At nineteen years young, Al Johnson Performing Songwriter Contest finalist Emma Walsh may be only teetering on the precipice of formal adulthood, but her music is rich in maturity and sophistication. Having recently completed her first year at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University (Percussion Performance) we caught up with Emma to learn a little more about this blossoming musical ingenue.
Wildflower! Arts & Music Festival: What song inspired you to become a songwriter?
Walsh: In second grade, my parents got me two Norah Jones albums “Feels Like Home” and “Not Too Late” for Christmas. It was while listening to these two albums non-stop that I first realized that writing songs was a thing and that it was what I wanted to do. I’ve always loved creating new things, and through songwriting I can do that. I was always intrigued by how everyone kept coming up with new things to write about and sing about in songs, this fascination then became somewhat of a challenge for myself to write songs and then I ended up falling in love.
WAMFest: What is your genre of music?
Walsh: I would consider my music to be of the folk singer-songwriter genre with hints of classic rock and country.
WAMFest: Your tracks on Reverb feature a large sound, do you play an instrument?
Walsh: I began playing piano at age 4, then began learning percussion at age 11, and guitar at age 13. On the recordings on Reverb, I play the rhythm guitar parts. I have always had a formal education of piano and percussion, yet took guitar and vocal lessons periodically throughout high school, learning things from both formal training and personal research.
WAMFest: What else inspires you to write?
Walsh: Everyday life, honestly. More specifically, I am inspired by my sisters and friends lives and experiences, as well as, my own. Most of all, I’m inspired by love.
WAMFest: What makes you unique as an artist?
Walsh: Part of what makes me unique as a songwriter is the wide range of music that I have studied, from the amount of instruments that I’ve studied and the amount of styles that I’ve studied, some being jazz, Latin Jazz, Latin American, Classical, R&B, and Pop. When writing songs and performing, I think it’s important to incorporate all of the aspects of my past whether this means lyrically or stylistically. I also think it’s really important to be as authentic as possible when writing songs and when performing.
WAMFest: What song can change your mood in moments?
Walsh: “Where Are You Now” by Mumford and Sons will always put me in a calm introspective mood and “Come Down” by Anderson Paak will always put me in a good mood because it impossible to listen to without dancing.
WAMFest: What song can make you cry?
Walsh: Every time I hear “Lonesome Tonight” by Elvis Presley I cry. Especially at the part, “Honey you lied when you said you loved me, and I had no cause to doubt you. But I’d rather go one hearing your lies, than go on living without you.”
WAMFest: What is the one guilty pleasure song?
Walsh: “Dude Looks Like a Lady” by Aerosmith.
WAMFest: What are a few of your favorite songwriters?
Walsh: Norah Jones, Maren Morris, and Lyle Lovett.
WAMFest: Best live show you’ve seen?
Walsh: Indigo Girls at the House of Blues in Dallas, Texas. I went with my mom because she is the one who introduced me to their music and it is one of her favorite bands. They sang “Closer to Fine” as their closing song, and there was not one person in the audience who wasn’t singing along, and it was at that moment when I knew that I wanted to perform.
WAMFest: If you could play with any artist, alive or dead, who would it be, and why?
Walsh: If I could play with any artist it would be Norah Jones because she has been my idol since I first saw her perform on tv when I was six years old.
WAMFest: How did it feel to hear yourself on the radio for the first time?
Walsh: Hearing myself on the radio was unreal. It’s easily one of the top five moments of my life so far.
WAMFest: If you win a Grammy one day, who will you thank?
Walsh: First, I would thank my parents for driving meet to all of the music lessons and for putting up with years of constant noise in the house from practicing. Secondly, I would thank Laura Huffman, my first (and well, only) piano teacher, but more importantly she’s the woman who introduced me to music. And then Tyler Orbison, my percussion teacher, for teaching me the importance of persevering through times of failure or rejection. I’d like to thank my sisters, best friend Avery, and grandparents for always being there to support me and to listen to every single draft of whatever song I’m working on at the time. And lastly, I’d like to thank the man up stairs for giving me something so wonderful to share.
WAMFest: Do you have any other talents?
Walsh: I can make really good doughnuts from scratch! My signature doughnuts are Blackberry Fritters.
Emma Walsh will compete for one of four $500 prizes including the Michael Terry People’s Choice Award on May 19, at 11:30 a.m. on the United HealthCare Singer Songwriter Stage in the Eisemann Center. Emma is also performing on the CityLine Stage at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 19, 2018 at the 26th Wildflower! Arts & Music Festival. Tickets and more information is available: www.wildflowerfestival.com.