“Miss Emily returns to Napanee for special outdoor show”
By Jim Barber, Music Life Magazine
August 23rd, 2015
(Napanee, ON) – A proud native of Prince Edward County, born of true United Empire Loyalist stock, and now a resident of Sir John A. Macdonald’s hometown of Kingston, talented singer/songwriter Emily Fennell Taylor is thrilled that her first show in Greater Napanee in more than five years is taking place on the grounds of the town’s historic Allan Macpherson House.
Billed as Miss Emily, she will be performing on Wednesday, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m., as part of L&A County’s Music in the Garden series.
“I am really excited to be coming back to Napanee, and I am thrilled with the setting there. To be outdoors and on such a beautiful heritage property is amazing. An outdoor show thatis all ages and community oriented – to me is one of the most beautiful places you can make music. I am UEL and I appreciate that part of my personal history more and more every year I am on this planet. And I love that Napanee is pairing arts and entertainment with culture and history. To me it’s the most natural thing,” said Fennell, who has written, recorded and released five albums over the past decade, the most recent being Rise, which came out in 2014.
A fixture on the eastern Ontario music scene since she was in her late teens, Fennell devoted her life to music and was able to make a full time living doing what she loved right up until a couple of years ago when she married. The struggles and sacrifices of being a full-time working musician were legion, especially being a single-mom for a number of years, and Fennell Taylor said Rise was the first time in a long time when she really felt able to step back and do music simply for the love of it. And it marked the first time in a very long time where she has been able to actually live a life with a semblance of normalcy.
“I am still very busy now, but it’s mostly family stuff. My career as a working musician was so heavy for so long that it’s been kind of nice to re-prioritize life a little bit. From age 17 to age 32 it was full tilt, anywhere from four to eight gigs a week. Summer never existed for me then. Many musicians will understand this because in the summer you make hay while the sun shines and it’s non-stop. You work yourself into a frenzy and just summer doesn’t happen. There are no patios and cottage docks or camping trips,” she said.
“But I feel very strongly that I don’t want people to think that for any reason or under any circumstances am I any less of a musician than I was one year ago, five years ago, or 10 years ago – absolutely not. It’s just now having a support system and having a double-income household and stuff like that has allowed me some freedoms. So I can write and I can record and I can enjoy my family time and have a life outside of just gigging.”
Fennell Taylor said the less hectic schedule means when she does play shows, such as the one in Napanee on Aug. 26, they’re more special for both her and the audience.
“It’s made a huge impact on heightening the quality of my performances over the last couple of years. I can focus on the details of the show and be well rehearsed because I am not laden with all the filler gigs just to try and pay my hydro bill. It’s really nice to play shows and have it be really special and a show that I can put a lot of effort into just that one performance, because I don’t have 16 more shows over a 14 day period,” she said, adding that Rise was an album where she unshackled herself from all the expectations and music ‘business’ considerations and just concentrated on expressing herself as a creative force, and carve out a memorable musical legacy.
“The days of concerning myself with what radio wants are long over. With each passing year, I decided that I needed to something that is going to be around long after I am going, something that is a real statement of who I am, even if it’s only in the hands of six people. Rise was the first album I have made that I had zero interest in fitting into any genre or label; I just made music that I was passionate about. And end of the day it ended up being a very soulful record, but it was made for the most selfish of reasons, and it was made for myself and my support network,” she said, adding that her new perspective is a far cry from even a half-decade earlier when she and her then management were pushing to break Miss Emily into the mainstream music scene.
“In 2010 I was being shopped around to some of the biggest record labels in the world, but more as a pop artist. It was a cool experience and stuff (including performing and getting accolades from the likes of Kiss co-founder Gene Simmons). But even in 2010 I was a fossil. I was 29 – I was friggin’ ancient as far as being a female artist goes these days. Now at 34 they probably see me as being six feet under.”
With the support of her incredibly loyal and certainly substantial fan base, coupled with more time to plan, create and think about the next chapters in her musical journey, Fennell Taylor has seemingly found her path. And it’s not one that would come as any surprise to those who have heard her powerful somewhat dusky and evocative voice.
“My voice has always just been my voice, but now I am actually going to apply it to a productive style that is specific to the characteristics of my voice. I think Rise was a huge step in that direction and I feel like I accomplished something by taking that step. So the next record is going to be a blues record. And the great thing about the blues is that it doesn’t matter how old you are, or what your gender is, or what you look like. It’s all about the songs, the authenticity of the voice and the performance,” Fennell Taylor explained.
“There’s no real radio format for the blues, which is hilarious really when you think of how popular it is. There are all these listeners, all these festivals concerts and great artists out there. So first and foremost I put a phone call in to one of my friends who is in that genre and is part of the music industry here in Canada and she said, ‘oh yeah, we need to have some conversations.’ She was so encouraging.
“And I had one text conversation with [the Tragically Hip’s] Gord Sinclair. He has become a great partner in crime for me and has been so supportive. I said to him, ‘this is what I want to do and this is why I want to do it, what do you think?’ And he replied ‘I am your man. I am always in.’ And that was the entire conversation via text – I took it as a signal we’re making a blues album.”
Fennell Taylor has also become a passionate supporter of the Light of Day Foundation, which raises funds for the treatment and cure of Parkinson’s disease.
It was created in 2000 in New Jersey as a single fundraising concert in Asbury Park and has now grown into a 10-day festival featuring dozens of musical shows throughout the New York City/New Jersey area and features some of the top acts from that part of the country, including regular appearances from local legend Bruce Springsteen.
The foundation has spread to a dozen countries throughout the globe, including Canada over the past couple of years. Fennell Taylor’s new manager Gord Hunter and his wife Ginette Blais organized two Kingston shows over the past couple of years, which brought some of the main organizers and even some artists up from New Jersey. Impressing the visitors, she was asked to perform as part of the main festival in New Jersey this past January. During the finale of the main show at the legendary Paramount Theatre, Fennell was called out to do backup singing duties for Springsteen and also participate in the grand finale, when all the artists were onstage.
As much as appearing with ‘The Boss’ was a cool moment, it was the dedication and commitment of the Light of Day volunteers and staff which really inspired her.
“Gord and Ginette are passionate supporters of the Light of Day organization. And I am a passionate supporter of passionate supporters. When I see a charity is well organized and that there are amazing people doing good things, that really puts wind in my sails. My songwriting mentor growing up suffers from Parkinson’s and I mean he really suffers. So when there was finally this wonderful marriage of passionate people and an organization that raises money for something I believe desperately needs to be cure, I was totally on board. I can’t tell you the last time I was involved in an organization where I felt so passionate about what they were doing,” she said.
