by Silke Hartung

Emily C Browning: Touring Live & Alive

by Silke Hartung

Emily C Browning: Touring Live & Alive

Ōtautahi songwriter Emily C Browning is what you could call a secret rock star – rock star because she possesses the talent, voice, instrumental chops, musical background, social media following, business smarts and already a level of overseas success, all the while (the secret part) working on breaking through on her home turf. An upcoming tour with fellow songwriter Jack Page will bring her soulful alt-RnB one step closer to local crowds across both islands, starting on November 6. You’ll find all tour dates and links to ticketing below Emily’s interview. 

People might recognise you from seeing you on tour with Jon Toogood in The Adults. How did that cool gig come about?

That was a cool gig, such a nice guy too! Jon was working on his recent Adults’ album and searching for a guitar player for the live set. I think he saw a video of me online playing an Arctic Monkeys tune and must have liked it! It was honestly a little scary to be the hired guitar player in the presence of a rock legend, but I was stoked to be in a band full of such diverse representation.

Your Spotify account shows many listeners are from the States and Australia. Can you explain how that happened, seeing you’re still basically an up-and-coming Christchurch musician?

Yeah, it’s a crazy dynamic. My first big break happened on Instagram, and seemed to really resonate with an American audience so I started playing shows there and making friends with the local musicians and it just grew from there. So now, I’m really trying to promote inwards here in New Zealand because I think Kiwis have a really good taste in music! They’re such a valuable crowd to have on your side.

Seeing that you run your online presence very successfully, can you run us through your personal strategy? 

It can be hard to keep up with the algorithm sometimes! But I think the key to any kind of content is to make sure the process is fun. I only post things that I’m genuinely excited about and I find that audiences really respond to a genuine persona.

Can you pick out a favourite moment you experienced while touring overseas that still makes you happy to think about now?

Yes! When I toured the US with Cory Wong, we ended up playing a bunch of really iconic venues that I would only ever dream of playing. I remember performing at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC to a sold-out show in the middle of a snowstorm and the energy was just amazing. I’ll never forget it!

What’s your biggest talent as an artist? Is there an area of ‘the job’ you enjoy most?

I’m pretty terrible with the business management side of the job, but I’m really into learning any new kind of creative skill like Photoshop, video editing, producing, mixing, photography etc. Quarantine was really good for me in that respect, I picked up a tonne of new skills from home!

You play the guitar, and clearly rather well, but listening to your music, voice aside, the guitar isn’t in the centre of it all. 

Yeah for sure, in terms of sound, guitar is sort of secondary. I use it as a tool to write and get the chords down, but from there it’s more about layering it in parts, and making sure it serves the song. I’ve done a lot of collaborating with producers in the past but these days I’m working on doing a lot of that myself to really refine the sound, exactly the way I hear it in my head!

You’re a strong singer too. What has been the most useful advice in regards to singing that anyone has ever given you?

Ahh, that’s nice of you to say, I don’t think my voice is particularly powerful but there’s some good tone in there somewhere if I look after it! I’m really big on pre-gig warm-ups. The best advice I’ve ever been told is to boil the kettle, pop the top and breathe in the steam – instantly relaxes a tired voice.

Being someone coming out of jazz school, how do you feel tertiary education helped your musicianship?

Studying music was awesome, I’m so glad I did it. I’ve never been much of a jazz player, but learning jazz theory helped me understand how to write better pop music and recognise the structure behind it. Music school isn’t necessarily for everyone but it was really game-changing for me!

You’re about to head out on tour with Jack Page next month. What do you appreciate most about him as an artist and his sound?

Jack is a national treasure! He’s about to take off in a big way, I think he makes really smart choices in his music and just nails that soul sound. Him and I met at good ol’ jazz school, years ago. He actually asked me to play guitar in his band for this NZ tour that he was planning, so I suggested we make it a double headline set and just play in each other’s band. Worked out pretty well I reckon. 

Maybe you could finish this sentence: You should come to one of our gigs if you like…

…If you like good music and a good time! The vibe is alt-RnB-meets-pop music so there’s some bangers and ballads in there for everyone! If not for that, catch Jack before he gets hella famous.

emily c browning jack page

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