It can be intriguing when someone dives into a creative medium they’re fascinated by but also unfamiliar with. What’s made from this endeavor can sometimes be unique while standing out from the basic techniques and formulas. With her debut album Tides, Mystic, Connecticut singer-songwriter Emmye Vernet put her own ideas into the musical entity. The album isn’t your typical listening experience, it’s meant to be more engaging, interactive and personal. On Sept. 17 at 8 p.m., Vernet will be celebrating the release of her debut at The Knickerbocker Music Center on 35 Railroad Ave. in Westerly.
We recently had a talk about the making of the album in a barn, getting a bunch of collaborators together, defying some norms and what people can expect from the upcoming show.
Rob Duguay: You recorded “Tides” in a barn in Southbridge, Mass. during a summer weekend retreat. Where did you find this place and what about it made you want to make the album there?
Emmye Vernet: The barn is actually my aunt’s house, she lives there and she let us use it while staying at my parent’s house for the weekend. She cleared it out so we could be there and her barn is a really special place for me. I grew up going there and it’s surrounded by beautiful woods. She has a lot of beautiful art and every time I go there I just feel so relaxed. One time I was visiting her there I realized that it was the perfect spot to record the album.
I brought up the band and the recording engineer while creating this makeshift little studio that was kind of like a fort but also a legit audio setup. We built it ourselves and we spent the weekend there hunkering down and recording the whole thing live standing in a circle basically in a blanket fort. It was really fun, I’m really glad that we got to be there and I’m grateful for my Aunt for letting us use her space.
RD: That’s a great story behind it, from listening to it you can definitely sense that live music vibe. The structure of the album is interesting in how the first two tracks are each less than a minute long and there are conversations that weave themselves in at various times. What’s the vision behind this and what made you want to format the album in this way?
EV: In terms of the sequence of the album and the songs themselves, it opens with this first morning track which is the sounds of crickets and dishes being put away. We really wanted to invite the listener into that weekend of recording and make it feel like they were really there. Since the album was recorded live, we wanted the whole thing to feel like the listener is right there with us. That’s why we opened with those cricket noises and that’s why you’ll hear conversations throughout the album as well.
They’re all conversations that we had during the recording retreat, just impromptu and completely random on the side talks. My producer and friend Jack Beal had a tape recorder out for the whole three days and he was recording absolutely everything. We got some good clips of conversation that were fun to bring in and I really wanted it to have this feeling of the listener being there both for that intimate and kind of cozy feeling but also because I grew up feeling so mystified by the album making process. I just had no idea what it was and I kind of would like to think that by having some live conversations, the sounds of dishes and lights switching on and off sort of brings it down and demystifies what actually goes into making an album. At the end of the day, it’s just people messing around and making something.
That’s kind of the thinking behind it. The short songs at the beginning are there because sometimes I write songs that are short and I don’t want to make things longer than they are asking to be I guess.
RD: From listening to it, it’s very unique. You don’t really hear that transition between normal conversation after a song and then going into the next track. It makes for a very cool listening experience.
RD: You’re welcome. How were you able to get Jordan Nicholson, Will Platt, Tyler Wagner, Valerie Thompson and Jack Beal involved in the making of the album? Have you all known each other for a long time? Do you all perform regularly together?
EV: I met Jack and we started dreaming up an album together. Through connections that he has, we wove together this group of collaborators and we all came together for the first time just for the purpose of making this record. We rehearsed for months before we started recording it live but this project was our first time all working together. They’re all so talented as musicians and they’re all wonderful people so I felt really lucky.
RD: What do you hope people take from “Tides” after they listen to it? The album seems to have a lot of thoughtfulness within it.
EV: I hope that it resonates with people and people can sit with some of the lyrics in particular, some of the melodies and they just land. When I listen to music, to me there’s no better feeling than hearing someone say something that hits me right in the heart. It’ll be cool if that happened in at least one person’s mind with this album. I have no musical training and have no knowledge of this process so I’m really excited that I did this and made this album. I hope people can feel like they can make art even if they’re not professionals or if they have no idea what they’re doing, it’s still worth making.
RD: Do you have anything special planned for the upcoming album release show at The Knickerbocker Music Center?
EV: I’m really excited about the show. It’s going to open with three acts before my band and I go on and the three acts are all collaborators on the album performing their separate projects. I’m really excited for everyone to have the space to really kind of show how their musical styles are very different from what’s on the album. We’re not going to play the whole album front to back, I’m not going to play everything so people will have to buy “Tides” to check out everything it has to offer. It’ll also be streaming on all the platforms on the following day but we’ll play a bunch of the songs while closing out the night with a nice singalong of one of the tunes on the record.