“They have huge dreams and huge hopes. To see what Gord and Ginette were able to accomplish here in Kingston and then go down to New Jersey and meet the people who had travelled up here and see them in their element over this big festival was simply amazing. And Springsteen is Springsteen. But honestly he is really just a drop in the bucket of all that is going on with Light of Day. It was the most ‘feel good’ charity event I have ever been involved in.
“There are no politics, no egos – there was a beautiful camaraderie amongst the musicians and the organizers. There was so much respect amongst the venues and the sound people and volunteers. It’s eight months later and I am still buzzed about it. It changed my life. I am so committed to this cause personally; I can’t wait to do more to raise money for that organization.”
In the interim, Fennell Taylor will continue to play select shows, work on her new blues project, and enjoy her abundant and continually rewarding family life.
Admission to her show on Aug. 26 at Allan Macpherson House and Park, 180 Elizabeth St., is $3. For details, visit www.MacphersonHouse.ca, or call 613-354-3027.
For more information on Fennell visit http://www.themissemily.com/.
For information about Light of Day, visit www.lightofday.org.
“Rockin’ In the Square with Big Sugar and Miss Emily”
Matt Hartwick, KingstonMusicReviews.ca
Well Kingston Proved that rain cannot stop the power of Live music as Rockin’ in the Square returned with Big Sugar and Miss Emily. When the rain did hit the crowd at Market square throughout the night you could see a sea of umbrellas popped up throughout the crowd.
Starting off the night was Kingston’s own Miss Emily. From the opening line in the acapella version of “Hold Back The River” Emily had the audience grasped onto her voice and lyrics as they joined in with Emily without any hesitation. Now the lyrics were only a small component of “Hold Back The River” Emily definitely didn’t hold back with her vocals and showed Kingston a taste of the powerful and stunning vocals that she has, inducing the audience with her Blues,Soul and Rock infused sound. Plugging in for her next song Miss Emily played “Sometimes It’s Better To Lose” also she added in a Cajon Percussion Box. I also have to mention that she has to have one of the most beautiful looking acoustic guitars that I think I have ever seen at a live show as well, you have to check out her Gretsch acoustic in the photos below. After a couple of more songs including her stand out single “The Sellout” Emily brought onstage a couple of familiar faces with inviting Rob Backer and Gord Sinclair on stage. With the backing of now a full band Emily graced the audience with three more songs before making way for the Head liner Big Sugar.
I can’t tell you how excited I was when I first heard I was finally going to get to hear Big Sugar acoustic / Yard Style. This was a show that I have been waiting on for years now. I have heard many different versions of Gordies songs now, with his other projects, Sit Down Servant, and especially Grady. But acoustic I couldn’t wait to hear the stripped down versions of his songs. Now what really made this show interesting was the fact that he didn’t just play acoustic guitar, he added in a banjo and a resonator guitar as well. I have to think and go out on a limb as well but I think this may be the first time that I saw him without playing strictly Gibson. The setup onstage was an interesting sound and setup as well, planting himself in the middle and almost at the very back with was also an eye opener as I’m used to seeing Gordie up at the very front of the stage. The stage had an assortment of Djembes drums and various other percussion instruments, Friendlyness played the Blow-Organ throughout most of the set while switching over to percussion, backing and even singing lead vocals as well. I’m pretty sure this was the first time that I saw Mr.Chill with a guitar in his hand as well, let’s not forget that he added in his blues flavour throughout the set as well with his harmonica and sax. Around the middle of the set Gordie asked the audience that he “I bet you thought you would never hear a flute solo in a Big Sugar song. I definitely would have never expected it and more or less I don’t think there would ever be a chance you could hear it over his guitar ( since I know I have permanent damage from my first Big Sugar show years ago). The set tonight had a large variety of Big Sugar songs including one that usually gets remixed in somewhere into another song “Wild Ox Moan” for this song Gordie and Mr. Chill stood at the front of the stage, and Gordie played the entire song without a strap around his shoulder to hold the guitar up. Now I can’t forget to mention the hand drummer from Africa I wish I could remember his name, I don’t think I have ever watched a musician have a larger smile on their face and for the length of time as he had, as I was taking photos at the start of the set I couldn’t help smile back as he was playing; and the power that he had as well, a couple of times I could see Gordie put his head back a little and give a bit of a smile as he the drummer found his groove within the music. There were a few songs that I was really excited to hear including “Diggin’ A Hole”, “Turn The Lights On”, “Little Bit A All Right” and my all time favourite song “All Hell For A Basement”. I can’t say or even explain how amazing for me it was to watch and hear “All Hell For A Basement” Acoustically sounded and also the fact that it was their final encore song of the night.
“Kingston’s Miss Emily sings with Springsteen”
by Peter Hendra, Kingston Whig-Standard
January 22nd, 2015
Talk about being in the right place at the right time.
That was certainly the case for Kingston’s Emily Fennell, also known by her stage name Miss Emily, who found herself “accidentally” singing backup to one of the biggest names in the music business, Bruce Springsteen, last weekend.
Fennell had been invited to New Jersey for the annual Light of Day fundraiser — while Kingston had its own show for the charity in the fall, the Jersey show is the one that started them all — which raises money for research of neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s.
She arrived Thursday afternoon and performed that night in Asbury Park alongside former Sopranos actor Vincent Pastore — whom she had met, and sang with, at the Kingston show — then played a packed acoustic solo show Saturday and at a singer-songwriter showcase Sunday.
Saturday night, though, was the centrepiece of the weeklong festival. She had an all-access pass to the sold-out show at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, N.J., but wasn’t scheduled to perform. She was the guest of the organizers of the Kingston show, Ginette Blais and Gord Hunter.
Fennell had wandered over to the other side of the stage to grab a drink, and found herself chatting with fellow musician James Maddock, who performs at the U.K. Light of Day shows. Beside Maddock stood Willie Nile, one of the staple performers at the charity event.
Springsteen, who was performing at that point, had asked buddy Nile to join him for a few songs.
“We’re standing there with Willie, and Willie said, ‘I’m going out soon and come with me.’ And he kind of said that to James and I, but we both assumed it was for the finale, because that’s when everybody goes on the stage,” Fennell recalled.
“So it was literally, after he said that, a few seconds later, Bruce calls Willie’s name and he runs out and he’s like, ‘Come on!’ We just ran out after him. We get out there and both of us kind of realized, ‘There’s nobody else out here. It’s not the finale.’ ”
Rather than turn and retreat offstage, the pair remained onstage and found themselves behind a mike for a couple of songs.
While pretty much every person in that building knew every word to every Springsteen song — some travelled great lengths to be there, such is their devotion to The Boss — Fennell wasn’t one of them.
“I can shout out the anthem-like choruses of a few Bruce tunes,” Fennell said with a laugh, adding that it was the first time she had seen “The Boss” perform.
Thankfully, the song to which she was singing backup was Because the Night, one of the Bruce songs she does know.
