Emily King switches things up on new CD

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photo courtesy of Hassle Publicity

by Jacquinn Sinclair – July 24, 2015; published by The Philadelphia Tribune

“I’m trying to a be a star, baby!” said Grammy-nominated singer Emily King. “I ain’t got time for this, we got to pump out these hits!” she joked, when talking about working with her perfectionist producer Jeremy Most.

But King, who won the hearts of fans on her R&B/hip-hop tinged debut album “East Side Story” (J Records) in 2006, spends a significant amount of time working on her craft with Most, even when she’s ready to be finished. “He’s very much a perfectionist in the best way. He has the most integrity of anyone I know and nothing else matters to him but making quality music,” she shared.

The duo’s painstaking dedication is paying off.

King has been gearing up for her tour to promote her latest effort, “The Switch,” released June 26 on her label, Making Music Records. This is her second full-length album (she released an EP called “Seven” in 2011) in almost 10 years and it’s worth the wait. When listening to the track “The Animals,” with it’s Prince-esque perimeter, it’s evident that King is moving in a different artistic direction. But, the soul woven throughout her warm, fluffy vocals is still intact.

There are some heart-achingly beautiful songs on “The Switch” such as the love song “Distance” and “Out of the Clouds,” with it’s carousel-like instrumentation and slow bounce. “Aya” is an eerie, lush, chant of an interlude and the skinny, bright harmonies on “Already There,” are where King’s talent shines brightest.

The New York native is the daughter of jazz musicians Marion Cowings and Kim Kalesti and has toured the world with John Legend, Alicia Keys, Nas, Maroon 5 and Sara Bareilles. On a warm Thursday afternoon, a little over a week before she performs at Underground Arts here in Philadelphia, King opened up to The Philadelphia Tribune about her music, her growth and her passion outside of performing.

Philadelphia Tribune: Why did you choose ‘The Switch’ as the album name?

Emily King: I started writing the song last summer. And, it came really naturally. When I had to come with a title for the album. … I hate coming up with titles for things. I thought ‘The Switch,’ that’s good. It [the title] also could have so many meanings that could be true to my life, mood, people or moments.

PT: What have you learned about yourself and your craft since your last album?

EK: I think I’m more serious now in some ways. It could definitely be because I’m older. [In the past] I took things for granted in a naïve way. I could have spent a little more time. I think I appreciate things in a different way.

PT: During the writing and recording, did you find yourself drawn to certain artists, music or particular places? What inspires you?

EK: I knew that I wanted to have more grooves on this album. One of my inspirations is Michael Jackson. I’m totally different than he is. [But when making music] I think: I really want to be like Michael Jackson.

PT: There’s an ethereal dream-like quality throughout ‘The Switch.’ Was that intentional?

EK: Yeah, a lot of that is my producer Jeremy Most. He’s really magical. He takes it to a different place; subtle and unexpected.

PT: When you can’t write, what do you do to relax?

EK: Eat! (she laughs). That’s pretty much my favorite thing to do. I’m in Whole Foods right now. I love grocery shopping and cruising the aisles. I like to imagine that I ate everything.

PT: I’ve read that this is your second independent release, how does it feel to be the boss?

EK: Oh wow! Well, I’m a control freak in some ways, for better or worse. It’s cool. More recently, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. I’m doing things I shouldn’t be doing. But every time I train someone to do something, I feel like I could have just done it! It feels good to know everything that’s happening. I was in the dark back in the day. But now I know what’s going on and if something is messed up, it’s my fault.

PT: What are some of the challenges you face as a label owner?

EK: It’s hard to stay focused. I sing, I do social media, and then I realize, I’m not practicing. That doesn’t make sense. Staying focused while multitasking is a challenge. Going forward, I’m definitely going to change that. I need to have more time.

PT: Yes, I see that you’re active on social media, which seems to have leveled the playing field for independent artists.

EK: I feel lucky to have been in both worlds. There were everyday keepers-of-your-life at J records. Everyone was behind closed doors. It’s the opposite now. It’s better. There are so many connections to be made [with fans]. So to do that without putting on airs is great. You remember Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz? I ran into Peter Gunz when I was 11 on the street and he was like the president to me. Back then, people became these figures you couldn’t touch. He made us feel like he was a god. Now, I have a different feeling.

PT: Tell me about your writing process, do the lyrics come first or the feeling or the melody?

EK: It starts with a feeling, then the rhythm and melody. Usually the words peek through here and there, and I have to put the puzzle together to get her. It’s like filling in a crossword puzzle.

Don’t miss Emily King at Underground Arts, Saturday, July 25, at 8 p.m.

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Esperanza Spalding to tour for ‘Emily’s D+Evolution’

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by Jacquinn Sinclair – published in The Philadelphia Tribune

Grammy-award winning singer and instrumentalist Esperanza Spalding is the queen of cool, cloaked in a bit of mystery. Her fifth and latest venture, “Emily’s D+Evolution” came to her during a full moon, in a dream-like sequence of sketches; a musical story unraveling before her.

“It wasn’t actually a dream. I was awake. It was a night close to my birthday, and I couldn’t sleep between gigs. It just kept getting more intriguing to me as I played with it. A year and a half later, here we are,” she said.

During her tour to promote the album, 30-year-old Spalding — whose middle name is Emily — hopes to “create a world around each song.” She says, “There are a lot of juicy themes and stories in the music. We will be staging the songs as much as we play them, using characters, video and the movement of our bodies.”

Those juicy themes are not something she can easily explain.

“I don’t like to talk about sound and movement, I don’t think you can. It would be inaccurate. I can show you better than I can tell you,” said Spalding.

Whatever it is that she is eager to share with fans during her performances this summer, it’s sure to be a testament of her growth as an artist and as a person. From her first album, “Junjo,” to “Esperanza, Chamber Music Society” and “Radio Music Society,” Spalding has stretched as an artist, exploring different feelings and musical realms. The silky-voiced celebrity’s concerts are joyous dalliances through complicated chords. She’s dazzled listeners at the White House, collaborated with a number of artists including Janelle Monae on “Electric Lady,” Bobby McFerrin, Herbie Hancock and Terri Lyne Carrington for “The Mosaic Project” and also released “We Are America,” urging for the close of Guantanamo.

The young starlet has had a whirlwind career, but she’s always open to, and up for doing and learning more. Spalding soaks up life’s lessons from everyone. Scores of knowledgeable advisers and friends have helped keep her on track throughout her journey.

She counts the late, legendary Philadelphia guitarist Jef Lee Johnson as one of her mentors.

“I loved him very much. I learned about not getting caught up in that superficial bull—t [that comes along with] being an artist and being somebody. He was very unattached to hype. [It was] really all about the music and letting it speak for itself. He was a beautiful spirit. A no-nonsense, funky soul and a brilliant, great mind,” she shared.

The incredibly busy talent, who loves to meditate, read and clean (believe it or not), almost forgot that lesson from Johnson about staying grounded. During a year off, Spalding took time reevaluate herself and get centered.

“I think I had to get off a high horse that I didn’t know I was on. [I felt like] I hadn’t seen my instrument in forever. I needed to think about my sense of self and worth. I had a self-revelation: I gotta work on myself! A lot has changed, and it’s ongoing. Things have changed with my band and how I run my business. Musically I don’t think anything has changed, it’s an evolution. The ‘D+Evolution’ of change and that’s the nature of the climate; the universe. Direction isn’t absolutely forward or absolutely back.”

Move with Spalding at the Theatre of the Living Arts, this Sunday, May 17, at 8 p.m.