Emma G fires up the Cherry Blossum Festival stage for today’s cherry blossum visitors:
Today I decided to follow my queen around our nations capitol while she is home for two days in the middle of a month and a half long music tour across the country. Sure, I have my own work to do, but I know having me follow her around like a puppy dog gives her a mighty ego boost in additional to the rest she is supposed to be getting being back home in the familiar. The health of her voice depends more on her sense of feeling safe, secure, and supported emotionally, I’ve learned, than it has to do with the condition of vocal chords. The entire body is an instrument, a delicate symbiosis of chemicals, glands, organs, and muscles, all orchestrated by the mind and vibrating by breathe.
A day in life of emma starts at only god knows what time. After the haze of showering, brushing teeth, chugging something caffeinated she brought me, waiting and then walking to the backmost seats of the bus, I look up to watch the time tick from 5:59 to 6:00. I cant even remember the last time i was up this early. Who gets up this early?
I look around the bus and see a number of people african and latin american descent, off to open up stores all over the city, including several kind-looking ladies in hijabs. A pair of maintenance workers in uniforms of all royal blue have a hearty conversation about their clown family members. Its a quiet, peaceful, warm ride.
Emma has her peak energy at this time of day though. I listen blankly as she excitedly talks to me, my heart only beginning to carry caffeine to all my cells. Emma defies conventions as she yells “thank you!” to the driver as we depart from the bus, and greets her friend the paper guy by name before we descend down the escalator to her friends working the metro station gates. Shes only been in DC three years, but her ability to spread love and joy to commuters through music most mornings has made her a local icon. Ever since she was on the cover of Washingtonian magazine in 2017, she gets identified everywhere she goes.
I try to keep up as she hops off the green line and transfers to a second train. Today I carry her guitar case, otherwise she normally has it in the opposite hand of her big gulp full of hot tea. Shes also hauling a heaping backpack of merch to sell. Thankfully, at this time of morning, the ladies and men in suits and satchels, which used to be me, only take up some of the seats on the metro.
Seated next to me, Emma wastes no time. She is constantly social media posting, networking, emailing, booking, marketing, etc. “Being a full time musician,” she explains, “is three hours online work for every one hour of performance.” There are still a dozen shows scheduled for this tour, which is promoting her recently released music video for her social justice themed song “Superhero.” The re-recorded video masterfully follows an eleven year old black girl who gets flack from an angry white lady for performing her music on the street for donations, and also highlights the harm parents and police can (sometimes unknowingly) do to black kids’ dreams. Sprinkled with video clips of recent examples of police brutality, the music video symbolizes the controversy of the times.
We are not yet out of the metro station and she drops her backback and in a stretching “tada!” sort of way, she says “This is where I set up!” Its a Thursday so she is normally at L’enFant Plaza, but today she decided to go to Crystal City where she can play inside and avoid todays wind. She asks me to stay with her stuff. “This always happens. I have my big cup of tea and then as soon as i get here i have to go to the bathroom first thing” She will be able to play now for up to four hours, though her vocal coach warns her against gigging over two hours at a time. Thankfully, most of her gigs on the tour are two hours or less.
Emma’s tour started with trips north to Baltimore, Philadelphia, a couple shows in NYC, and a show in Albany where the band was received extremely well, describing the band as “something we’ve never heard before” and promised to have them back but at a larger venue next tour.
The band includes Nick Romero, formerly of One Love Massive, who is now music producer-performer Reality Check, providing live music production to elevate artists’ sounds in real-time, and creating as a solo artist using a Maschine that is a reality check for ordinary DJ’s. His latest track as a solo artist is called “Let Go.” He is the new addition, while the original band member is Joey J Drums, who doubles as a music teacher with School Of Rock and triples as solo artist Silence Echoez (with a Z), who has a new track called “Survivor” which is his tribute to the #MeToo.
Fans have found the Emma G & Her Band Of Misfits show to be a spiritual experience, with occasional bubbles tumbling through the air, and chalked full of gritty songs that capture angst of current events and simultaneously empower and console. Emma’s merch is empowering too, and includes Emma G SUPERHERO earrings, various t-shirts, CDs, calendars, and comic books.
The crowds being drawn are getting larger, with a packed venue at Becket, Massachusetts, including a troop of girl scouts turned up and it turned into a girl power life advice chat about the meaning behind each of Emma’s songs, especially “Sold (Take A Shot),” King For A Day,” and even the bluesy love songs. When I ask Emma which has been her favorite show so far, its this one, also because its been a return to the first place she lived in America, when she worked at a youth worker teaching outdoor skills while taking young women hiking.
From Massachusetts, she and her band and all their equipment hopped on a plane to Palm Springs, California to perform at release party for documentary about The Author Incubator, who commissioned Emma to write the company’s theme song, “Together We Rise” which features in the films trailer.
Now, with two days off, Emma’s back home to catch her breath, which for her means busking for the DC commuters. Today its three and a half hours of mostly covers, including her own renditions of “Hand In My Pocket” by Alanis Morrissette, “Give Me One Reason” by Tracy Chapman, and “Halo” by Beyonce. After busking, which is her therapy, we grab a cheesy jalapeno and egg pita and head off to a short 30min gig she was asked to do yesterday while we used her free day in DC walk around the tidal basin, as the cherry blossums decided to be at peak bloom for us.
It’s a good year for the blossums, and the planners of the Cherry Blossum Festival predicted the bloom perfectly this hear. An homage to japanese culture and our country’s healed relationship with the country we left devastated by nuclear bombs and struggling to deal with health effects of radiation on its citizens, the cherry blossum festival offers food venders and live music to blossum visitors during the week, and on the weekend, petalpalooza, a market of asian-themed foods and activites amidst outdoor stages.
There we ran into the festival’s music coordinator, who knew Emma and was eager to get her included in the set today before she flew back out to meet her band on the tour. He almost excitedly added her photo to the event photo and then suddenly the event photographer was coming to capture shots for future promotion of the festival. Its great brand building for Emma too.
The festival gives unspoken honor to femininity as well as to asian peoples and culture. Drawing all things pink, like the blossums, the parade route includes a large flag team dancing in various formations to create multicolored arrays of spinning flags, an implicit nod to the LGBTQ community. Emma has participated in the cherry blossum festival all three years shes been in DC for it, and last year won the “Sing Into Spring” competition to be featured in the festival parade, escorted beauty queen style in a 1964 ford mustang, closing the parade after acts like Arrested Development, Burning Man artists, and other fun floats. She thought she was going to miss the festival this year because of her Superhero tour.
As her partner, I know the FOMO it gives her and how she reminds herself part of her growth as a musician rising to her goal of becoming an international singer-songwriter, is becoming less immersed in the wild, wonderful world of Washington, DC. Whether she or her childhood relationships in New Zealand realize it or not, DC has become her base, and no matter how big she gets, she will always long to come home and busk. Emma G, along with bandmates DJ Reality Check and Joey J Drums, after shows in Vermont and then NYC, return Wednesday April 10 to play the Pie Shop in DC on her way south to texas. Follow them @emmagmusic, @djrealitycheck, and @joeyjdrums, and catch all the fire of their social movement, including fun live-streamed carpool karaoke style chats. For more on Emma G, see www.emmagmusic.com.