After burning out from years of day-job overtime, the loss of friends and family members and watching her own health decline due to the stress, Emchy found herself sitting in a haunted bar in New Orleans, her spiritual second home. On her travels that day a “grizzled and gorgeous” old woman who told her, “come on honey, this is New Orleans. You gotta shake your ass!” The musician took the women’s admonition as a sign – it was time to get down to her real work as a musical artist. This is where the album begins, with the stompy-and-swinging “Two Feet and a Dream.”
Next up is “Down to the River,” a deceptively catchy song about love and loss. “I’d been talking about writing a ‘don’t go down to the river’ murder ballad for about eight years,” says Emchy. But the song transformed into something more devastating after she lost two friends to suicide and a third to the infamous Oakland Ghost Ship Fire. “I realized the song needed to be a cautionary tale for how we harm ourselves, how much we try to love and support and save our people from themselves but sometimes…it’s not enough.”
“Jagged Edges” is a slightly melancholy waltz “all about how you sometimes have to wait out those stressful times in relationships” by focusing on the small moments – a dance together in the kitchen, a shared cup of coffee. It’s a subject the musician knows well – Emchy has been with her partner for 19 years and counting. Here she duets with “the legendary” Tolan McNeil. “The guitar solo here is all Tolan.”
Recurring themes of restlessness and life on the road rear their heads again on “NYC in the Morning,” an ode to one of Emchy’s “favorite things in the world” – walking in the West Village, listening to jazz through the open doors of the bars there. “This is a love song to touring and traveling, and trying to grab that moment when you feel like fate is going your way.” Sometimes you grab and miss; sometimes you grab and never let go.
Emchy wrote “Beautiful” for her wife as an anniversary present. “I played it for her on my phone, sitting in Washington Square Park in NYC before going to see Cabaret. It’s all about the magic and adventure of my longstanding crush on my favorite person in the world.” “Little Fucker” was born out of a late-night post-show beach party in Alameda, California, “It’s about that one guy that everyone loves and loves to hate,” who drinks up all your whisky and always seems to overstay his welcome. “Had Enough” is a duet with Carolyn Mark. “Two Lady singers commiserate about their self-destructive collaborators. It’s an amalgam of experiences with a number of different friends and bandmates.” “I’ve Been Staring” acts as Emchy’s secret artistic manifesto, so it’s fitting that it sits at the center of the album. “It’s about having to push forward and deciding to live for yourself and your own art and not be a cog in the machine. Make up your own standards of success! Define your own happiness! Be a beatnik! Fuck the man! It’s not a new idea in our culture but damn we seem to have a hard time learning this lesson.”
“Sunday Hootenanny” is “my little love song to all of my Victoria music family,” a direct reference to Carolyn Mark’s famous events of the same name, where you can expect to find “sing-a-longs, whiskey, poutine, and some of the best times in the world.” The last two songs on The Stars Fall Shooting Into Twangsville may technically be orphans from previous Emchy projects, but they’re fully integrated into the extended family here. The zydeco-tinged “Songs Are All We’re Left With” was originally written for Emchy’s band Feral, and it’s fitting to find it here as a reminder that sometimes the people go away, but their songs linger long after they’ve gone. The track features an “extra-special” accordion solo by Grayson Walker. “Sorrows Drowned” was originally the first song written for Emchy’s former band Rhubarb Whiskey. It’s become a “safety blanket song” for accordionist Emchy whenever she needs something comfortable and fun to play. Recording the song was a happy accident. “When I grabbed Grayson’s accordion while the rest of the musicians were on a break, Tolan turned the mic on and there you have it. The song was recorded on one mic, in one take, at the end of three marathon days of recording, singing, and staying up until crazy o’clock.”
The track ends the album with a feeling of after-hours, closing-down-the-bar intimacy.
The Stars Fall Shooting Into Twangsville was recorded at Lucky Mouse Studios in Victoria, British Columbia, with the help of musicians Carolyn Mark and Tolan McNeil. It’s fitting that Mark in particular should make an appearance, trading vocals with Emchy on “Had Enough.” “She was the first person to put me solo on a stage with a guitar in my hands,” Emchy states. Mark surprise appointed Emchy her opening act for a show at the Epicurean Connection in Sonoma, California. “That was actually the first gig the Secret Emchy Society ever played.” Mark’s bandmates Dennis Siemens and Joel Fernandes, who played backup that first night, also make up Emchy’s backing band on Twangsville. “I flew from Oakland to Victoria and spent four days teaching the band the songs, laying down the core tracks, and making sure we were all on the same page. What we came up with was an impressive array of harmonies, accordion, piano, upright bass, horns, drums, a whole passel of guitars, and a deep sense of satisfaction.” Emchy threw her all into the process of releasing her solo debut. “There are scraps and orphans of songs that made it onto this record that were years and years old. There are songs on this record that were less than two weeks old” when they were recorded. “But what I know is that I threw every bit of myself into it.” The result is both highly personal and wholly contagious.
The Stars Fall Shooting Into Twangsville is by turns happy, sad, heartbreaking and humble. “What I have to offer the world is music, stories, and finding ways that I can throw the most powerful parts of myself into a few muddled chords and some danger.” Thanks to Emchy’s big heart, smoky voice and dedication to her craft, Shooting Into Twangsville is more than a little dangerous – and contagious.On July 22, Emchy will celebrate The Stars Fall Shooting Into Twangsville with a special record release show at Hotel Utah in San Francisco. Produced by Hollins & Hollins Mortuary Entertainment, the evening will also feature The Pine Box Boys, and The Graveside Quartet.
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