Springsteen — who is revered in New Jersey for not just his music, but his contributions to the community — was down to earth, she said.
“The energy that I felt from that experience was incredible,” Fennell suggested. “You get on the stage with him, and the man is not a diva. He’s smiling, making eye contact.”
During the next number, Light of Day, the performers started making their way onstage for the finale, as is the case every year.
“I stayed out for one or two tunes with everybody out there, and then I actually went backstage because I was so overwhelmed with emotion,” Fennell said.
There were other people onstage who had been a part of the fundraiser for years and she, as a newcomer, felt they deserved some of the spotlight.
After the show ended, she then found herself at a small after-party, and Springsteen was there, too.
“People are like, ‘You’ve got to go introduce yourself,’ and I said, ‘Not a chance,’ because he is just constantly swarmed,” Fennell recalled.
Still, later in the night, she did finally meet the New Jersey icon when he ambled by.
“I shook his hand, shared a couple of words, and that was it,” she said.
Fennell said she was overwhelmed by how warmly she was received by the tight-knit music community of Jersey Shore (“I met so many Lous and Joes, I tell ya,” she said with a chuckle).
“I have never used the word ‘kind’ as much as I have in the past five days,” explained Fennell.
“It’s just really the best word to sum them up, and I get choked up when I even think about it. I couldn’t, in a million years, imagine being so graciously accepted into a community.”
Her experience in the Garden State is not one she’ll soon forget, and she was inundated with interview requests upon her return Monday.
“I think the thing to do right now is to try and breathe a little bit,” Fennell said.
“I haven’t slept in days, but I just don’t think I’m going to sleep for a few more days, to tell you the truth, because I just want to soak in as much of this as I can.”
“Fennell surpasses fundraising target”
By Peter Hendra, Kingston Whig-Standard
Thursday, May 29, 2014
Count Emily Fennell among those who can attest to the success of crowd-funding campaigns.
Fennell — who released her second full-length album, Rise, under her Miss Emily pseudonym at the Ambassador Friday night — raised more money than the $8,000 target she and the folks at PledgeMusic had set.
“The experience has been really awesome,” Fennell said on the eve of her new album’s release. “I realize now how much work it is. It’s a lot of work, but it’s definitely worth it. I know a lot of the people who pledged, but I’ve also met a bunch of new people through the experience, which is really cool.”
Fennell offered a number of different exclusive offers — including a personal singing of Happy Birthday, handwritten lyrics and a duet at Friday’s release party (it never did sell) — in exchange for donations to the album.
Fennell will leave the pledge process open for a little while longer.
“We want people to be involved as possible,” she said.
Not only did Miss Emily benefit from the crowd-funding, so did Prince Edward County’s Recreational Outreach Centre. The appropriately acronymed ROC will receive $800 of the donations.
“That goes a long way with them,” she said, “so I know that they’re going to be thrilled.”
This week sees the premiere of a new documentary by local filmmaker David McCallum about Barriefield Village, which is marking its 200th anniversary this year.
The documentary features interview with past and present residents of the village on the hill, the first designated heritage conservation district in Ontario.
The premiere of Barriefield: Kingston’s Heritage Village takes place at the Screening Room, 120 Princess St., on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Not only is it free to get in, there is also a reception beforehand, at 5.
For more information, go to www.barriefieldvillage.com.
A Kingston stage actor has been named best supporting actor in a play for his work in a Toronto production.
Ian D. Clark received a Toronto Theatre Critics’ Award for his role in the play Cock for Studio 180.
The awards will be doled out in Toronto on Monday.
The third edition of the singer-songwriter’s circle “Naked Songs” will take place at The Mansion Thursday night.
This time around, the show, hosted by Megan Hamilton, will welcome Steve Puchalski of The Parlour Brothers, Anna Robertson and Lia Dawson of The Diaries, and local singer Rae Corcoran.
The show starts at 8, and tickets cost $8 apiece.
Speaking of The Mansion, Hamilton’s Ash & Bloom play there June 4. The duo will likely be playing selections from their upcoming debut album titled Let the Storm Come.
The last of the Queen’s Performing Arts Grant Hall Series takes place Saturday night.
The concert features pianist David Jalbert joining forces with the Pentaedre Wind Quintet to play Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Ravel’s Ma Mere L’Oye, and Poulenc’s Sextet.
The concert takes place at 8 p.m. at Sydenham Street United Church. Tickets cost $30 for adults and $10 students.
“Kingston musician looks to crowd-source her life’s passion through unique pledge campaign”
By Hollie Pratt-Campbell, Kingston Heritage
April 22nd, 2014
Heritage News – It’s been five long years since Emily Fennell has put out a new album. At long last, her fifth studio album, entitled “Rise”, will be released May 30 under her new moniker, “Miss Emily”; Fennell explains that it strikes a different note from previous efforts, as Rise is a true expression of herself and the kind of music she loves to play.
“I’ve never released an album before that I can honestly say was something that I felt was a good representation of me,” she says. “In the past, I’ve tried to work for a certain demographic or a certain radio format and there was no purpose like that behind this one. This is pure art form – me trying to create a good representation of what I like to do.”
The songs’ lyrics all draw on personal experiences – from the challenges Fennell faces as a woman in an extremely male-dominated industry to her life as a single mom trying to make ends meet, to her experiences with domestic violence in a past relationship.
“It can get a bit heavy,” Fennell admits. “Not everybody writes that way, but for me [personal experience] is the main fuel behind the fire in my lyric content. It makes me more passionate about my music.”
Rise’s 14 soulful tracks include collaborations with a number of notable musicians including Chris Koster, Chris Brown and Gord Sinclair of the Tragically Hip.
“It’s exciting to have something coming out that’s been almost four years in the making,” Fennell says, explaining that financial realities are all that hold her back from making albums more frequently. “It all comes down to money.”
That’s why Fennell has launched a campaign through PledgeMusic.com that allows community members to help fund the new album. For $30, for example, Miss Emily can call you or a friend and sing Happy Birthday. For $50, you will receive handwritten lyrics to one of her songs, and for $10 you can download an advanced copy of the album. There are also offers at higher price points, such as an executive producer credit for $2,000 and a CD release show duet with Miss Emily for $750.
While the album is already recorded, Fennell explains that the pledge campaign is essential to completing the project.
“The pledge campaign raises a drop in the bucket, but it’s an important drop because it’s the final money needed. What needs to happen now is it needs to be mixed and mastered and pressed. That’s why this part of it is so important.”
She notes that she feels rather proud to have persevered in the music industry despite the odds, and proven that you can indeed make a living as a musician.
“I could have jumped ship many, many times and got a job that had benefits, but I really felt strongly that this is what I’m supposed to do. I feel like I contribute to my community through my music and through what I do artistically.”
