By Andrew Ellis, Editor-in-Chief
Vicky Emerson has been frustrated by the lack of female representation on the airwaves. So, when she was ready to release another record, she went searching for a female producer. But she ran into a problem.
“I was somewhat surprised by the fact that are very few women producers,” she says.
She decided something needed to be done. So she put herself in the producer’s chair.
“I would like to see more women in leadership roles within the industry,” she says. “And if I believe that, then I should be part of an effort to inspire change.”
The decision was a perfect fit, too. The songs she was collecting were becoming her most personal and intimate to date, such as lead single “Good Enough” and “Steady Heart” which would end up as the album’s title.
“I wrote that song for my husband and the song came from a tender and sincere place,” she says. “The theme of tenderness and love resurfaces throughout the album and it made sense for it to be the album title.”
She also got to team up with fellow Midwest CMA member Graham Bramblett on “The Reckoning” and “Disappear.” She respects him as a songwriter in his own right, and was thrilled to be able to write with him which she says is a relatively laid back process.
“Graham and I tend to talk for about an hour and then hone in an idea for the song,” she says. “The words tend to fall into place pretty quick after we narrow our focus.”
The album, which recently debuted at #4 on the European Americana Chart, also allowed her to fulfill a childhood dream. One of her favorite songs growing up was Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.” She decided to put her own spin on it for this album. Spotify even placed it on their New Music Nashville playlist. It’s had over 20,000 streams since January 4th.
“I didn’t want to straight up cover the song,” she says. “Because I feel like it’s more fun to experiment with a classic song.”
She printed out the lyrics and studied them over and over as she searched for the best direction to take the song. She started to realize a song like this could do with a little more attitude.
“I felt that the song could have a bit more sass based on my interpretation of the lyrics,” she says. “I brought it to the band and we came up with a bluesy arrangement. I really love where we landed.”
These songs and more came alive while she crafted the album’s sound. She enjoyed it a lot, but admits producing was more challenging than she expected it to be. The most difficult part came to be the mixing process even though she had help from Wild Sound’s Steve Kaul, a recording studio out of Minneapolis.
“It’s hard to keep your ears ready to be critical after hearing songs and parts over and over again,” she says.
When asked about her favorite part of the process, it’s all about fleshing the songs out and recording them her band. It was even better that she gets to call them friends. It’s not something she’ll tire of any time soon.
“Those few days were always so special because you are creating something brand new together with your friends,” she says. “I could record new music every single day!”
Emerson is branching out, too. She shot a new web series called Make Me a Song in 2018 where she talks with other songwriters about their process, and now she’s getting ready to release them on YouTube. It turned out to be a very eye-opening experience for her.
“What surprised me most was that even though the end product was the same, meaning a finished song, every single one had a different approach to songwriting,” she says. “It was fascinating!”
She plans on doing something little different when she starts touring with these new songs, too. She wants to bring the music right into her fans’ living rooms.
“I love house concerts and the new album, Steady Heart, is filled with tender, vulnerable, and honest songs that tend to work better for an audience that really wants to listen,” she says.