Award winning vocalist Emma Pask has firmly established herself as one of Australia’s favourite voices in Jazz. Her talent was first spotted by multi-instrumentalist James Morrison during one of his regular visits to high schools when she was just 16 years old. Their musical collaboration has continued to entertain audiences nationally and internationally over the past 20 years.
Emma has performed around the globe, singing to stadium sized audiences, at prestigious music festivals, and has been accompanied by Symphony Orchestras.
By request, in 2006, she performed the Bridal Waltz for Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban’s wedding. She has received ARIA award nominations for her albums and has performed for VIP audiences including the late Diana Princess of Wales and Princess Mary of Denmark.
The Street talks to Emma before her Canberra concert.
It was what my heart was most drawn to as a youngster. My parents played many different genres around the house throughout my childhood. But it was Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald that captured most of my attention. In my teens and during high school I had a fabulous Music Teacher who expanded my listening, and introduced many more artists to me.
YOU HAVE HAD A MENTOR IN JAZZ MAESTRO JAMES MORRISON. HOW HAS THIS RELATIONSHIP HELPED FORM YOUR ARTISTIC PRACTICE AND CAREER?
I learnt everything i know about working with a band from James Morrison. And it was purely through the ‘doing’ of it. It wasn’t like he ever sat me down and said “ok here is what you gotta do..” It was more just the getting out there on stage, having your eyes and ears open to whatever was about to happen next. There was never any warning, or much discussion about what we were going to play, it was all very impromptu and he kept you on your toes musically and with the banter in between tunes. I think being thrown in the deep end helped me find my feet quickly, and I soaked up all I could from him, every night for over 20 years! The way James entertains an audience is remarkable. He is a master, so having the opportunity to be on stage with him pretty much every night for years has been invaluable to me. He was not only my musical mentor but also guided me in a business sense, which has helped me so much throughout my career to date.
FROM AUSTRALIA TO CHINA TO SOUTH AMERICA TO EUROPE AND BACK AGAIN, WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE MUSIC SCENE THAT CONTINUES TO MOTIVATE YOU.
First and foremost, it’s the music itself that motivates me. It’s love. I love the music we are so fortunate to be able to create. I love the connection I share with my fellow musicians and I love that that connection starts from even before the first note is played. I’ve experienced that you never know what’s around the corner in this business, or what direction you’ll head in, and that excites me, terrifies me and motivates me, all at the same time!
YOU ARE NOW AN INDEPENDENT ARTIST AND HAVE PRODUCED TWO ALBUMS, YOUR FIRST SOME OTHER SPRING AND THEN COSITA DIVINA WHICH WAS NOMINATED FOR AN ARIA AWARD. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE STATE OF MUSIC FOR INDEPENDENT ARTISTS?
I guess I can only speak for myself and what I experience through being an independent artist. Financially it’s not easy at all, but musically it’s really rewarding. I work as hard and as much as I can, to earn enough money to begin a new project, and then I enjoy having the freedom to record what I want, when I want, how I want, and with whom I want. There is no time limit on a project, unless I put one on myself. At the moment I’m really enjoying being an independent artist.
WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH TO COLLABORATION WITH OTHER ARTISTS?
Collaborating with other artists when it comes to songwriting for me is great fun. It usually consists of meeting up with fellow artists, catching up, raving about music and if it feels right we’ll often say to each other “lets hang and do some writing” and it begins there. And its the same with collaborating for gigs and performances. If it feels good, if it feels right , then I’ll jump on in as you never know what will come from it. Collaborating with artists who may have a passion for other genres of music can be exciting too.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?
I’m currently loving being on tour with dates all over Australia. In June I’m heading to Europe to play in Switzerland at a great Jazz festival there. I’m wanting to record a new album with my trio. And at the moment I am in the studio recording another new project with the incredible Ed Wilson ( Daily/Wilson Big Band days ) Its an album full of Ed’s Big Band arrangements and we’re recording with the Sydney All star Big Band featuring Ed himself and with myself and Tom Burlinson on Vocals.
WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT?
Getting out and hearing live music is always inspiring and that’s what i’m doing in between my own shows at the moment.