With a new solo album set to be released early next month (pre-orders can be made now at www.emmgryner.com), and one song from the album — Math Whiz — already widely recognizable to her fans due to its earlier release in support of the St. Marys/Stratford Save VIA Rail campaign, St. Marys-based singer/songwriter Emm Gryner launches a cross-Canada performing tour this week.
St. Marys residents will have to wait until late May or early June to catch one of her planned concerts here in the Stonetown. Or, if they prefer not to wait, they can head up the road to Stratford on Thursday, March 20, as Gryner’s new solo tour kicks off with a gig at Foster’s Inn (111 Downie Street).
“Leaving this month for a string of Canadian tour dates, Gryner will play solo shows in addition to stops with her band Trent Severn,” explains a news release from the St. Marys resident’s independent record label, Dead Daisy Records.
Trent Severn, formed alongside Stratford-raised musicians Dayna Manning and Laura C. Bates, won acclaim last year among the nation’s folk festival circuit. The trio’s self-titled debut drew heavily from references of Canadiana, and Trent Severn was able to build on its prominence by performing the national anthem on Canada Day with recenty-returned-from-space astronaut, Commander Chris Hadfield.
Concurrently, however, Gryner has continued to craft the type of intricate, intelligent pop songs through which she has been able to consistently build a loyal fan base across the country. One of the first artists in Canada to cultivate an independent label and stick to it, the multiple Juno Award nominee has never looked back after stepping away from a major label contract that included a stint touring with David Bowie. She has since recorded dozens of records, essentially funded out of her own pocket.
Among the songs on her new album, Torrential, is Math Whiz. Supporters of the Save VIA campaign are certainly aware of the song, since Gryner used the song — a “break-up” song that doesn’t include any direct literal references to VIA Rail, but could be construed as such — as a backdrop for a video filmed overlooking the London Bridge railway trestle in St. Marys. She provided the video to the Save VIA campaign in support of their cause.
The lead song off Torrential chosen by Dead Daisy Records, however, is Pioneer. Gryner will release the video for Pioneer via Toronto-based Exclaim! Magazine, and the record label provides the following explanation about the inspiration for the song and video: “Everyone has gone through phases in their life. Some inform who we become in the future while others are just funny to look at a decade later. In the new video for Pioneer, Gryner takes a look at her past, the different faces of indie pop that she’s been a part of, her time playing in David Bowie’s band, and her current life as a musician and a mother.”
“The video is a glimpse in to the different eras of my life, told through my wardrobe — there’s the tube dress I wore onstage with David Bowie, the Canadiana gear I wear onstage with my new band Trent Severn, the leather jacket I wore during my hair rock phase, and my parka which I wear in everyday life battling the Ontario winter,” says Gryner in the news release.
Pioneer is described as a “twangy single … about frustration with a fast-moving life.” “It’s motivated by the reality that a vacation used to be a trip somewhere, and now my idea of a holiday would be chucking my phone into a river,” Gryner says.
Set for release on April 8, Torrential was refined over 10 months of back-and-forth collaboration between producer Joe Corcoran in Los Angeles and Gryner in St. Marys.
“Often starting with just one guitar part and a vocal, usually etched out in the rare quiet of morning or nighttime, the pair worked diligently to ensure the raw sentiment behind the songs was nurtured and preserved,” explains the news release.
“Vocals needed to be the focus. Often I recorded them just after I wrote the songs. There’s something painfully honest about that,” remarks Gryner. The fruit of that labour features a myriad of vintage mandolins, ukuleles, parlour guitars, piano, synths, and sometimes epic drums, woven together to create a mountain range of sonic storytelling.
Aside from the March 20 gig in Stratford, Gryner will travel to such places as Toronto, Thunder Bay, Calgary, Vancouver and Haliburton in support of the new album. She’ll be back in St. Marys on May 22, with Trent Severn, for a concert at Westover Inn. And on June 7 at the Town Hall Auditorium, she’s planning a concert in support of the Save VIA campaign.