Tucson sounds: Emmy Wildwood comes home
Local blues rock, alt-country, & more local music news
If there's one lesson regular readers of this column should have learned by now, it's that Tucson is home to a lot of musicians and creative folks. But for most folks around here, though music inevitably becomes less a career path than a well-loved side hustle. Inevitably day jobs, family obligations, school and other practical matters take center stage and some of the most talented Tucson players can go years without playing to a live crowd or recording new material, while others work 40-plus-hour weeks and squeeze in gigs on the weekends.
Still, we live in an insanely creative town and it's inevitable that some folks are going to try for the kingdom if they can, to paraphrase Lou Reed. While some homegrown bands have made a name for themselves while maintaining a Tucson base (Ryanhood, Giant Sand, Calexico, Xixa and the like) the conventional wisdom remains that the best shot at making the proverbial "big time" is to head for more industry-friendly climates.
Relocating to Los Angeles worked out great for Linda Ronstadt and, on a much smaller scale for bands like Green on Red and Gentlemen After Dark. Seattle proved fruitful for ex-Tucsonans the Supersuckers. And still others have ventured forth to places like Nashville, Austin, Portland or New York City.
But in the end, Tucson tends to call its musicians homeward, creating a class of young artists who are both "from here" and from other places. Sissy Flowers of Feverfew, for instance, is a Tucson musician who honed her guitar chops and stage presence in Chicago before returning to take Tucson venues by storm, while Weekend Lovers bassist and frontwoman Marta De Leon is a Tucson native who detoured in Portland and Brooklyn before returning to the desert.
Emmy Wildwood is one of that tribe. The Tucsonan made a name for herself as a solo artist while based in New York City but more recently returned home to the Old Pueblo where she lives, records and is slowly getting reacquainted with Tucson's music community. Your trusty neighborhood music columnist thought it was time to welcome her to the tribe.
TucsonSentinel.com: For those who aren't already familiar with your past work, introduce yourself. What's your musical "origin story?"
Emmy Wildwood:"My name is Emmy Wildwood and I'm a fourth-generation Tucsonan, professional musical artist, business owner and multimedia artist. I just moved back to Tucson after 11 years in NYC working as musician in many bands along the way. I'm also most recently opening up my career to producing and recording my records in my studio at home."
TS: How did you fall in love with rock and roll?
EW: "My father is a musician and always played me guitar at night before bed. He was a huge fan of rock and roll. I was raised on The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Patti Smith."
"My much cooler older sister and I both fell into music early by performing and competing at young age. We were of the 'Star Search' generation and studied the shows for what made the winners stars. Later my sister got me into PJ Harvey, the Breeders and Liz Phair. I loved seeing women in rock. I identified with the freedom in declaring your truth and even anger in music."
TS: What took you from that point to wanting to play music?
EW: "I think I was an angry teenager and was desperate for an outlet and as soon as I realized that there was a way for me to use music to relieve some pressure in my heart, I clung to it for dear life. I started playing in punk bands first because that's what my friends were playing. Punk has never stopped influencing my work."
TS: Since those early days, you've evolved a lot as a musician. Your music these days is way more postpunk and pop influenced than punk, I'd dare to say. For instance, I definitely hear some Kate Bush in the mix. And maybe some Kim Deal? Who are the bands and artists that have most influenced you and what bands do you just unapologetically love, for that matter?
EW: "The Beach Boys, Madonna, Nirvana, PJ Harvey, the Marvelettes, Pussy Riot, Linda Ronstadt,Whitney Houston,Carol King, The Pixies, Salt N Peppa, the Breeders, the Ronettes, Liz Phair, Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, Fiona Apple, Mariah Carey, En Vogue, Bikini Kill, Courtney Love, Otis Redding and so many more. I literally love everything. And I didn't even begin to list the country artists."
TS: What about these days? Any favorite current bands?
EW: "I fell pretty hard for the new Phoebe Bridgers record. I saw her at 191 Toole and she's incredible. I love her storytelling. I've been listening to Soccer Mommy, Muna, She, Big Theif, Deva Mahal,Sharon von Etten, MorMor and Mother Feather is my favorite New York band. I love King Princess too."
