From the opening strains of "Bruise Easy", the introductory track on Emma-Lee's debut
album Never Just A Dream, you feel like you've stumbled on a star. Brimming with
that 'special something' of stars like Feist, k.d. lang, Madeleine Peyroux and Norah Jones,
the March 3, 2009 release of Never Just A Dream heralds the arrival of an artist with the
power to reshape our definition of pop.
At times playful, at others wistful, Never Just A Dream is a collection of songs inspired by the sort
of heartache that is universal to anyone who has lived a life worth living. Co-produced with Mitch
Girio, the sound slips seamlessly from swingin' jazz to dreamy 50's pop, with hints of folk and
blues tied together by vocals as rich and sweet as a red velvet cupcake.
Armed with a voice that transports you, Emma-Lee chose not to rest on this strength alone.
She instead put a sincere focus on becoming a great songwriter and the results of her efforts
are fully evidenced throughout Never Just A Dream. Her weakness for a great pop melody turns
out to be one of her greatest strengths; on Never Just A Dream spectres of AM oldies radio
mingle effortlessly with childhood influences like Joni Mitchell and jazz great Ella Fitzgerald,
creating a hauntingly beautiful musical landscape at once complex and yet familiar.
Saucy and sweet, pensive and pure, Never Just A Dream offers a candid peek
inside the romantic heart. Whether it's on the epic "Flow", which chronicles
a girl who sublets the apartment of her globe-trotting ex-boyfriend and renders
herself at the mercy of his memory, or the soaring "That Sinking Feeling", with
its sting of realization, or in the ragtime bounce of "Jealousy", which
cheekily suggests you get what you deserve for snooping, Emma-Lee deftly captures
the many dimensions of love and loss.
And yet Never Just A Dream is so much more than an anthology of youthful heartbreak.
It delves into the pleasures of May-December relationships, suggests regret for past
mistakes, and calls out for understanding on tracks like the Dusty Springfield
tinged "An Older Man", the cinematic "Until We Meet Again" and the album's darkly
delicious title track.
The release of Never Just A Dream was almost a dream derailed. While
preparing and creating the album Emma-Lee was stricken not once but twice by any
singer's worst nightmare; the need for throat surgery. She first faced possible
vocal chord paralysis while having half her thyroid removed in 2006 and almost
a year to the day she went under the knife again for an unrelated polyp on
her vocal chords.
While those experiences might have defeated another less determined, Emma-Lee
was not about to be stopped by a scalpel."When good things happen they say
it's fate, but when bad things happen you have to make your own destiny. My destiny
was to be singing and writing songs. I wasn't about to give up on that dream." Emma-Lee
says of the experience.
It's that kind of dedication and unwavering faith that sets Emma-Lee apart. Her skill,
patience and incredible business savvy mark her as a rare artist of foresight and
Emma-Lee self-released Never Just A Dream locally in the late summer of 2008
and it instantly caught the ear of key tastemakers at the Globe & Mail, Toronto Star,
Now Magazine, iTunes Canada and CBC Radio, and the track "Flow" earned a spot on
the hit CBC show The Border.
She also attracted the attention of management veteran Larry Wanagas (The Trews, Two Hours
Traffic, k.d. lang), whose wife urged him to investigate after reading a rave review,
and artist development exec David "Click" Cox who discovered her by way of the
Toronto-based music collective GoodSoundsGood, which she co-founded. The pair signed
Emma-Lee to a co-management deal shortly thereafter and chose to re-release Never
Just A Dream through Bumstead Productions, with distribution by Universal Music.
Emma-Lee's ambition is anchored deeply in her love to simply create. Almost accidentally she
discovered an instinctive ability to take self-portraits – a vital part of how she shares
herself with her audience, through her website and the album's graphics – and since 2006
has developed a thriving photography business as well. For Emma-Lee the two disciplines
are uniquely entwined. "Although photography can stand alone," she muses, "music can't
live without imagery."
"I have a very clear vision of me, the artist", Emma-Lee states with assurance, and she
exhibits that artistry across all platforms, including a live show that is known for an
intimate, off the cuff charm that creates a special bond with the audience. "You never know
what will come out of my mouth at a show. For me performing is an intensely personal
experience and I find it truly satisfying to know someone got something out of something
I created; that I moved them like so many artists have moved me."