One-half of the Home Fires is making her own waves as a solo act, one house concert at a time
Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of country music these last 10 years has been the means by which women are fully stepping up to the forefront of leadership within the largely white male dominated genre.
Artists like Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, Kacey Musgraves, Allison Moorer and even Taylor and Miley have shattered enough glass ceilings in the archaic hierarchy of Music City USA to have chauvanistic executives picking glass out of their spray painted pompadours for years to come, and that’s a fact. What’s better is this movement towards equality in the mainstream is heartily trickling down to country and Americana’s regional and local circuits as well.
One such artist is Vicky Emerson of Minneapolis, MN, who as both a solo act and one-half of the Home Fires with fellow songwriter Sarah Morris has served as one of the stronger and more underrated voices of change in the realms beyond Nashville. Her excellent new album, Steady Heart, builds upon the strength and independent spirit of her prior effort, 2016’s Wake Me When the Wind Dies Down, while establishing her staying power as an experienced recording and touring artist these last 15 years in the vein of such heroes as Lucinda Williams and Patty Griffin, helping the record reach no. 36 on the US Americana Charts and no. 5 on the European Americana Chart.
The RNRG had the distinct pleasure to speak with Ms. Emerson about the new record, Guild guitars, the house concert circuit and the reckoning over male, white corporate oppression in modern country in this exclusive interview.
I see you have a Guild guitar on the splash page of your website. Is that your guitar of choice? Have you always played Guilds or did you build up to the Guild?
It is my guitar of choice! It is a 1976 Guild that I bought/rescued from a super creepy guy on Craigslist!
I love the weight of the guitar and the warmth of its sound.
The video for “The Reckoning” is so cool. Where was it shot and how did you come up with the concept?
Thank you! It was shot in three different sessions in Minneapolis. The first session was Genevieve Fabiola painting, then the choreographed dance by the women, and finally we filmed the four of us singing the song. With the rise of movements like #metoo and #timesup, I felt compelled to use the video to send a message about how women are powerful, talented and amazingly strong. It is also inspiring to watch women work together and support each other.
What does the term “Reckoning” mean to you in 2019 when you hear it used so much in the #MeToo Movement? Do you feel country music has yet to feel that kinda reckoning?
I think it could be synonymous with an awakening. Women are speaking up, telling their stories and reclaiming their power. I do not sense that country radio has had a reckoning quite yet but I feel that their day is coming through boycotts or in another form. It is absurd that in 2019 people are denying women access to having their music played on the radio.
VIDEO: Vicky Emerson – The Reckoning
How different was the writing and composing for this album vs your work with the Home Fires?
The main difference is that when my duo partner and dear friend, Sarah Morris, and I write songs together, our harmonies shape the melody and form of the song. When I am writing on my own, I’m thinking sonically of how the song will sound with a band. I love songwriting so I’m inspired by the challenge that these two opportunities give me to explore how songs can be written.
I love that you do house concerts. A lot of them go down over here by me in North Jersey and in the Hudson Valley as well, and it seems like as corporations take over the concert industry at the club level now, house concerts are the way to go. Is that how it is now in Minneapolis?
I love house concerts! They are such a great way to connect with an audience that doesn’t include chatty clubs or noisy cappuccino makers! Minneapolis has a very healthy music scene and artists can choose between venues, festivals or house concerts which help round out a performance schedule quite well. I also find it essential to use house concerts to fill in dates when I’m touring.
Do you have any roots in the Twin/Tone scene there as well or are you fans of The Replacements or Soul Asylum? As a country artist, do the more rural elements of the music made by these bands have any impression upon you?
I don’t have any roots with Twin/Tone but I am a fan of The Replacements! I do feel that their music and presence has most certainly influenced the Americana and roots scene in Minneapolis.
What is the country/Americana music scene in Minneapolis like?
We have a thriving Americana scene in Minneapolis that continues to grow! Shows like “The United States of Americana” on The Current hosted by Bill DeVille help showcase how sonically diverse the Americana scene is on a local and national level.
Congrats on charting on the Americana Music Association chart! You are in some good company on that chart and I was wondering what your feelings were like seeing your name amidst all those great and progressive talents in modern Americana. I personally believe some of the most forward thinking music is coming out of country and Americana and wanted to know where you were at in that notion. Do you think this is a great time for country or is there still room for improvement?
Thank you! It was exciting to see my name on the chart!
I agree with you that there is a lot of great music coming out of the Americana genre! Artists like Jason Isbell and Margo Price are certainly not afraid of speaking their mind on social media and making statements through songwriting. I am certainly inspired by their bravery to stand firm in their beliefs.
I think there is a lot of room for improvement considering country radio is ignoring women and Americana radio also leans heavily towards playing male artists as well. I see women out there working very hard and creating extremely solid albums which absolutely deserve radio airplay. I’m enlightened by the fact that in this climate it would be easy for women to give up but you don’t see that at all. In fact, women continue to tour and release records in spite of not being added to playlists.
One last thing: I’ve been on both a Patty Griffin and Lucinda Williams kick lately, and elements of both artists can be heard on The Reckoning. What are your favorite albums from each of these women and why?
Two of my favorite singer/songwriters!
Patty Griffin – 1000 Kisses: I remember hearing this album for the first time and I think I listened to it on repeat for an entire month. I was going through a rough time in my personal life and this album literally healed me.
Lucinda Williams – Car Wheels on a Gravel Road: For me, this album is like putting on my favorite cozy sweater. Every song on this album is perfection. Several times a year, I like to listen to it because I always hear something new and the songs comfort me.