Emma Ruth Rundle is an exceptional musician and singer; already having releases as The Nocturnes and as a member of Instrumental giants Red Sparowes, not to mention the sublime Marriages.
2014 sees her name take a more prominent billing, with her first official solo album released on perennial E&D favourite label Sargent House. I caught up with her to discuss.
(((O))): Emma, many thanks for taking time out to speak with us. To gain some background, can you tell us when you first began writing and playing music and who or what influenced you to do so?
ERR: Thanks for taking interest in my music and story. Both my parents play music, not with any mainstream success but nonetheless I grew up around a lot of it and quite a variety at that. I always banged away in my father's studio and on his piano, like most kids did. At 8 years old, I was gifted my first instrument, a Celtic harp which came from the legendary folk epicentre that is McCabe's guitar shop in Santa Monica ... I spent a lot of time hanging out there and was eventually hired. I was immersed in folk and old music for a large part of my life as a result. Not to say I didn't get into everything else- just that folk is close to the heart and my musical beginnings.
(((O))): You previously released music with The Nocturnes, Red Sparowes and also Marriages. What influenced the decision to release music under your own name now?
ERR: I wanted to step away from behind a band or the name ‘the nocturnes’ for my own compositions. It was just time to do so. I've spent a lot of time hiding or giving myself to other projects and this was a good thing as it afforded me an incubatory period to grow a little more comfortable releasing and playing music in front of others. I had released an ambient guitar record (Electric Guitar One) as Emma Ruth Rundle but it took more time for me to feel comfortable sharing these more structured and traditional efforts, like what is Some Heavy Ocean, as such.
(((O))): Some Heavy Ocean seems to have been written / recorded after you encountered some personal turmoil in the last few years. Is there an element of the album being cathartic?
ERR: This is true. The album is cathartic I suppose. Writing the songs was; although this is no detour from the norm for me. The music gives this aspect of my life and self a place to exist.
(((O))): A lot of people find listening to music almost therapeutic or as a release (this site recently had a series of articles dedicated to this). Is there an artist or any music in particular that you turn to in this way?
ERR: I was going to say in my response to your last question that I find more catharsis in listening to the music of others. There are so many artists I've turned to for this over the years. Some artists I listen to for cathartic therapy: Jesu, Sun Kil Moon, Stars of the Lid.
(((O))): When I listen to Some Heavy Ocean, and being Irish, I keep getting a sense of a Celtic influence. Not in direct musical terms but maybe a brooding Sinead O'Connor feel. Have you any influences or ancestry that can explain it.
ERR: Thank you. I take that as a huge compliment. I've had people ask that before. I can only attribute it to my exposure to Celtic and folk music as a kid. The Celtic harp is a dead giveaway. I'm a redhead and always wanted to believe I came from Ireland but my blood is English and relatives are deeply American and go back to the first Brits who made it over to the states. Maybe all the music is passed in the blood. I'd like to think so.
(((O))): I have loved your voice since the first time I heard it (on Marriages’ debut). I find it very distinctive but also incorporating different styles. Has this helped you shift between heavier guitar based music and the folk tinged solo stuff?
ERR: Thanks again. I feel that I have to sing in a way that makes sense for the song in Marriages. The solo stuff is a bit more unhinged and just coming out of me - where Marriages is a tempered effort to serve the song; more as an instrument than a focal point.
(((O))): The themes on the album can be described as dark but there's a sense of hope there also. Is this a reflection of yourself; are you a ‘glass half full’ person generally?
ERR: I'm a bi-polar bear. Extremes in all directions and constant shift in view and feeling. The record is hopeful at times and some of the songs are absolutely about forgiveness and overcoming. The references to lying in salt, a purifying element that protects from demons, this is a theme that does run through the record. But many of the songs do describe moments or relationships that are simply doomed or times without resolve. So.. Yes? And no? That's all underneath. On a surface level I hope I'm not too serious and I try not to take myself too seriously.
(((O))): The song ‘Oh Sarah’ is not only one of the most beautiful things I've heard but touching that it is written for your sister. How did the song come about?
