A letter from EMA: our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us”. Who better to write us an open letter than rising star EMA (aka Erika Anderson)?

You may recognise her as the guitarist in legendary folk/noise outfit Amps For Christ or more recently in the genre-defying cult duo Gowns with Ezra Buchla. It’s been an interesting year for the South Dakota singer/ songwriter; her first album as EMA ‘Past Life Martyred Saints’ came to fruition and received rave reviews. Over to you EMA…

“HOLA!  I’m a gawky Midwest girl who has listened to a lot of classic rock radio.  I’m interested in sonic fidelity and technology, which is partially a front for big emotional risk-taking.  I’m a combination of loose and obsessive.  My music reflects that.

EMA is more about songs that a lot of the things I have done in the past.  I wanted to kind of say fuck the idea of letting a melody get buried in textures.  I love songs, I love voices and I love melodies and harmonies.  I knew I could craft a sonic texture but could I also write a well-crafted song.

Actually that’s only half-true. Nothing was all that conscious. I just keep pushing myself to always do what I want to do and make what I like listening to. I wanted to make something smart and really multi-faceted. Alot of these melodies are pretty grunge-damaged.  It’s almost like water to me, I can barely hear it (taste it). But I know it’s there. People have told me.

I do a lot of improvisation in my writing process and then I do a ton of mixing and editing.  I don’t have any formal audio training but I really love to pretend I’ve got mad Pro Tools skillz.  For “The Grey Ship” I recorded the first part on a 4 track at home and then the second half we multi-tracked to a newer program called REAPER, which I would definitely recommend for anyone who is interested in audio production but doesn’t want to throw down Pro Tools cash. Overall, I would like to be a producer. I don’t have training but I’ve got instincts.  I think anyone can learn as long as you are patient and willing to use your ears.  In many ways I think some of the early things I mixed are the most raw and brilliant, because I had no clue what I was doing. 

These songs are actually pretty different from one another.  I think there is kind of a wistfulness, and also perhaps a knowing quality. I strive to bring a sense of calm, even if perhaps that’s not the obvious thing that comes across. I want to collaborate with a rapper and/or a hip hop producer in the future. Even if they only let me sing the hook, that is my big goal for 2011.

My birthplace of Sioux Falls is not actually that hoppin. They do have a Jazzfest but it’s mostly for old white people who go and drink a lot of beer and eat BBQ ribs.  BUT Sioux Falls is right on a major freeway that goes through the country and there is basically nowhere else for bands to stop for miles around, so for a while when I was a teenager we had really awesome shows where like 300 people would show up because there was nothing else to do.  Everyone was really excited, and that definitely had an impact on me.  I feel really lucky in that regard.  No one was jaded, and people turned out for live shows no matter what the genre.  I saw punk rock, hardcore, ska bands, metal, whatever.  Half the time I hadn’t even heard the band that was playing and knew nothing about them, but it was an event, and so everyone just responded to the performance.

I think blogging and the internet is well…  as everyone will say, good and bad. I think there has always been a warring sense of private ownership vs. camaraderie when it comes to a personal relationship with your favourite album, even when it was released on CD or record.  With the internet those things just become amplified, and happen really quickly.  On one hand there is a part of you that wants to have a one-on-one relationship with the records that you love, because no one else will ever love them in exactly the same way that you do!  And then on the other hand, loving an album that other people love means that you can sing along to it together when you’re drunk, which is also really powerful.

Perhaps this sounds lazy but I sleep til noon when I’m not working a job. I’m a super night owl!  But I’ll work until 4am because that’s when I’m most creative. Other than that, I spend more time on the computer than I would like and not enough time walking in the woods.  I drink wine with dinner. And sometimes much past dinner.  

I love this quote:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.”

This one is oft-attributed to Nelson Mandela, but in fact comes from a woman named Marianne Williamson, who is apparently most famous for writing a quote oft-attributed to Nelson Mandela. It was painted on the wall of a high school I worked in in West Oakland.”

-Erika (of EMA)



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: