Video Premiere: Emm Gryner, “Burn The Boats”

Emm Gryner - Burn the Boats

“Burn the boats / Raise the siege / The sun and the sea / Set me free / Burn the boats / Raise the siege / The sun and the sea / Make me believe.

Frequent visitors to this little corner of the music blogosphere may recall our premiere of the official music video for “Butterflies” back in late 2020 – the debut jazz single and video release from three-time JUNO Award nominated singer/songwriter Emm Gryner. With an impressive catalogue of both popular and folk-roots music dating back to the late 90s, this Ontario-based artist expanded her successful musical repertoire during her last project, taking a bold and daring leap into the oft-misunderstood world of jazz.

This particular artist has shared publicly many fond memories of her teen years, and her love for everything hair metal (including bleaching her jeans in the bathtub), yet her burning desire to create a jazz album was a personal mission – one born out of love and admiration she holds dearly for her father and his musical leanings. Released in 2020, “Just For You” earned Emm acceptance into the jazz community, further reinforcing her natural versatility as an artist.

Moreover, such success has perhaps fueled the next chapter in Emm’s ongoing journey. Taking a proverbial leap of faith to face possibly the hardest challenge of all, Emm has courageously turned the spotlight inward, to reflect upon herself. The time is now to unearth a deeply held musical passion of her own, and with the announcement of her upcoming album, “Business & Pleasure” (to be released on April 14th), has officially declared her love for late 70s era Yacht rock music. “The excitement over the first single (“Valencia,” released Nov. 2022) has been overwhelming. It’s like there is a yacht rock family that has welcomed me with open arms,” Emm offers. “Since my last album, everything has changed. I’ve cleaned up my life, fallen in love and written all new material. In many ways this [forthcoming] album is a renewal and I feel at my strongest ever, a reminder that it’s never too late in life to go for your dreams.”

Emm Gryner

Emm is incredibly excited to share this teaser of new music here in 2023, launching the single “Burn the Boats” today, and doubling down with an accompanying music video that GDW are delighted to premiere on her behalf. “The song ‘began’ with this line in a notebook: ‘a boat’s not supposed to burn’,” Emm offers when asked about the origins of the tune – co-written with husband Michael Holmes, and with a common objective to explore two themes: “First the birth of a nation – the birth of a new race of people, in fact – and the story of the woman who was the mother of that story,” Emm explains. “And second, to consider the meaning of the phrase ‘Burn the Boats’ – the idea of cutting yourself off from even the possibility of retreat and what it means to stake everything you have on the belief in your own success.”

This ship will never burn / You said the sea between us / Ain’t flammable / But that’s the point of no return / I said the heart beats / Untameable.

Clocking in with a run-time in excess of five minutes, progressing into the verses, the listener quickly discovers a narrative based upon 16th century Spanish and Aztec history. “The song became a story: a contemporary re-telling of the life of La Malinche, Dona Marina, a Nahua woman enslaved to [Spanish conquistador Hernán] Cortés in 1519,” Michael recalls. “She would become both his guide and interpreter in Mexico, and ultimately gave birth to his son, Martin, who is considered one of the first Mestizos (people of mixed European and indigenous American ancestry).”

Emm Gryner

Produced by Fred Mollin (Michael McDonald/Billy Joel) in Nashville, Emm surrounds herself with a stellar studio ensemble – Tom Bukovac (guitar), Pat Buchanan (guitar), Larry Paxton (bass), Pat Coil (keyboards), Jim Hoke (saxophone), and Shannon Forrest (drums) – who collectively not only offer some outstanding support, but who add enough magic to transform a 2023 pop-rock tune into an authentic, era-appropriate yacht rock song. “I really love the way you can disappear into a classic rock song [with] no worries about having a short song back then, you just rode the vibe,” Emm adds. “I love the two different solos and we were so lucky to have Tom Bukovac take one solo, and the amazing Pat Buchanan take the other one.”

Directed by videographer Frank Gryner (Def Leppard), the music video for “Burn the Boats” adopts both the historical context and nautical theme through the use of computer-generated imagery – affording the viewer an opportunity to connect further with the lyrical narrative. “I really wanted to evoke the feeling of being at sea, but also evoke a feeling of dark mystery,” Emm shares. “I wanted people to feel the rhythms of the early 70s and feel like they were in southernmost California or the Gulf of Mexico, looking out at the horizon and the water and dreaming of the possibility and freedom that giving up everything and heading south might mean.”

Of course, many of us would likely admit to having familiarity with, and using the term “Burn your Bridges” long before considering the historical “Burn the Boats” analogy – yet shortly after writing and recording this single, Michael stumbled upon a story about this very phrase from well outside of their own musical orbit. “The phrase Burn the Boats became the rallying cry for the Georgia Bulldogs [collegiate] football team. They too latched on to the idea of denying even the possibility of retreat or giving up and focusing solely on the image of your success,” Michael adds, in closing. “Other sports teams have [also] made this phrase part of their team philosophy [and] mantra … as a rallying cry.”

Burn the boats / Raise the siege / The sun and the sea / I still believe / Burn the boats / Raise the siege / The sun and the see / Finally free.

“Burn the Boats” is available today via Légère Recordings, High Wire Records, P-Vine Records and Bright Nightgown.  

Photo Credits: Kim Atkinson / Scott Clarke

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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