Indeed, when she’s not performing or recording music, Fennell can often be found in local classrooms, speaking to students who dream of careers in the arts.
“I want to set an example for young people who have potential in this type of industry,” she says. “One of the things I’m really passionate about right now is trying to encourage a new generation of artists and I don’t think the focus is there in the guidance offices necessarily.”
As for her own career, Fennell says that she remains in it for the long-term.
“I still feel like I’m in a process. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished but I still feel like I have a long way to go. This new album is just a reminder that it’s a process to get to something more. I don’t always know what the more is but so far it’s surprised me in the best ways.”
The Miss Emily Pledge campaign runs until May 29. To view a full list of pledges or make a purchase, visit http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/themissemily.
A CD release party will be held May 30 at the Ambassador Hotel and Conference Centre.
For more information about Emily, visit www.themissemily.com.
“Miss Emily still going strong after winning She’s The One”
By Tricia Knowles, Kingston This Week
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
A new house, a new family and a vault of material for a new record are just a few of the things that have come to pass for Picton’s Emily Fennell since winning last year’s She’s The One Competition in Ottawa.
Music development, such as the She’s The One competition, is a major aspect of the festival that runs July 4 through 14 just a few hours along the highway at Ottawa’s Lebreton Flats War Museum.
“On one hand there are massive names at the festival, but we’re also trying to build audiences for artists and that’s why there’s such a strong contingent of regional artists presented at the festival every year, including from Kingston,” said Joe Riley, media relations officer for RBC Ottawa Blues Fest. “We feel it’s important these artists have a chance to play on a big stage in front of a decent audience in a major festival setting.”
For Fennell, who has been performing under the moniker Miss Emily since 2009, The RBC Ottawa Blues Fest stage wasn’t as foreign as it may have seemed to the other competitors, having landed five gigs during the past three years of the festival, but she said there was something empowering about performing on a Bluesfest stage with other Canadian female artists.
“It was such a great experience to participate in that competition,” said Fennell. “I really love that it provides exposure specifically for females; that really says something. Anyone who is in this industry can’t help but notice that it is male dominated on every level, so I love that one of the purposes of [She’s The One] is to shine some light on the incredible female talent in this country that might not get exposure on a regular basis.”
Fennell joined the other competitors for a coveted 20 minute slot at the RBC stage to perform for a professional jury, who judged on overall performance, stage presence, originality, musicality, audience reaction and the “it” factor. She walked away with a $5,000 prize.
“I can’t wait to see who comes out of this year’s competition,” she said. “It’s such an amazing experience, and there won’t be a hint of amateur in that room.”
Riley said these aspects of the festival allows for exposure to the next generation. In addition to the She’s The One competition, they also have a Be In The Band opportunity for at risk youth and Blues in the Schools, where artists go into the schools to play for kids.
“It’s about getting people interested in music but particularly getting kids interested in creating music,” he said. “There’s all this other stuff going on development wise, and it’s about discovery. We want people to come and discover new music like Miss Emily each year.”
As RBC Ottawa Blues Festival prepares to get underway for another year, Fennell says she chose to take this summer off from performing and instead is using the money from last year’s win to fund part of a new album.
“I’ve been working on this full length album which I’m hoping to have finished by the end of the year, but it requires so much funding that I’m doing it piece-by-piece,” she said.
“The win helped for sure, it’s always nice to win such a substantial amount of money as it costs so much to do this as a career,” explained Fennell. “One of the greatest things about Ottawa Blues Fest is that the festival and the competition specifically is all about exposure. People come from all over the world for this festival – music lovers and performers alike. From a networking standpoint it’s incredible to be grouped in with world class musicians. She’s The One was another opportunity for exposure.”
After having received accolades from Gene Simmons (KISS) and Matt Wells (MuchMoreMusic), playing to 25,000 people alongside The Tragically Hip, Sam Roberts Band and The Trews in Bobcaygeon and adding Ottawa Bluesfest Director Mark Monahan to the 3-3-3- Music management team, Fennell has been able to continue the level of exposure but she says through it all, her focus is on family.
“I have a wonderful family support system that I just didn’t have to this extent before,” said Fennell, who just moved in to a new home in the Limestone City with her fiancé, daughter and two step-children. “Now it’s the world’s greatest strengths and blessings. My number one thing is my family and it always will be. I just have more people to love now and when I fall there are so many more people there to catch me.”
For more information on Miss Emily, visit www.themissemily.com.
RBC Ottawa Bluesfest hosts a long line up of artists including Kingston’s own The Tragically Hip, Mississippi Heat, BB King, Bjork, and Great Big Sea from July 4-13 on four stages at Ottawa’s Lebreton Flats. For the full line up and more information on the She’s The One competition visit www.ottawabluesfest.ca.
“The past… the present… the future… The Hip”
Gord Sinclair discusses Tragically Hip Way, another Kingston concert, the band’s new album and a Canada Day concert series, among other things
By Jan Murphy (March 2, 2012 for The Whig Standard)
Did you know: Gord Sinclair recently recorded a cover of Dreams, by Fleetwood Mac, along with fellow Kingston musicians Chris Koster and Emily Fennell. To hear it, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNACMjFvTf0&feature=share
On the duo: “(Emily) and Chris are very talented, very talented singers for sure.” “I think (Emily’s) got a very bright future. She’s a talent. She’s a great songwriter, she’s a great singer, she’s a lovely, lovely person and I think she’s got a bright future. I see nothing but great things for her and Chris Koster. They’re both really talented individuals for sure.”
“Matt Tracks (MUCHMOREMUSIC)”
December 5-11, 2011: Radio Radio
So when I’m picking these Matt Tracks every week I’m really at the mercy of what videos we have in our library. Granted, that library is a goldmine for music, but sometimes that isn’t enough and I have to go looking for certain videos/tunes and ask the artist to send them in so I can share with you…..this tune is one of those times. I had heard good things about Kingston’s Miss Emily but it wasn’t until I caught her on the main stage at Ottawa Blues Fest this year that I really got it. Think Janis Joplin, think Alicia Keys; great songs and a HUGE voice.
“Putting Her Best Foot Forward”
By Jan Murphy (The Whig Standard)
Coming off of a summer that saw her as busy as ever — and one that saw her field record contract offers and perform alongside some major Canadian musical heavyweights, it’s hard to imagine things could get much busier for the talented and cheerful Emily Fennell, a.k.a. Miss Emily.
It’s hard to imagine, yet on this day, a long conversation with the rising star reveals that the reality is, things are about to get very busy for the 30-year-old. She will take centre stage as she often does, but this time her audience won’t be fans of Miss Emily, her musical alter ego, but rather as Ariel in the latest Kinsmen Club of Kingston production, Footloose.
