Video Premiere: Emm Gryner, “Loose Wig”

Emm Gryner - Loose Wig

“Blockbuster’s / Gonna feed my VCR / The sky’s a creepy orange / Outside my car / Like Rolling Stone says / That’s the way things are.”

If you’re seeking out a blast of nostalgic Yacht Rock nirvana today, you came to the right place. We are thrilled to collaborate once more with ON-based artist Emm Gryner to debut this fabulous lyric video for “Loose Wig,” the opening track from Emm’s latest “Business & Pleasure” album.

We shared a “First Spin, First Impressions” feature back in May about this experimental album, and took delight in witnessing Gryner both digging deep into her inner psyche and flexing her creative muscle to take listeners on a musical journey back to the AOR heydays of the late 70s and early 80s.

Co-written by Emm and husband/poet Michael Holmes, if their childhood memories of Detroit rock radio were the muse, recreating authentic era-appropriate sounds of SoCal life was the destination. The key to creating such an illusion, of course, meant seeking out a seasoned magician – and having acclaimed Nashville-based engineer Fred Mollin (Michael McDonald/Billy Joel) at the helm, meant no shortage of magic dust to sprinkle over this time-traveling adventure.

Many lyrical references are tied toward current popular culture and socio-political commentary throughout “Loose Wig,” making it essential to blend era-appropriate imagery with the retro-flair of the soundtrack.  A challenge taken to heart by JJ Eringa, a London, UK-based filmmaker and illustrator who craftily ties visual cues with the breezy beat as a narrative for this lyric video. Together, the music and video combine to pack quite the punch: Right turn Clyde.

Emm Gryner

As one of the focus tracks featured in our album review, we learned that the inspiration for “Loose Wig” originated from a Rolling Stone magazine article with Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen.  Team GDW are grateful to both Emm Gryner and Michael Holmes for taking the time to discuss in great detail both the song and lyric video with us today.

GDW: “Loose Wig” sets a strong tone as the opening track on “Business & Pleasure.” Can you elaborate on statements previously made about what inspired this particular song?

Michael: It began with Emm sharing an interview she’d read: Jon Blistein talking to Donald Fagen for a 2020 issue of Rolling Stone, a rapid-fire question and response piece. We’d shared our love of Steely Dan since we met and the music we’d been inspired by. When we began, the songs [for “Business & Pleasure”] included a healthy dose of Dan. I’d also just read Fagen’s book, “Eminent Hipsters.” Fagen’s responses to Blistein’s questions about how he was riding out the pandemic were both inspiring and hilarious.

Emm: You can write about anything you want and people might actually love it. The themes don’t always have to be watered down and universal. That’s how I approached “Loose Wig,” which was inspired by [that] article about Donald Fagen ‘keeping his sense of humour’ in isolation. Referencing the term Donald used to describe a political figure, it’s one of those rare songs about the pandemic that might make you laugh. I wanted to offer a feeling of grooviness amidst the helplessness.

GDW: With the desired ‘Yacht Rock’ theme as your goal, pulling some Steely Dan influences from your back pocket is not a bad place to start. What was it about their music in particular that paved the way towards what would ultimately become “Loose Wig?”

Emm: After watching a documentary on the making of “Aja,” I was inspired to come up with a keyboard riff reminiscent of “Peg” and the harmonic feel of “Josie.” Michael created some incredible lyrics and lyrical images that are in my opinion some of the most classic [on] our new album, and Bryden Baird (Feist) wrote some horn lines that really sent the song into smooth sailing.

Michael: For me, one of the most magical parts of Steely Dan, beyond the musical maturity, is the power and scope of the stories they tell: in four or five minutes, again and again, they weave complex narratives. I’d argue that no one in contemporary music does this better than Fagen – he’s the consummate storyteller and Steely Dan songs become entire worlds. And he’s not afraid to be tragic, epic or sublimely ridiculous.

Emm Gryner - Loose Wig

GDW: So, having collectively discovered your desired sound and era-appropriateness for the music, and your primary influence, you were ready to commence the lyrical journey. What prompted you to combine modern popular culture and political references into the mix?

Michael: With the Rolling Stone interview and Eminent Hipsters on my desk – and Emm’s inspiration in my head – I became fixated on Fagen stepping away from Steely Dan and writing about film scores for Premiere Magazine in the late 80s. I was thinking, especially, about his interview with Ennio Morricone where he asked about Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns. Naturally, this led me to daydreaming about Clint Eastwood. Everything about “Loose Wig” begins to coalesce there: Fagen’s words to Blistein about Covid-19, his sly, damning, and hilarious political commentary about the loose wig’s presidency started to take the shape of my idea of a Steely Dan-like story. What movies would Donald Fagen write about in the mood he was in? Well, he’d likely metaphorically head down to Blockbuster and rent the VHS tape of Every Which Way, But Loose (I found the idea of him picking up Talladega Nights at the same time whimsical – what pairs well with orangutans? Why, cougars, of course). From there, Fagen became the protagonist in his own Steely Dan narrative – and it unfolded like “Do It Again,” “Black Cow,” or “Kid Charlemagne.”

GDW: You’ve sold me on this unique and interesting perspective, and laid the groundwork for plenty of creativity. Where did you envision ‘the protagonist’ would likely have gone from here?

Michael: Using his words as the lyrical bones, the song came to life: Donald Fagen in New York, haunted by the spectre of a far more orange Donald. Even Trump’s reported ties to the Penske Media Group make an appearance. Oh, and the fact that Roger Stone could easily replace Rolling Stone lyrically? Well, that was the very definition of serendipity. And that’s it – the whole thing came quickly and joyfully. It was an exercise in answering the question: How would Steely Dan teach us to survive the pandemic? And the answer was: with our eyes wide open to all the powerful people attempting to manipulate the situation for their own benefit – and our bullshit detectors and sense of the ridiculous fully engaged.

GDW: We are sharing this outstanding lyric video today, which came to you from way over yonder, from across the pond. Tell us a little about how this came to fruition.

Emm: We were lucky to have JJ Eringa direct this lyric video, taking inspiration from Michael and the retro feel of the song. We commissioned JJ to make the video, but his ideas for the footage were his own. [He’s] worked with Brian May and The Anchoress and is an exciting new filmmaker from the UK, so we were grateful that he could collaborate with us on this.”

GDW: For anybody that has not yet given “Loose Wig” a whirl, go ahead and offer up one last pitch to entice them.

Michael: “Donald Fagen takes time away from Steely Dan to review classic films featuring Clint Eastwood and orangutans, Will Ferrell and cougars, and to indict a presidency… during a global pandemic. Hipster Rebop, the Purdie shuffle and hilarity ensue.”  And I still think [these] words get close to its essence – the song makes Emm and me happy, makes us smile and laugh. But it’s also more… complicated.

Photo Credit: Jimmy King (Emm Gryner image)

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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