Scottish singer-songwriter Emma Morton is making a big impact throughout the European music scene. She’s enjoyed a Top three hit in the Italian charts, numerous television and radio performances, soundtrack feature releases, over 240K downloads on Spotify, alongside collaborations and performances artists like Olly Murs, Paolo Nutini, Alejandro Escovedo and Glen Hansard.
Now she brings her dark, sexy and un-contained Confessional songwriting to Brighton Fringe on Tues 29 May. The show will platform her latest album project Bitten by the Devil, which came out early this month.
This is a monomythic journey, where juxtaposing worlds of love and hate, fear and desire, oppression and freedom are exposed and celebrated by the band’s raw and psychotropic sound cocktail, fizzing with jazz, roots-rock and folk contaminations and all sung in Scottish dialect. We caught up with this extraordinary and compelling artist, to find out more.
Was it a conscious decision to sing in your own accent, rather than adopting a vanilla US commercial brogue.?
Yes, I wanted to make an album that didn’t rely on working buttery sounds, but rather, tell stories intimately, directly, the way I would with friends. It took time to find my voice though, to get over the idea of glitzy vocalization and I think I really found freedom from that during my pregnancy. I began singing though, after moving to Italy in 2009. I formed an Italian Swing band and spent a few years cooing out light motifs from the fascist era ,far too afraid to utter a note in my mother tongue, but along the way I met Lilli Greco, a Chopin and Scotland-loving, big-time 1960’s Italian music producer who told me that I would one day go back to my roots, and colour my natural bond with jazz and blues with the dirt of my homeland. It took me four years to get there, but here it is; my East Lothian lament, Bitten by the Devil.
What makes music such a compelling form to tell a story?
Humans began making sounds before they constructed words; it’s primitive, it’s universal, we all feel it. Music connects us and I guess that for me, it was always a kind of instinctual language which I felt allowed me to express myself beyond the limits of my words and actions, and enabled me to enter into the realms of others. What I find so exciting about song-writing is being able to mix up sophisticated language forms with the primal expulsion of sound and rhythm, the whole process becomes spiritual, ritualistic, healing.
Do you think live music is becoming more important in the face of the immediacy the internet offers?
I think it’s important today more than ever to share live art and music – that real, physical exchange of energy and experience can’t be captured or transcribed in any digital form. We tend to not give ourselves enough time to melt into experience, absorb the evolving zing of real life and take part in it, but every so often, I am lucky enough to make contact and in particular when touring this project, I have seen people let themselves go, ready to move and be moved.
Is having a rich heritage important in honest music-making?
I believe that one’s own truth and vision is the main ingredient in honest music-making, a rich-heritage is undoubtedly a strong building block in honing authentic musical creation, though often, magic happens through unsophisticated, simple truths and gut instinct.
Funnelling your own personal narrative into your art is clearly important, but what happens if the flow is reversed? How do you keep in touch with who Emma on a personal level?
I try not to worry too much about that, I like riding the waves, fluctuating between my physical and spiritual realities and breathing life into art, art into life. One seems to help the other actually, throughout the years I have been able to process and overcome my personal conflict regarding my place in the world through artistic exploration, giving my scars a place to live within music has actually given space to personal freedom, new found positivity and resilience.
What do you find more alluring, the light or the darkness, and why?
I am absolutely fascinated by both and I believe that they co-exist within one another, in darkness there is also light, and vice versa. I am particularly interested in what is hiding within both – travelling through shifting sonic soundscapes, the shadows and rays of light, we can catch glimpses of beauty, even in the grotesque.
Would you be able to fully appreciate love if hate didn’t exist?
I don’t actually believe in hate. But I believe in LOVE.
The media too often implies there’s no glory in normality. Should everyone celebrate themselves more?
Oh yes. As opposed to spending energy in outward constructions it’s far better to recognise and celebrate the simple truth of our individuality, within and for ourselves. I spent a huge chunk of my life trying to be extraordinary, but I found myself a lonely woman within the walls of a dream-house which was not my own. The pressure to appear as anything is a real bore to me, for this reason I have no TV and use social networks exclusively for work. Love yourself!
Emma Morton & the Graces kick off their UK tour at Brighton Spiegeltent Fringe on Tues 29 May, as part of Brighton Fringe 2018. Their debut album, Bitten by the Devil, is available now.
More information can be found about the performance and tickets here.