Yes, that’s the play based on the wildly successful 1984 film starring Canadian Kevin Bacon. In the Kinsmen production, Bacon’s character is played by John Macpherson, who also starred in last season’s Kinsmen production, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, which starred Canadian Idol and local singing star Ryan Malcolm.
For Fennell, the invitation to star in Footloose comes on the heels of an extremely exciting time in her life.
I recalled during our conversation that our last conversation revolved around her mulling an offer from music legend and KISS frontman Gene Simmons to join his record label.
I admitted to Fennell that I had wondered on numerous occasions over the summer why I had heard nothing more on the Simmons situation.
“We turned down the offer that they gave us,” Fennell revealed. “My understanding is things have gone back and forth a bit, but not to any length that has included us signing anything.”
But never fear, things are rolling along quite smoothly for the Prince Edward County native. And to be honest, Simmons’ offer is not the only one Fennell has received.
“Things are in a good place,” she said. “People think of signing as being the be all and end all of a musician’s career, but it really isn’t anymore because the labels, really generally speaking, don’t have a lot to offer. We haven’t crossed off the idea of it because there is always stuff on the horizon. A new potential opportunity just came up,” she added, without elaborating. “We might end up signing in order to make the most of it. Things are always up in the air.”
As she alluded to, the Simmons deal may be off the table, but it is far from dead.
“As far as I know there is,” she answered when asked if there is still interest from the reality TV star’s camp. “I don’t know if anything will come of that, but …”
For the time being, the offers Fennell has fielded have been unable to match what she can do on her own, with help from her team of advisers and friends.
“We have options,” she said. “We’ll just see if somebody comes out with something really remarkable that’s better than what we can do on our own.”
“The reality is in order for us to take one of these opportunities, quote unquote, they have to be better than our current scenario. The reality is what we have access to and what we have going on without, at this point in time, anything that we’ve been offered, as far as I’m concerned, takes a piece of the pie without bettering the scenario.”
And what a camp Fennell has surrounded herself with. She has enlisted the legal skills of renowned entertainment lawyer Matt Greenberg of New York City.
“He’s a great resource when it comes to this type of thing,” Fennell said, adding she has a financer, a manager and others in her camp.
And then there are her fellow musicians, one in particular who Fennell says has taken her under his powerful and influential wings.
Fennell has had the fortune of catching the interest, and no doubt the ear, of Tragically Hip members, particularly that of Rob Baker.
“Kingston is such a great community,” Fennell gushed. “The musician community stretches from people who play music a couple of times a year to people like the Tragically Hip, the biggest band in the nation’s history. To have those types of resources at your fingertips… Those guys, especially the guys who live around here, words can’t describe how thankful I am to have people like them, honestly, as part of the team, really to a certain extent. I had lunch with Rob Baker last week and he’s like ‘Ask me, feel free. Ask me if you have questions, if you need some guidance, if you’re feeling like you want to just get an opinion on things.’
“Those resources are just so valuable, it’s awesome. I feel like because I’ve had access to some of these amazing people throughout this process over the past couple of years … it’s reassured me that what we’ve been doing has been the right thing.”
The influence of Baker and company, as well as the team she has surrounded herself with, has certainly afforded Fennell the time to seriously weigh her options, rather than jumping at the first big opportunity that comes along.
“Ten years in the making to this point has been a slow and steady process,” Fennell said. “There hasn’t been any waiting. It’s been hard work the entire time. There is so much going on behind the scenes on a daily basis. I think people are hoping for some big, drastic updates from week to week but there isn’t. It really is baby steps.
“If I wanted to act on ego alone, we could be signed to something and doing considerably less, but be able to say ‘oh, I’m signed to so and so’s label,’ or whatever, but I feel very confidently that things would have moved slower. You work the hardest for yourself, generally speaking. I feel pretty strongly about being proactive in my own way. And things are moving,” she added, before stunning me with a revelation.
“One of the best things we did was turn down the Gene Simmons offer, the main one, because it’s one thing for people to know that you’re the person that signed with so and so, but if you’re the person that turned down that opportunity …” she said, before stopping abruptly.
“I’m not totally convinced that that’s said and done. I think the world of Gene Simmons and I think he is incredibly smart and business-minded and talented and the list goes on and on. I think he’s a phenomenal being and I’m not totally convinced that this is a said-and-done deal. I really kind of feel that we’re still in the position where we’re working toward something so much bigger.”
For Fennell, any deal she potentially considers will be one that focuses on getting her known worldwide.
“You can’t help but notice that there is a lot of fantastic Canadian talents that have had a hard time breaking out of this country and I don’t want to limit myself to this country,” she said. “We want to make sure that the act can be accessible worldwide eventually.”
While professionally, things have never been better for the musician, the journey has had its share of dark moments and doubt.
“I can’t even count them, actually,” she said when asked if there have been dark moments during her ascent. “The upward spiral of this year has seen its own fair share of dark times, but this Miss Emily act, which has become such a huge part of who I am as Emily Fennell — I kind of now have this superhero being that is this Miss Emily — and I feel like that, having that part of my life, has taken alot of those dark times out of the picture, but I have struggled for the past 13 years in this industry, constantly back and forth.
Fennell not only faced the adversity of succeeding in the competitive music world, but the adversity of doing so as a single mom.
“Once you have a child, and that’s been the better part of the past 10 years of my life, once you have responsibility like that — and I’m on my own, things come to light pretty quickly. If you cannot make your rent or mortgage payment,” she said, her voice cracking, “and you’re trying to think what you are possibly going to do in order to have this money in a week and you feel like your hands are tied. This is in any business. I know I’m not the only person at all, but I have almost hung up the skates so many times. I’ve had to full-out close some doors behind me, without having the door open in front of me before that door in front of me opened. I had to just completely close doors.”
Juggling motherhood, in a single world no less, and the life of an aspiring artist took Fennell years to master. In fact, it wasn’t until she made a revelation that she began to truly figure things out.
“This business is me,” she said. “It encompasses me. It’s not just the singing. It’s the singing and the writing and the performing and the recording … the process of marketing myself that way. I don’t ever check out. It’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week and it’s what I know and what I love and it’s not only what I do, it’s such a huge part of who I am and it’s taken me a long time to embrace it as that.
“There was a huge chunk of time when I thought I could separate them and I think I tried to be another person almost. I kind of joke that I have a double life, but this double life has really turned more into one solid person — or getting there — who … I am a musician. I am a mother. It’s all hand in hand. It’s not two separate lives anymore.”
As such, her daughter, Piper, has been exposed to a lifestyle that maybe isn’t typical of what many children experience.
“Piper comes to a lot of stuff,” Fennell said. “Piper is exposed to a lot more things than a lot of children her age are exposed to. I’m sure there is some criticism out there as to what is appropriate and what is inappropriate, but the reality is this is my life, and because she is my daughter and it’s just the two of us, this is our life. As I’ve been able to embrace the fact that this is who I am, not just what I do, I realized that everything is connected to this. My relationship with my friends and my family, people I care about, it’s all connected to what I do.”
