with in Austin when you are back home?

EB: Well, I do shows with so many different musicians in Austin. I have done shows with Hayes Carll, Rosie Flores…

TNB: Oh cool, I like Rosie.

photo courtesy Emily Bell

photo courtesy Emily Bell

EB: There is a long list of Austin musicians that I am still dying to play with. A lot of local Indie bands. I started out playing with The Happen-Ins. There is a band called The Couch. The first summer that I was there I was invited to start my own little music festival called Summer Camp that benefitted local non-profit organizations. It was my way to friend other musicians in the town. I was still so new and I thought why don’t I just…it was a whole long day event that happened every Sunday over the summer and we had an above ground pool and I had vamp counselors and we had this whole kind of Dazed and Confused summer camp scene and I booked about four bands every day and I just closed the night out and there were so many great bands that were on that.

EB: That was a great project. Now, this is the first album that you and John Evans put together, right?

TNB: Yeah.

TNB: I would say that it is really eclectic, kind of a blend going in different directions. The single reminded me of Bow Wow Wow, kind of Punk Rockabilly. Where do you see your stuff going? You are doing these writing sessions, is there a certain direction that you are going to start aiming for on the next record? Or, are you going to just kind of keep it where you want to go?

EB: There is a definite direction I want to take with this new record. I’m a Rock & Roll girl at heart and I really want to bring that out in this next record. Without giving too much away, I definitely want something that is just rockin’ and kind of show that a female fronted rock band isn’t bad!

TNB: Do you think it is still going to be more “Roots Rock”?

EB: Yeah, I mean when I say Rock & Roll I mean “Roots Rock’. I think of the Rockabilly Artists and I also think of Led Zeppelin. I think of Tom Petty; just all the greats that have inspired me and have inspired the music that I write.   

TNB: I would say you are in a great place. I remember when I was in Texas I would just turn onto the Texas Chart channels just because it’s different than what you listen to anywhere else. It has a lot of Artists that are big in Texas like Joe Ely. You have some great flavor and you are working with a great partner, John Evans.

photo courtesy Emily Bell

photo courtesy Emily Bell

EB: Thank you so much. John and I are very excited to write this next record.

– Brad Hardisty – Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridgeathotmaildotcom