Emma-Lee’s mood improves on new album

Toronto singer/songwriter Emma-Lee had significantly wearied of singing slow, sad songs by the time the touring cycle in support of her 2008 debut album, Never Just a Dream, wrapped up.

Her rather more rockin’ (albeit still kinda sad) new record, Backseat Heroine (hear it all here), might come as a slight surprise to those who haven’t kept up with her live shows over the past couple of years, then, since this one should more or less obliterate the lingering “jazz-pop chanteuse” label that’s never sat all that well with Emma-Lee herself. The ballads still make an appearance from time to time, but Backseat Heroine — which features collaborations with Jill Barber, Luke Doucet and Nicole Atkins — shares more currency with rootsy Canadiana, soulful ’70s pop and occasionally old-school R&B than any torch songs you might hear late at night at the cocktail bar.

The Star spoke to Emma-Lee in advance of Thursday night’s album-release show at Lee’s Palace about her stylistic transformation, her dogged growth as a songwriter and her shady “raver” past as an anonymous dance-music vocalist.

You wrote a lot of songs for the new album, so how did you narrow them down to this particular bunch?
I think a lot of it came from just playing the songs live. Some of them worked together and some of them didn’t. Over time playing live, some songs became pairs and others became threesomes and families and others that didn’t really fit in with the set kind of fell by the wayside and became black sheep, I guess.

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