"I've also been loving the local women here in Tucson! Weekend Lovers, Birds and Arrows and the Rifle, for starters."
TS: What have you been up to most recently, musically speaking.
EW: "Currently, I am focusing on recording as much material as I can from home as a solo artist. I just completed the final song for my next EP 'Heavy Petals' and will be working out what the live show will look like for the future. I haven't decided yet if I am going to put a band together for this EP or try and pull off the shows solo. We shall see."
TS: What's your best advice for those newer to playing live and playing professionally? Any wisdom you can share from the trenches?
EW: "Omg yes. Be really really good at what you do and practice a lot and let that give you the confidence you need to be able to have fun on stage! I was a nervous wreck in my youth and I get kind of nauseated when I think of all the incredible moments on stage I wasn't able to really be present for because I was distracted by my nerves and even more so mortified of messing up and embarrassing myself. My sister told me many years ago before a show that it was supposed to be fun. She said, 'there are no rules in rock n roll so there is no way to mess it up.' That is totally the truth and I still have to remind myself that I'm not being tested. I am really excited to set my own standards for the rest of my music career and have fun this time around.
TS: As a professional musician, what's been the best gig you've ever played?
EW: "The best gig was hands down when my band Guns N' Hoses played VH1 India's Rocktoberfest. We are an all female Guns and Roses tribute band and its definitely controversial for women to play rock n roll there. We were pretty terrified and the India team required us to have escorts at all time. When we stepped on stage we noticed the audience was divided by ropes to keep men and women separated. The women were throwing up horns in saris. We had a line of women waiting to take pictures. We found out later we were the first all-female band to play the festival. It was life-changing.
TS: Some musicians (Tori Amos, for instance) seem to release new music as an excuse to tour and play live. Others play live to help promote their music recording habit. Sounds like you tend toward the latter sentiment!
EW: "I am obsessed with recording. Its by far my favorite part of the process. I have been putting together an intimate recording set up in my home and I'm soaring forward at a rate I haven't in years as far as building musical skills goes. I can't wait to keep recording and releasing records and even just singles as I write new material."
"I also love touring and have toured a great deal over the years, but it's not my favorite part! It's hard on me vocally and I'm not great at being in confined spaces. But I love to share new songs. I'd love to tour soon in some spread out dates to support these latest releases. No plans on when yet but definitely will be putting together the live bit soon."
TS: On that topic, what are some of your favorite venues to play, both past and present?
EW: "I always love playing Bowery Ballroom in NYC. Its a true rock and roll icon."
TS: What about locally?
EW: "I love playing Hotel Congress but I haven't played in Tucson in years! Where should I play my first show?.
TS: Well, as a local music journalist, it might not be cool if I played favorites here! I think my best advice would be to scroll through some past Tucson Sounds columns for other bands' favorites. I can in good conscience say that Congress does get mentioned a lot as one of the "good ones!"
TS: Anything else you want to mention?
EW: "I just wanted to say a huge thank you to the music community in Tucson that has been extremely welcoming since I've been back in town."
TS: Tucson's greater rock and roll extended family are a pretty awesome bunch! So, when do you play live next? And, for that matter, where?
EW: "My next gig is with Guns N Hoses at the NAMM show in Los Angeles on January 17."
TS: That sounds road-trip worthy. We'd love to see you live in your hometown soon, too, though. So start hitting up some of those awesome local venues already!
Emmy Wildwood's latest track "Volcano" is available for streaming via YouTube and her newest EP, Heavy Petals will be released sometime in the coming months. You can find more streaming music and social media links at emmywildwood.com.
The annual local art and music festival known as Chick Magnet returns to 191 Toole this weekend for its fourth incarnation and the music lineup this time is pretty impressive.
Performing this year are Andrea Delmerico, Chelsey Lee Trejo, Phoenix musician Gabi JR, Hannah Yeun, Just Najima, Lano, Mattea, Moontrax, Mudpuppy and West Oasis and that's only the music part of the event. Live dance, poetry readings, art exhibitions, local vendors and more are part of this fabulous fest featuring the creative work of women, nonbinary and femme artists.