Much like she’s experienced doubt and darkness, Fennell has lived her share of defining moments — none bigger than one that resulted in her playing alongside some Canadian music legends.
“I was sitting in a little cafe in Cornwall, eating breakfast, and I got this phone call from my manager telling me about this Bobcaygeon show,” Fennell revealed, referring to Bobcaygeon’s Big Music Fest, which took place on June 25. “At that point, nobody knew about this. This was back in the winter. Him describing to me what was going to happen (went) like ‘so, it’s a show and they’re going to sell like 25,000, 30,000 tickets and it’s going to be in a big field in Bobcaygeon and it’s put on by the Hip. It’s going to be the Hip and Sam Roberts Band and the Trews and Miss Emily.’
“I’ll never forget that conversation,” Fennell said, clearly reliving that moment during our conversation, “because it was this moment of ‘wow, someone has really put their neck on the line’ — that person being Rob Baker at the time I’ve since found out — to really put belief in what I do that they’re going to include us in an event of this magnitude.”
So just how was it to share a stage with some of the biggest musical acts in this country’s history?
“It was awesome,” she gushed. “It was crappy, rainy, muddy weather and if there was a frown on anybody’s face, I didn’t see it. Everybody was all smiles. Everyone was so warm, accomodating, welcoming … We were nobodies, you know, backstage. The roadies have way more clout than we do in some ways, you know. We arrived there, I think at like 11 in the morning, and the first that who greeted me at my vehicle with my folks was Rob Baker. It was like ‘is this really happening.’ It was such a lovely, community vibe. All positive. It was awesome, so awesome.”
The Bobcaygeon show not only marked her biggest gig ever, but it lit a fire under her that Fennell says burns as intensely now as it did on stage in front of tens of thousands that rainy June day.
“You feel like you work so hard sometimes for a certain moment,” she said. “I think having that opportunity — the Bobcaygeon opportunity — put so much wind in my sails that I feel unstoppable. I feel like I could work 24 hours a day right now. The drive that that has given me … I thought I was driven before. To see from the outside, from people who have some serious experience and some power, to feel like they believe in you … that moment for me has brought me to a whole new level in my career. I feel so unstoppable, feeling like I have this support and encouragement behind me.”
Fennell can’t say enough about the help she received from Hip members, particularly Baker.
“I’ve had some fantastic moments getting to know him a little bit over the past six months. It just warms my heart that he, and Gord Sinclair and Paul Langlois — I don’t know Gord Downie as well and I don’t know Johnny (Faye) as well — but for the three guys who live in this community, and Rob in particular, who I feel like he’s taken me under his wing a little bit — for people who are the biggest rock stars in this country, if there’s ego there, I have not witnessed it.
“I get this impression that there’s this desire from Rob to spread the love, to create an environment — and Gord and Paul too, all three of them — they’re all involved in this Limestone Gala that is happening Oct. 15, for the Limestone Learning Foundation. They want to encourage the young musicians of this community.
“I just feel so honoured that I’ve been able to have that support from that community of musicians in town, Rob Baker in particular. I’ve known Paul the longest. I did some work with Gord Sinclair last night at the studio. Wow. They’re such a well of wisdom and talent and experience and to know that they’re encouraging and supportive of the music happening in this town at all these different levels … I just can’t speak highly enough of them, and Rob in particular.”
As for her next venture, Footloose, Fennell couldn’t be more excited — or, quite frankly, perfect for the part.
“I’ll be playing Ariel, who is the preacher’s daughter,” Fennell says. “She is the slightly out-of-control preacher’s daughter who has got her crazy, wild side. I’m still getting to know the character myself. We start rehearsals this week so I’m really looking forward to getting to know more about my character and more about this show. My experience with Footloose is similar to most people’s, which is the fantastic ’80s movie — I hear they’re doing remake actually. I’m excited to be a part of it. The music in it is great and that’s no surprise to anybody who is familiar with it. I’m really looking forward to be a part of it.”
Producer Jennifer Forsythe, who lured in Malcolm last year, has set the bar high once again. Malcolm, by the way, absolutely shone as Buddy Holly.
“I have been a fan of Emily’s for years, she is a true talent,” Forsythe said. “She did such an outstanding job in Buddy, even though her role was relatively small, that I really wanted to choose a show where she might be interested in auditioning for the lead. Her voice is just awesome, and she’s a great actress too. Emily also has a really strong fan base in Kingston, and I know she will draw a crowd, she always does. I watched her open for the Hip in Bobcaygeon and she was incredible.”
Few people are aware, Fennell says, but her background is in musical theatre.
“I was well into a musical theatre career in my teen years and I did a show with Kinsmen when I was 16 years old, Greece,” she said, adding “I lied about my age at the audition so I could audition. When I applied to post-secondary, I actually applied and was accepted to Sheridan’s musical theatre program. They have hundreds of applicants and they barely accept anyone, I think 40 out of like a thousand applicants or something. I chose instead to go to the University of Western Ontario for classical voice.”
For all intents and purposes, “that kind of ended a chapter in my life of musical theatre and I honestly didn’t think those doors would reopen at any point in time, but 10 years later, they did,” Fennell said. “So here I find myself back in a musical theatre mode and enjoying it. It fits really well with the other stuff I’m doing. It’s a fun addition.”
For Forsythe, who produced last year’s Buddy and Wizard of Ozin 2009, Footloose and Fennell were no-brainers.
“I think Kingston wants to see new, exciting productions at the Grand, especially when they showcase local talent. That was made obvious to me last year with the success of Buddy.” FYI, Buddy sold out in advance so get your tickets up front.
As for what the role holds for her, Fennell is still learning what producers have in mind for her character, but she does know one thing.
“I do know that I get the big Holding Out For A Hero solo and I am pretty excited about that,” she said, her grin evident even over the phone.
And what take on Footloose would be complete without a lot of dancing? None, of course. And lo and behold, dancing is also something Fennell has some training in.
“I have a background in dance,” she revealed, much to my surprise. “It’s been several years since I’ve done any dance training, but Ebon Gage is the miracle worker here. He and I have already been talking, we get along like peas and carrots, and I’m excited to do a bunch of private tutoring with him and training with him and working with a cast of people, a number of them being dancers. I’m right into it. I’m a little intimidated, but more than intimidated, I’m incredibly excited.”
Much like the prospects for her musical career, so am I.
“Kingston’s Miss Emily Embraces Success”
Posted Sep 15, 2011 By Mark Bergin (For EMC Kingston)
About a year ago, Emily Fennell took a leap. She flew.
The past 12 months have been huge for her.