ERR: Thank you. That song was the first one that I knew was for this record. The record started out being for her from start to finish but it ended up being about both of us. I wrote it in an empty house on a visit to see her up in Portland, my second home. I want to keep her personal stuff safe but Sarah and I have a bond that no one can understand. We've been through so much together on the verge of pure horror. Holding hands and looking into the void we share. She's the only one who understands and I think she feels the same about me.
(((O))): Sargent House seems to be a hugely supportive label, not just musically but on a personal level. How important has this been to you?
ERR: THE most important thing. I've said this in another interview but Cathy has gone above and beyond to support me in my darkest hour as well as push me to stand on my own.
She puts her artists first and works incredibly hard for them. She's a whirlwind of a powerful and unique woman. She's treated me like family. I owe her big time.
(((O))): I think of Cathy Pellow (Sargent House CEO) sometimes of being like a film director in the vein of a Scorsese. All the artists being part of a film's cast, often recurring or in a cameo role, and everyone has to be on the same page. If this was the case who from cinema would you're character be most like?
ERR: Wow. I'm not sure if I understand this question! Well if could be anyone I'd be like Bruce Willis, in any role as he's a badass, but I'm probably more like the scary homeless person behind the Denny's in Mulholland Drive.
(((O))): The first track that was released from Some Heavy Ocean - 'Arms I know So Well', rendered me speechless. It's an incredibly emotional song. The lyric “Deliver me from all the evil, I've done to myself” is extremely powerful. It sounds very personal but is there more you can tell us about it?
ERR: I'm glad it translated. It is personal and there is no hidden meaning behind that lyric. It's been a long road and I've helped myself into some bad shit. It's hard to stop one’s self from becoming what your formative life has directed you to become. I'm hoping I can find my way.
(((O))): As well as music you paint and have a number of art prints available to buy online. Is art something you derive as much pleasure from as music, and who or what influences you?
ERR: Thanks for noticing. Yes I paint and draw and doodle or make objects; just whatever I'm compelled to do. I wanted to be an artist ‘when I grow up’ more than a musician. I never took classes or pursued it in a formal way though.
I go between music and my art. It's like having two lovers which can keep things stimulating but can also mean twice the fighting. If I should ever find the money and time, I would like to study it in a traditional way.
(((O))): It looks to be very busy time for yourself, as well as Some Heavy Ocean the second Marriages album is scheduled this year. How far into recording is it and can you tell us anything about it?
ERR: It's been very busy, at least for what I can tolerate which is good. The second Marriages release is coming along. We are finishing it up right now and all the artwork and songs are in order. I can tell you that it's different than Kitsune in that we approached the music with the intent to write ‘songs’ as in music with a focus on lyrics and singing vs our older approach which was a Red Sparowes hangover imploring us to write long, unbroken music all flowing together with vocals as an afterthought. The addition of Andrew Clinco on drums has changed the game as well. Being a songwriter himself and multi-instrumentalist he has been able to speed the writing process and shape the sound with Greg and I.
(((O))): With Marriages is the writing and direction shared equally and do you approach it with a different mindset?
ERR: Some of my previous answer applies here... We share things equally or at least are very democratic about how we work and we all have vastly different influences as well as approaches to writing. That's why I like Marriages. We set out to be a band but were so different from one another that the music we needed up making was hard to place in any one genre.
(((O))): Sargent House recently announced a huge showcase gig in Dublin featuring you, Russian Circles and ASIWYFA and many more. Is there a possibility of you touring extensively through Europe and the UK; either with Marriages or solo (or both!)?
ERR: I can only hope so! Can't wait to do a whole EU tour with either project but I'm very excited to return to Ireland. I've been several times, stayed in Galway for a while, ventured around a bit and made my pilgrimage to the statue of Phil Lynott- I hope he will remember me. I look forward to seeing my SH brothers over there above all!
(((O))): Thanks for talking to us, is there anything you would like to add?
ERR: No I think that's all. Thanks for your time and thoughtful collection of questions.
Some Heavy Ocean is available now through Sargent House. Follow Emma, and Sargent House online to keep updated with touring, and further releases.