With numerous solo albums and three JUNO nominations under her belt, Ontario singer-songwriter Emm Gryner is no stranger to the music scene, both in her Canadian homeland, and at the international level. Breaking onto the popular music scene in the late 90s (and earning a role as part of David Bowie’s touring band), it is her incredible musical diversity that continues to win new fans over. Extending her pop roots into forays with rock & roll (check out ‘Trapper’) and folk music (as part of Canadiana trio ‘Trent Severn’), whilst fine-tuning the purity of her singer-pianist themed balladry, what direction could this immensely talented and versatile artist possibly challenge herself with next?
If you have checked out Emm Gryner’s website lately, or follow her social media pages, then you already know that the correct answer is jazz. Often considered a genre ‘not for the faint of heart,’ Emm credits the unconditional love for her father, Jim Gryner (and his unconditional love for jazz music) as the source of her courage and inspiration in taking this next step in her musical journey. “I got tired of giving my dad tins of ground coffee so I made him a jazz album,” Emm shares. “When I was a kid, he would regularly play me Bill Evans, Errol Garner, Monty Alexander … the list went on. All I wanted to do was crank Def Leppard and bleach my jeans in the bathtub.” Scheduled for release on November 6th, Emm’s latest studio offering, “Just For You,” is her debut jazz venture, mixing both classic standards with a few original compositions too.
“It was years ago when we flew / Nothing came between me and you / We were untouchable and true / There were butterflies in skies of blue,” Emm recites, these lines opening her current single, “Butterflies,” co-written with Joe Corcoran and released on October 9th. “But no, nothing goes as we planned / And I’m trying to understand / ‘Cause I never thought we’d see the day / When those butterflies are miles away.” Such a change of pace, and change of character here for Emm, yet she delivers these lines with ease, and the confidence and demeanor of her father’s musical idols. “Making records opens up a lot,” she shared recently with her fans who pledged financial support to create this new album. “As I get older, each one teaches us something, and I wasn’t prepared for what this would bring out for me. Music is always going to be there for us in the tough times.”
To accompany the release of “Butterflies,” Emm is excited to share a freshly-squeezed music video for your viewing pleasures here with GDW today. Shot exclusively on a Super 8 iPhone app, it is the dreamy, minimalist nature of this footage that deepens the connection to the artists’ soul – the vintage recording method itself set up to reduce natural light, the muting of colors gravitating the viewer to the darker images on the screen. With little light surrounding a sharp focus on Emm’s face, the darkness we are drawn to just happens to be her expressive, deep brown eyes. “Once a flutter, a perfect flake of snow / Now there is thunder, is this how it goes? / Once we were eager, now we are slow / Once there was sunshine, and now there’s only cold,” she continues, accompanied not only by visual moments recorded around Southwestern ON, but also by the smoothing instrumentation care of Joe Corcoran (guitars), Noah Harmon (bass) and Matt Mayhall (percussion). “In an emptiness inside / As we move out like the tide / Now there’s just a memory / Of some butterflies that you gave me.”
“With everyone in relative isolation, and having to see themselves in video chats, I think turning the camera on yourself is a brave and fascinating thing to do…because it’s not always easy to look at yourself,” Emm responds, when asked about the artistic direction of this video. “This song is about the demise of a long relationship, and I think once you get older, you have to really look at yourself if you want to do any healing, and move on to something else.” Having self-recorded the raw video footage, Emm trusted longtime media creator and friend Darryl Lahteenmaa to bring her visual imagery to life. “Turning the camera on yourself, or seeing yourself back in a video chat or a Zoom meeting can sometimes be a wakeup call,” she adds. “Or it can be a celebration of your own milestones, the beauty of getting older as a woman and accepting yourself.”
Emm may be a newcomer to the jazz world, but leaves no doubt that despite the often improvised nature of this genre, there is indeed some rigid structure too – hence a brief moment of solitude about two-thirds of the way in to the song for a light guitar solo – a simple expectation from a seasoned jazz listener, and the cue that her most vulnerable words are yet to come. “Once a flutter every time I heard your name / Now there’s a shudder and I try to look away / Once we were eager, now we are slow / Once there was sunshine, and now there’s only cold / It was years ago when we flew / Nothing came between me and you / We were unstoppable and true / There were butterflies and skies of blue,” she delivers in closing. “Gone are the butterflies I had with you / No more butterflies, or skies of blue.”
A powerful, perfect end to not only this first single, but a chapter of her own personal life, and a strong indicator of much more to be discovered on “Just For You.” I have to smile when recalling some of the doubts Emm articulated to her campaign supporters during the early stages of this project: “As a pop singer walking into this world, it was daunting,” she shared. “If my 44 year old self met my 12 year old self and told her, ‘hey kid, you’re gonna make a jazz album,’ I would have got some serious eye rolls. Like, for real.”
Visit Emm Gryner’s website to pre-order “Just For You” – released on November 6th, 2020, via Dead Daisy/Outside Music.
Photo Credits: Mark Maryanovich (cover) & Cynthia Moore (studio image)
Video Credit: Joceyln Hassan (makeup)