Emily Guthrie’s wild musings
Emily Guthrie has been writing songs, studying music, and performing everything from country to mid-century jazz since she was a teenager. She’s sung in bands such as Painting With Ella and The Jivin’ Belles, written songs in her bedroom, and competed at music festivals.
Now she’s releasing her first EP, titled Emily Guthrie and the Wildflowers, on July 7 at the Blue Chair Cafe.
This record has been a long time coming. Guthrie graduated from MacEwan University’s music program with a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance specializing in jazz and contemporary music in 2015, but her identity as a folk songwriter was largely developed before she started studying music formally. All this despite the fact that she didn’t actually write down any of her songs before entering university.
“It made it a little bit easier to teach it to other people,” Guthrie says of her university experience, and the way her education impacted her music. “I learned to make my own charts … my melodies became more sophisticated. I mean, I grew up too.”
For Guthrie, who describes her songs as heavily lyric-based, one of the most important transformations her music has undergone had more to do with gaining a better understanding of herself and the world around her than it did with learning correct compositional or performance technique.
She started writing poetry and “so many short stories” as a teenager, and though she used to think that songwriting was “impossible,” she was only 14 or 15 when she first tried setting a poem to a music. On her website, Guthrie ties her interest in storytelling to the tradition of artists like Arlo and Woody Guthrie (no relation), but she’s quick to note that her music is more poetic and symbolic than the straightforward narratives of some of the famous balladeers.
“It’s more along the lines of Regina Spektor, Kate Bush,” she says, also naming Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot as a major influences. Guthrie says she remembers “my dad playing Gord’s Gold at dinner every day … okay, maybe once a week.”
Like Lightfoot, Guthrie writes about places located particularly in Alberta, the place she’s most familiar with—with an insider’s sense of nuance and appreciation. For example, in one song, she explains, the phrase “fields of the sun” is the equivalent of a canola field, an equation only a native of the prairies would immediately understand.
In January 2016, Guthrie had spent two weeks at the Banff Centre, before recording three of the five songs on the new EP, which she recorded at Red Carpet Studios with producer and engineer Brian Raine, another MacEwan grad. She found her experience at Banff isolating at times, but also inspiring and productive.
“The hustle of being a musician doesn’t always leave time for working on your art,” she says. “It was great not to have to worry about paying the bills, promoting myself on social media.”
Though Guthrie writes all her songs herself, she’s been playing with her band since October 2015. Wildflowers’ Malory Chipman (vocals, percussion), Brett Hanson (guitar), and Kate Buckinger (bass) all perform on the EP and will be playing with Guthrie at the release show. Guthrie will perform the full EP, plus covers by Joni Mitchell and Regina Spektor, new arrangements of songs Guthrie first performed with Painting With Ella, and brand new tunes.
Fri., July 7 (8:30 pm)
Emily Guthrie and the Wildflowers EP release
Blue Chair Cafe, $15 at the door