When I interviewed her this time last year, Miss Emily, as she’s known, was trying to pack a lunch for her daughter’s first day in senior kindergarten. Simultaneously, she was making plans for an opportunity that had come up at the last minute to perform at The Living Room in New York City on Manhattan’s Lower East Sidea hotbed of artists, musicians and songwriters.
Miss Emily, the musician, jumped at the opportunity to play in New York. Emily Fennell, the mother, was concerned about her daughter’s first week of school. Fennell covered both angles.
“I’ve spent so much time with my daughter,” she said. We’re both so fortunate. While other parents have had to ship their kids off to daycare since they were 12 months old, I’ve been hanging out with my kid and working while she sleeps.”
Miss Emily, on keyboard, plays feisty soul-rock-pop. Her Gibson ES-335 guitar’s name is Bettyclearly they’ve bondedand is flaming red. It matches Miss Emily’s gutsy music.
Her music is focused, but she said she doesn’t want it to become too polished.
“It’s much more edgy,” she said.
She says her days of heavy bar work are over. Like most original acts, Miss Emily plays one-set shows, solely showcasing, festivals and theatres.
In New York City she played in the same setting graced by the likes of Al Kooper, Minnie Driver and jazz phenom Madeleine Peyroux. At the time she was on a career cusp, about to take the leap.
From performing in New York City to being in a showcase for Gene Simmons, and receiving a recording contract offer, the sky’s the limit this year.
She’s performed at other showcases for Sony, BMG, Universal, Cherry Hill, Warner, and Verve. Major record labels are coming to her.
She turned down a recording contract from Gene Simmons, who is allied with Universal Music Canada.
That took guts. And wisdom. Too many performers, ego-driven, jump at the first sign of public recognitionthe recording contract.
Miss Emily explained that she is working as part of a team, a group of people she trusts.
“I don’t make a lot of the big business calls,” said Fennell. “I’ve made the choice not to make them.”
She’s the expert on her music, but Fennell turns to her team for business decisions. Her team includes management, a financial advisor, and New York entertainment lawyer Matt Greenberg who represents many of the music and entertainment industries biggest acts.
“I feel confident taking cues from him.”
In the past year Fennell has turned down several contract offers. That’s a nice position for her to be in.
“The music industry has changed,” she said. “Labels no longer have the resources they used to.”
Many of the professionals in production and marketing who used to work exclusively with labels have been cut from staff and are also available to independent artists.
“The labels know this,” said Fennell. “They know it’s hard to compete with independent artists. The scene has completely changed from 10 years ago.”
Thus, Fennell’s confidence in turning down offers from big recording companies. She said that members of her team, including Greenberg, think Fennell can do better.
Fennell now makes the Ottawa Bluesfest her home base. Kingstonians recently had a rare opportunity to see Fennell in one of her old haunts. Miss Emily performed at the Merchant McLiam during the Limestone City Blues Fest.
Mark Monahan, of her current management team, is the artistic and executive director of Ottawa Bluesfest. He works closely with people like Cliff Fabri, who discovered Avril Lavigne and worked as her first professional manager. Fabri approached Fennell last year after seeing her perform on Wolfe Island.
Fabri has described Fennell as “like nothing I’ve heard in probably 40 years. It’s the big voice and incredible vocals.”
Fabri suggested Fennell differentiate her new act from her old work. Thus, the Miss Emily moniker.
Fabri describes the Miss Emily sound as Amy Winehouse meets Janis Joplin. I prefer to think of her as her own unique talent.
Miss Emily has her recipe for success and is excited about the future.
“Each day is something new,” she said. “It’s exciting and there’s not a dull moment.”
In case anyone thinks Miss Emily has transformed in a process of overnight success, think again. I remember the first time I heard her. She performed in the 2004 Limestone City Blues Fest. Since then, I’ve been raving about this amazing singer. I’ve heard her many times, shot many photos of her and gotten to know her. One unique moment was days before she gave birth. I was working on a story and photos about body painting. Fennell had a painting done on her pregnant tummy. She had the same sparkle in her eyes then when talking about becoming a mother as she does now when talking about music.
I’ve always been impressed by how she embraced motherhood while maintaining her career. She gives each role 100%.
“I haven’t waited a long time for this,” she said. “I’ve worked a long time for it.”
She said that a highlight of the past year was “playing in front of 30,000 people in Bobcaygeon. Playing in front of Canadian music lovers. That goes in the history books as one of my favorite nights.”
She added that now that she’s not losing her voice playing five nights a week in bars, she’s writing more and can focus on the creative aspect of her music.
“Things are good,” she said. “I bought a house in the spring. I have work I love at a level I’m comfortable with. I feel so proud and honored to be part of the music industry. I really see a future in this as opposed to having to scrape together the next meal.”
No one deserves the success more.
“Celebrities on the road”
By Josephine Matyas (For Travel News: September 7, 2011)
How do a Canadian comedian, indie singer-songwriter, choreographer, Hollywood heartthrob and famous soprano all deal with life on the road?
If you travel for work, you deal with missed flights, weather delays and wonky schedules.
There is comfort in knowing that some of Canada’s biggest celebrities—actors and actresses, musicians, sports figures—also wrestle with the Travel Demons.
Here are a few of their tips for staying sane while on the road.
WHO: Rick Mercer, Canada’s best-known comedian, political satirist and host of the very successful Rick Mercer Report on CBC television.
Packing tip: “I travel with great, big duffel bags and usually take too much because you never know what kind of weather and conditions we’ll have. So, when I go into a hotel room the first thing I do is unpack. I try to be much more organized in my hotel room than I am at home.”
Pet peeve: When we land and they say: “We’re going to pull up to the gate in five minutes . . . then I know it is going to be more like 40.”
WHO: James Tupper, actor known for his roles in Mr. Popper’s Penguins and Grey’s Anatomy. Voted by US WEEKLY as one of 2010’s “Sexiest Stars” and TV GUIDE’s “Sexiest Men on TV.”
Needs help with . . . “Packing. I’m one of the worst packers and I rely on the generosity and kindness of my family to help keep me organized.”
Never leaves home without: His watch – it’s the model with several time zone settings. By his own admission, Tupper is one of those travellers who is always checking the time back home when he’s on the road.
WHO: Emily Fennell, Canadian indie singer-songwriter who tours as Miss Emily.
Never heads out on tour without: Her classic Odds CDs (the alternative rock band). “If I have my CDs with me I am happy and can drive just about anywhere.”
Travel benefits: Fennell is mom to a very busy six-year-old daughter, so she knows how difficult it is to carve out time for herself. “If I’m travelling for work it forces me to take some time for myself by listening to music or reading a book.”
WHO: Stacey Tookey, the Emmy-nominated dancer and choreographer best known for her work on the television showSo You Think You Can Dance.
