A Life in Music

By her own choice, Emily McLoud is a poet, songwriter, mother, and deeply introspective human. She has also been a musician and in her first solo record, McLoud blends folky, bluegrass, and modern sounds that according to her press release “include an upright bass, acoustic guitar, drums with brushes, pedal steel, and mandolin - somewhat reminiscent of the early days of the band Watchhouse (formerly Mandolin Orange).

Jupiter Index caught up with McLoud to answer a few questions about her life in music and her new release.

Jupiter Index: What was the feeling like when you first heard music? And how did that make a difference for you?
Emily McLoud: I can’t really remember my first experiences with music as it always seemed to be an integrated part of my life growing up, but my earliest memories of interacting with music in a meaningful way go back to elementary school and before. I remember running around in circles to the Cabbage Patch Kids LP in my living room (those songs were good!), listening to the oldies station, and specifically the Beatles, in the car with my parents, and singing traditional American folk songs like Buffalo Gals in my elementary school music class. I quickly learned to view music as a tool for telling a story or expressing a feeling, but more importantly, I FELT the music. The Beatles are still one of my biggest influences/favorite bands, and similarly my love for folk music has only expanded and grown over time.

JI: The element of time and being original seem to carry you in your music. Can you say how you spend the time, so you are connected to the music and the stories that do come? What is the process like for you when you write them or sing them?
EM: I’m fascinated by time and our experience of time. One of the things I love about songwriting is the feeling of time seemingly both expanding and contracting while in the midst of the process. I’m always collecting thoughts, ideas, and observations but when I sit down to write I really prefer total quiet which helps me access the space or the place where songs can start to seep through. My music almost always starts out as a way for me to process and understand my own experience but once the songs have served that purpose, they become more about connection with other people and our shared humanity. Nothing can exist outside of relationship or context and I think songs unite people whether they are about anger, joy, sadness, love, or confusion. We all have access to and experience the same emotions and that is one of the reasons that music is so universal.

JI: How did the song “Sugar Shine” come about for you?
EM: “Sugar Shine” came from my experience as a mother of young children. It is a response to living in troubled times while still having hope for what may come. All too often as parents we want to comfort our children and simply make them feel safe. With good intentions, we say things like, “It’s going to be ok,” but I think that is not entirely honest. What does it mean for something to be “ok?” The truth is that there are big problems in the world but there is also great potential for growth, healing, and change. These things require action, however, and we can’t sit on the sidelines and hope that someone else swoops in to save us all. To make a difference you have to get involved.

JI: Do you feel your biggest talent is your songwriting?
EM: I’ve never really thought about it in that way, I guess. For me, songwriting meets a very fundamental need that I have to create and bring forth that which exists somewhere inside of me. It is an alchemy of sorts. You take your own very personal or specific experience, try to figure out what it all means in the context of life, and hopefully you come up with something that other people can relate to as well. There are aspects of songwriting that can be taught, practiced, and developed but part of it has to do with how you see the world and relate to it too. I’ve always said that I write songs simply because I can’t NOT write them. That is really what it comes down to.

JI: How do you think your songwriting has evolved over the course of your life in music?
EM: That’s a good question. In many ways I continue to explore a lot of the same subjects that have always interested and inspired me. I was writing poems before I started writing songs and I enjoy the puzzle of matching the rhythm of the lyrics with the melody and playing with how different things sound and feel. I’ve probably become a little more adept at that dance but in many ways I strive to approach things with that beginner’s mind as much as possible. I’ll also say that early on I would fall into the trap of feeling like I should be writing for the future listener, and while there is certainly something to be said for considering your audience, that isn’t the type of songwriting I am interested in anymore. It is actually a pretty self-serving endeavor for me but at the end of the day there is this impetus to share that more broadly with the hope that it lands in a place where it can serve others in some way.

JI: What would you like people to know and feel about your music?
EM: At the end of the day, I think music is about our collective human experience. My hope is that these songs and future songs find the ears and hearts that need them most and that they have an opportunity to serve someone else just as they have served me.

by G.M. Burns
photod by Cameron Jordan