Chick Magnet takes place at 191 Toole this Sunday, Nov. 17, beginning at 4 p.m.
This house is habited by 'bats!
Speaking of Tucson based musicians with day jobs, long time local musician John Sweeden just happens to be a realtor by day, so who better to throw the ultimate "house party?" Sweeden and his colleagues at Habitation Realty in Downtown Tucson throw the first what they anticipate will be a monthly series of live music "speakeasies" at the company's Dunbar Springs neighborhood offices.
And who better to christen a house party than a good old fashioned "family" band like Bisbee's pride, the Exbats?
Inez and Ken Mclain and "Uncle" Bobby Carlson of the Exbats take the stage at Habitation Realty's debut Speakeasy event this Friday night, November 15 at 6 p.m. at 641 N. 10th Ave. in Dunbar Springs neighborhood just north of Downtown Tucson.
Check your local listings...
Friday, November 15
- Maxo Kream w/Q Da Fool - 7 p.m. 191 Toole
- Raised on TV - 8 p.m. Sky Bar
- Blaze, Boondox, and Alla Xul Elu - 5 p.m. House of Bards
- Pelt, Tongs, and Soda Sun - 8 p.m. Boxyard
- Funky Bonz - 8 p.m. Saint CharlesTavern
- El Tambo - 10 p.m. Hotel Congress
- Febbo Fuentes - 6 p.m. Sand-Reckoner
- Mamma Coal & Amy Rude - 8 p.m. Westbound
- Dry and Dusty with Freddy Parish - 8 p.m. Exo
- Joe Novelli - 8 p.m. Hotel McCoy
Saturday, November 16
- Igor & The Red Elvises - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
- Miller Time - 8 p.m. Rialto
- Black Belt Eagle Scout with Hikes - 7 p.m. Club Congress
- Little Cloud - 5:45 p.m. Sand Reckoner
- The AmoSphere - 7 p.m. Rockabilly Grill
- The Bordertown Boyz - 8 p.m. The Silver Room
- The Minds CD Release - 8 p.m. 1702
- Natty and the Sunset - 9 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern
- June West, Sadgalnina, Them & i - 8 p.m. Exo
- Midnight Choir - 9 p.m. Eddie's Cocktails
- Greyhound Soul - 10 p.m. Che's Lounge
- Moon Base DNB Takeover - 9 p.m. Sky Bar
Sunday, November 17
- Freddy Parish - 6 p.m. Che's Lounge
- Sherwin Bitsui and Sarah Vap - 8 p.m. Exo
- Mik and the Funky Brunch - 12 p.m. at La Cocina
- Sunday Sessions with Kevin Pakulis - 2:30 p.m. Borderlands
- Chick Magnet: Art Poetry & Music Fest - 5 p.m. 191 Toole
- Groundworks Presents: Jeffrey Lewis & the Voltage - 7 p.m. Club Congress
- Kristin Hersh - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
- Silver Cloud Express and Leila Lopez Band - 7 p.m. Crave Coffee
- Tucson Libertine League Burlesque Battle Of The Bands: Sugar Stainsvs. Miss Olivia & The Interlopers - 9 p.m. 191 Toole
Monday, November 18
- Big Bite with Droll and Evergreen - 7 p.m. Club Congress
Tuesday, November 19
- Earthgang - 9 p.m. 191 Toole
- Roots Rising - 8 p.m. Club Congress
Wednesday, November 20
- Metalachi - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
- Soda Sun, the Rifle - 8 p.m. Club Congress
Thursday, November 21
- Kristin Hersh - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
- FST! Presents True Colors - 7 p.m. Club Congress
Friday, November 22
- Naim's A Jazz Trio - 8 p.m. Exo
- Tucson Libertine League: Burlesque Battle Of The Bands: Sugar Stains and Miss Olivia & The Interlopers - 9p.m. 191 Toole
- Big Freedia - 8 p.m.. Rialto
- Sidewinders Witchdoctor 30th Anniversary - 7:30 p.m. Club Congress