Article By Joe Viglione / Arts correspondent GateHouse News Service
Emmy Cerra’s Tinderbox CD is a beautifully packaged, eco-friendly collection of 11 songs from the Malden artist’s Tapcut label. The Malden Observer caught up with Cerra earlier this week to chat about her past, and latest, musical endeavors:
Malden Observer: Who came up with the Jimi Hendrix-styled cover of “a guitar on fire”?
Emmy Cerra: I love the symbolism of fire and other raw elements. I try to work it into most of the art that relates to my music. When me and my friend Merlyn sat down to begin the CD design I brought him photos that I really love. Turns out that the image was available so we purchased the image to use as the cover. It was such a happy surprise.
MO: When did you start writing songs?
EC: My Mother wrote poetry for as long as I can remember. Also since I was a child, my grandmother used to pull out the Casio keyboard and sing for us, and I remember how happy she was as she did this. I combined the idea and began writing lyrics and simple songs when I was a kid. My family has always been open to self-expression so it is nice to merge these tools and use them as an outlet to materialize thoughts and emotions.
MO: Do you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
EC: I have had very little training, but have a lot of guts and drive. I began working when I was 13 and finally saved up enough money to buy a guitar. I took lessons at a shop that shut down after I had just a few lessons. I took the chord charts I was given and surfed the Internet for more and more until it got to the point that I could play a song on the guitar after listening to it on the radio. That evolved into going back to my roots of combining original lyrics and music.
MO: How did you develop your sound?
EC: Creating my own sound has been a journey and ever changing. My first album was all about getting away from old tape recorders and was just me and my guitar without any other instruments for the most part. As the years go on I learn more and more about production and meet incredibly talented people and get inspired to learn new techniques.
For instance, I saw a flamenco show a few years ago and fell in love with this style. I know that those folks have dedicated their whole lives to perfect the art but that inspired me to learn more about finger picking methods, and I sought someone out who could introduce me to the basics. I believe broadening my understanding of different techniques has made a big difference in my sound. It’s truly a collection of inspiration from other musicians.
MO: How did you decide to open the disc with “Bite the hand?”
EC: “Bite the hand” was the first song I wrote after the first album and it’s also the most familiar to fans, as I have played it during shows before the album was released. This song is also the biggest contrast from the previous album, which lead to this decision.
MO: Track 7, “Salteens,” has a great hook and would be my choice for a CD single, what’s it about?
EC: I wrote this song for my oldest friend. We met in Wilmington when we were 8 and have been friends since, so the song is reminiscent of being young and crazy. The title “Salteens” is directly related to one of my fondest memories together that still makes me laugh. There was a corner store we would always walk to. We’d buy Butter-Rum Life Savers and Cool Ranch Doritos every time. One night it was raining so hard that we couldn’t go to the store but we found some Saltines in the cabinet. We stuffed our faces with them, and she sneezed a big salty cracker cloud — so after stumbling on this discovery we stuffed our face with crackers, sang songs and blew around so much cracker dust, it took days to clean up.
MO: The packaging on the album is terrific — I love how the cover is a fold-out in three sections — who designed this and how did you come up with the concept?
EC: My friend Merlyn Caswell-Mackey designed the layout of the album, and I’m really lucky to know such a talented guy. The pictures in the foreground I took when going to an old cemetery in Boston. I love photographing the artwork on the headstones. I gave Merlyn a bunch of pictures I took and he combined it all tastefully and beautifully. I’m also environmentally conscious so I wanted to make sure it used as little plastic as possible.
MO: You plan to donate half of the proceeds from your record release party to The National Guard Family Readiness Group. How did you get in touch with this organization — and do you have any family in The National Guard?
EC: Yes, my sister is in the National Guard. Recently she was deployed to Afghanistan and the FRG helped me and my family cope, as they do with so many other families. I wanted to do something to give back to this organization.
Emmy Cerra - Metamorphic
Emmy Cerra’s voice and lyrics are as honest and earnest as you can get. As female singer/songwriters go, she’s among the best.
A league leader if you will, leading the underground, and soon poised to strike out at the mainstream artists world conquering that as well. Sure you might not have heard of this Massachusetts based artist quite yet but you soon will as she emerges on the New England underground singer/songwriter scene even more armed with her raw, intelligent voice and great simplistic guitar rhythms. - J-Sin
rambles.net ~ 12.03.05
by Sarah Meador
Metamorphic is Emmy Cerra's album from start to finish. To stay true to her own musical vision, she plays the guitar, does her own mixing and writes every song she sings. The effort she puts into perfecting her sound becomes especially impressive when she starts to sing -- because from the moment Emmy Cerra begins to sing, nothing else matters.
