Mike McLeish sits down with Emma Dean

When we at MCF found out that Emma Dean would be gracing our fair shores as one of the vocalists performing in The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, we instantly hoped we could convince her to find the time to do a show of her own, showcasing her stunning, ethereal vocals and her beautifully crafted original songs. It worked!

For my money, Emma is right up there with your Kate Miller-Heidkes and your Sarah Blaskos and your Katie Noonans. Emma's performing a one-off show with her brother Tony accompanying her. He's not too shabby in the talent stakes either.

Mike: I'll kick off with a really boring, clichéd question that has made songwriters roll their eyes for generations: what comes first for you, words or music?

Emma: Words and music have always come at the same time for me! Of course, sometimes my first draft lyrics are totally crap and I have to go back and edit them, but generally it all splats onto the page at once. When things are really flowing, I feel like I go into a trace-like state and I often can't remember the process at all!


Mike: How do you think being a creator of original material informs the way you interpret and perform other artists' work?

Emma: I think being a songwriter means you often hear things through your own musical filter. Sometimes it gets a bit annoying, but it can be of great assistance when trying to interpret other people's songs. Over the years I have developed a better understanding of the harmonic colours and textures I like to create with. I also think your interpretation can have a lot to do with the current backdrop of your life; how you hear the lyrics may change depending on your own story.


Mike: I mentioned Kate Miller-Heidke and Katie Noonan while I was blowing some well-justified smoke up your arse in the intro. You've performed with the former and supported the latter, both of whom have carved out such distinctive and diverse careers, whilst simultaneously staying very true to themselves artistically (at least from this punter's point of view). And they – like you – are quite prolific collaborators. Do you actively seek out collaborators, or do you find yourself crossing paths with the right people at the right time?

Emma: Kate and Katie are phenomenal artists and I absolutely love that they have chosen to follow their heART and creative calling, venturing down a less mainstream road which has resulted in them both creating some truly ground-breaking art. I can't speak for them, but I know I get bored pretty easily. It's one of my downfalls because it means I am always looking for new and exciting creative options to explore. Maybe I'd be more 'successful' if I stuck to one thing, but I have always been hungry to try and feel new things. I have been very lucky that sweet synchronicity has brought me together with many of my fellow collaborators, although if I really admire someone's work, I will definitely reach out to them!


Mike: It's been a while since you last performed in Melbourne. Why do you hate us?

Emma: Ha ha! I couldn't hate you if I tried. I have been to Melbourne twice since returning from New York but the last time was in early 2015! Then I went back to the US to tour for a couple of months and things got exceedingly busy. Let me just say how pleased I am to be back in Melbourne. It is always a pleasure to be inside you.


Mike: Your show is called Emma Dean In Concert, which leaves a tantalizing amount to the imagination of what treasures you might lay out before us. I can't bloody wait! The broad question is, what do you wish for your audience?

Emma: At the moment, I am trying to live without having too many expectations. I don't have much control over what my audience feels or how I am received, especially considering our gigs explore such a wide range of human emotion. Perhaps one can apply the concept of 'self-validating intimacy' in relationships to the stage? That is to say, we will all experience the show differently; the performers and the audience. We will all have different 'favourite moments'. We will enjoy some songs more than others. We will hear and take away some messages more clearly than others. And that is ok; in fact, that is fucking beautiful! Tony and I will be performing a selection of original songs of the pop/theatrical/folk/alternative variety – both old and brand new – as well as some covers performed through the 'Dean filter'. Due to where I am at in my own life, our chosen songs explore themes of love, light and loss. It truly is such an eclectic mix of music and we hope there is something in there for everyone. It is one of my greatest joys in life to perform music with my brother, as we have a somewhat symbiotic musical relationship. Needless to say, we are so looking forward to sharing this music with our beautiful audience at The Melbourne Cabaret Festival.

Book for Emma Dean's show here.