Travel tip: It’s a three-pronged approach. Pack some Epsom salts. After a long flight when you feel swollen, bath in Epsom salts to help drain the toxins and you’ll feel much better the next day. Before getting on the plane, take a little bit of green tea extract in water—it boosts your immune system. And while you’re in the air—drink a ton of water.
WHO: Measha Brueggergosman, an internationally renowned Canadian soprano, celebrated for both her opera and concert work. She performed the Olympic Hymn at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in British Columbia.
Travel must-have items: Noise cancelling headphones so she can block out the rest of the world and revel in the music or watch one of her favourite shows. And a good old fashioned book (no annoying e-readers for this gal). “I love to crack the binding and to shop for it myself in a bookstore.”
“Miss Emily could get Gene Simmons’ kiss”
By Jerome Lessard (The Intelligencer)
Emily Fennell has a demon chasing her.
Not just any demon — The Demon.
Fennell, a Prince Edward County native, is currently in negotiations with Simmons Records, the record label operated by legendary KISS bassist Gene Simmons who, when wearing the KISS makeup, is known as The Demon.
Singing professionally for the past eight years, Fennell hit a milestone accomplishment earlier this year when she was invited to perform for Simmons in Toronto as he searches for new talent to sign to his label.
“I’m loving 2011 and we’re only a couple of months in,” Fennell, who now calls Kingston home, told The Intelligencer. “Things are going very well. I have not signed anything (with Simmons Records) yet but there are offers on the table. The first offer we turned down and they’ve returned to the table with another offer.”
Just exactly how Simmons came to know about Fennell remains a mystery as the 30-year-old singer said she has no idea how her music made its way into his hands.
“He called me on Jan. 3, that’s when this all began. We’re not sure how he found out about me, but he heard my stuff somehow and then contacted Universal Canada — Simmons Records’ Canadian affiliate — and asked if they knew about me. They said they did because I did a showcase for them back in December and we’d been in talks with them,” she said. “Anyway, they e-mailed me and said he wanted to meet me, see me play and hear a set.”
During the last week of January, Fennell travelled to Toronto and met with Simmons and then, a day later, performed some of her original material for him. Despite Simmons’ legacy in the history of rock and roll, she said, she was not intimidated to perform for him.
“Everybody’s human. Everybody farts and has weird tastes … Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate the fact that Gene Simmons is Gene Simmons and he’s a world-wide household name and that’s cool and the fact he likes me is great, but I wasn’t nervous or anything,” she said.
Simmons loved Fennell’s material and a few days later commented on the Simmons Record website that she “has the best pipes we have ever heard in an unsigned artist. We are moving ahead and want to sign Miss Emily to our label. Hopefully, the lawyers and well-wishers will get out of the way and let her have her career.”
Fennell said negotiations are continuing and she’s hoping things will result in a positive outcome. She said the record label executives have indicated they want to put her on an “express elevator” and, should she sign a deal, make things happen quickly.
“A can’t miss talent”
By GREG BURLIUK for THE WHIG-STANDARD
Emily Fennell is one of Kingston’s busiest performers. It seems like scarcely a weekend goes by in which isn’t playing with one of several groups.
That may be ending soon because it looks like the rest of the world is finally figuring out what the Limestone City has known for a while — that she is a giant talent.
Gene Simmons thinks so.
Yes, the KISS legend, who is now also a record mogul, is a fan. He’s offered Fennell, who now operates under the stage name Miss Emily, a recording contract. He’s not alone, though, as so have other record companies, which has left Fennell and her team sifting through offers to figure out the right one.
On Simmons Records website, simmonsrecords.com,Fennell was recently praised.
On the home page is a news update that reads:
“We were recently in Toronto as Keynote Speaker at Adweek Conference. And we had some time to go see some terrific, new Canadian talent.
“We saw: Miss Emily, who has the best pipes we have ever heard, in an unsigned artist. We are moving ahead, and want to sign Miss Emily to our label. Hopefully, the lawyers and well wishers will get out of the way and let her have her career.”
And the night that Simmons himself heard Fennell, he tweeted about it to his Twitter followers:
“In Toronto — showcased many acts for my label, Simmons/ Universal Records … Miss Emily, Dubbs, Courage My Love, 11past 1. And others.”
Fennell’s career took a jolt upward a year ago when she got a new manager, Cliff Fabri, the man who shepherded Napanee native Avril Lavigne to fame. Fabri had moved to Wolfe Island and heard Fennell playing at the Wolfe Island Grill. He learned that Fennell had a rock band as well as a country band.
“I write all different types of music, but there were several songs I had written on the piano which were rock soul songs but I wasn’t performing them,” says Fennell. “He wanted to hear different stuff so I played him that. He jumped up and said you’re Miss Emily.”
Fennell says Fabri opened doors for her that previously had remained firmly closed.
“I am the artist, but 50% of what I’m doing now is because of Cliff,” she says.
“I go about my life, but the business is 24 hours a day non-stop and that’s what Cliff does. I get an e-mail from Gene and it’s Sunday night at 1:30 a.m.”
No one is really sure how Simmons heard about Miss Emily. In December, she played at a showcase in Toronto for reps from several record companies including Warner and Universal, and Simmons has his own Simmons label with Universal.
“Then on January 3, I get a message from the Universal rep that Gene wanted to talk to me,” says Fennell. “He told me he was coming to Toronto later in the month and would I play a showcase for him.”
Fennell told Simmons that as Miss Emily, she played solo or with veteran keyboardist Chris Brown. The KISS leader asked her to do a couple of things for the showcase.
“He asked me to have a full band and that it have 25-year-old soul players in it,” she says.
The showcase would be on Jan. 27 in Toronto, and two days before, the Universal rep asked Fennell if she wanted to meet Simmons so she wouldn’t be as nervous on the day of the show. It was to be at the venerable Horseshoe Tavern, where Simmons was checking out another act. Miss Emily discovered only when she arrived that she was part of a taping for Simmons’ TV reality show Gene Simmons Family Jewels.
“The act on stage they completely ignored,” says Fennell. “At one point, Gene said let’s go into the washroom, we go there, along with the cameraman and the entourage. And he’s showing me what to do with my hair to make my eyes look better.
“He’s a great man, funny, odd and powerful.”
So now Fennell waits. She’s been told to clear her schedule for March, but she has a fundraising concert for Helen Tufts Nursery School on Feb. 25 at Sydenham Street United Church, which may be her last local appearance for a while.
“The record industry has changed even since Cliff was with Avril,” says Fennell. “The major labels aren’t offering what they used to so you have to be very careful whom you sign with. There are other offers out there besides Gene’s.”
About to turn 30, Fennell spends a good chunk of the day doing business e-mails when she’s not on yard duty at her daughter’s school.
“It would take a lot to knock me on my ass,” she says frankly. “I’m thrilled about it all, but I wouldn’t go back on my personal values just to make Gene Simmons happy.”