Her tunes are sometimes haunting things. "Unshallow"slithers along on an insistent undercurrent of guitar seduction. "Nicotine Princess" throbs with the urgency of addiction. The harmonica in "Late Night Collecting"breathes in melancholy sighs. Every track ofMetamorphic delivers a payload of heartache or desperate hope, carried in eloquent blues and rock inspired tunes that dance just outside of genre borders. But it's Cerra's voice that changes her songs, turns them from interesting tunes into powerful, hurtful, driving blows of raw emotion. Cerra's voice tends for the low notes, where it travels dark and smooth; but she can push it high and run it raw when needed. It's a dangerous weapon, used with surgical precision and earthquake force. If Cerra sung the phonebook, it would be beautiful. When she uses that voice to deliver her darkly poetic, black-blues songs, it's downright addictive.
The first hit of that sweet high will cost you the price of a CD, but after that it's free and ready to answer every late night craving. It won't put fat on your thighs or strain on your marriage, but it will keep you hoping for more with every track. An addiction can't treat you better thanMetamorphic.
There is no denying that Emmy Cerra can belt out a tune. Its hard not to notice because Metamorphic is two things, her voice and a acoustic guitar, its 100% Emmy. This seems to be enough for a listener to absorb. It works because her powerfully persuasive voice and her lyrics suck you right in immediately and do not let go.
Cerra’s guitar playing is quite good…she has a good feeling for the acoustic and how it matches the tone and pitch of her voice. She does not do anything fancy, no flashy solo runs or picking, its simple strumming along to her voice. All of this seems to do the trick; it is clean, uncomplicated, and actually very refreshing.
All of the good performers like this seem to have one thing in common; they write lyrics that unravel a story, in an emotionally poetic fashion. The key is having all of those factors happening for you simultaneously in a powerful way, otherwise the music is boring, and you lose the listener after a few tracks. This does not happen to Cerra during this album. She gives you plenty of brain food with the overall package offered on this CD…lyrics, music, and her stunning beauty. How can you possibly lose with a combination like that?
Believe me she will not fail, and this CD is the only beginning. If the big label never happens and stardom does not beckon I am certain she will continue gain quite a following as her career moves on. Either way, Emmy Cerra is control of hew own destiny. This album is damned good start to a career with a lot of promise.
© Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck
nomasonha interview ~ 07.05
View From The Underground: Emmy Cerra
An Interview By Meg C. Folk/Singer-songwriter
“I'm just trying to create an earthquake.” - Emmy Cerra
Local artist and NoMaSoNHa sweetheart Emmy Cerrarecently caught up with staff writer Megan C. to talk about touring, writing, recording, and Chicago’s own “Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corps”. Don’t bother to ask because we’re gonna tell you anyway.
Having released your first acoustic rock release, on your own label, what do you think will come next? Do you feel pressured? Have you set the bar too high or are you unfazed by the whole experience?
The first album was raw and honest; I hope to always write music in that same vein. Raising the bar is a good thing but as an artist, if you are focused on that alone, pressure would be inevitable. I enjoy the experience of working on the second album [Drop me, Flip me, Spin me,] because it is definitely more rock. I'm just a punk from Lowell happy to be where I am, doing what I love to do. If I am ever "unfazed," it means that I should put down my guitar because that is a sure sign of not giving a sh*t.
You have been cranking out shows in the area and you have plans to tour the country. What is the difference between connecting with a live audience and your listening audience? One of the most exciting things to me is when people sing along at the show. I feel a release when I perform live. When I see someone else releasing those emotions with me, I feel like I'm at a group therapy session and we're all going f'n nuts together. It's great!
How does fan feedback affect what you do, if it does? Feedback is a great thing and I am always open to it. I think my fans feel comfortable talking to or writing to me because they know I'll respond and that means something nowadays.
You are going to be marketed nationally. Are you excited? [Laughs] Yes, I get my own package and I even come with a hairbrush! I think the hardest part about having your own label is branching out to a wider audience. It's easy to stay in the same area because you're really close to your fans and you know the clubs. The exciting part is building those relationships in other areas and wondering what great characters and friends I'll meet.
Do you think this will change your career?
No, I don't think PR will change my career but I do think that it will raise more awareness and open up some possibilities. The biggest myth in this business is that sh*t just happens one day. Like if you get discovered, you just make it automatically. The truth, I hear, is that it takes work. The best part is the journey, and knowing this is why I have so much fun now. If you constantly wish for something else how can you be truly happy with what you have?
If you think it is important to maintain your rawness and your personal style, how do you plan to do that?Yes, I do think that the rawness is important to keep. For the first album, it was sort of a happy accident. Starting out, I didn't have any money to pay a studio or a band so I recorded half of it at home and played the instruments myself. I don't know how to play the drums so needless to say, on the first album, there isn’t any. The second album will have drums and gives the sound more of an edge. The edge is what I like so, no, I won't be playing "safe" manufactured songs... ever.
Your newest single which is posted on your myspace page is a little bit harder and goes in a bit of a different direction than the bulk of your work. How have fans reacted to it? The feedback has been surprisingly positive, and I'm thankful for that. The second album is heavier that the first. Things are going to get interesting when the new CD is released.
Is it your intent to stick with a full band or switch between being fully backed and solo acoustic? I like going both ways (pun intended), but I am having fun playing with a full band because of the way we bring the whole stage to life. Playing alone has its advantages as well, because it is more intimate. I like having the choice.
With all of the tour preparation, rehearsals, and excitement, are you still writing? How does the process change as you become busier, and for that matter, more mature? Yes I am still writing. It's hard to find the time but I always seem to manage. Writing is my way of storytelling and venting. Without a pen, I'd implode. The good thing is that there is so much to write about, it's hard not to think in lyric when you take interest in what's around you. So now that it's getting busier, I guess there's more to write about.
I know the Pride parade happened a few weeks ago. What was your involvement in that, who did you perform with? I performed on stage at the Boston Common. There were five bands total and it was a rocking show. One of the performers was a pretty famous Motown recording artist, Thelma Houston, and she was a DIVA to the fullest extent of the word. She yelled at the sound guys in the middle of her performance and got the crowd to boo at them because her CD kept skipping. One piece of advice: don't piss off the sound guys - they'll f*ck with you in return. If I should ever act like that, I hope someone kicks my ass. But the festival itself was fun and crazy as usual. Chicks running around without shirts, men in army uniforms twirling batons. I asked the guys what organization they were with and they said ROTC. I said, “Really?” He said, “Yeah, Chicago’s Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corps.” [laughs] I love the gender bending and androgyny, it feels good not feeling so boxed up, labeled and awkward. I think everyone should go at least once, and just being there means a lot to the LGBT community. We can never get enough support.
What are your thoughts about the current state of the music world? Everything sounds the same on the radio. The real revolution is underground as it always has been. Occasionally there is a break- (Continued on page 24) through but those artists get exploited and then everyone hates them the next day. Commercial radio should take some chances - its listeners are waiting for a revolution but the execs are playing what is safe and selling. Because of this, I think that internet radio will start to take off. People are going to get sick of the monopoly and go elsewhere.
And how do you see yourself fitting into it? I guess I hope to fit in by not fitting in. There is a place for musicians like me... it's called underground. I'm just trying to create an earthquake.
nomasonha ~ 06.05
Artist Spotlight: Emmy Cerra
Non-Fad Music by Dan Nicholas
Boston-based acoustic-rock artist Emmy Cerra has built a reputation as someone who can do it all. On her first album, Metamorphic, Cerra’s pensive lyrics take the audience on a rollercoaster ride of self-discovery including everything from coming out, breaking up, drugs and family ties, learning from mistakes, and coming out stronger and asking for more.
Writing and performing the music wasn’t enough for this musician, she also produced the album as well as actually recording half of it on her own. Cerra says “It’s been quite a learning experience, but I wanted to do it for myself and have a hand in all aspects of my music.” Proving that you don’t need to sell yourself to a major record company to be heard, Cerra stated, “ I want the audience to like the album based on the music and not because I’ve been shoved down their throat.”
Emmy Cerra will perform in Boston for the Pride Celebration on June 11 th . She will be on stage at about 2:30PM. With a raw sound resonating with unfiltered passion, Cerra’s performance will leave you laughing through tears, reminding you that change isn’t just what weighs down your jeans.