Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Interview with Girl Warrior Emily Braden.

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Today we raise our fists high and put our hands together in celebration of our Feature Girl Warrior, powerhouse singer Emily Braden, the big, bad beauty from Boise. Winner of New York City’s prestigious “Best of the Best” Jazzmobile Vocal Competition, Braden’s signature sound is an effortless blend of jazz and soul. Her debut album Soul Walk is composed of high-energy originals and “flipped-out” jazz standards. Braden has performed at notable NYC venues such as the Blue Note Jazz Club (Late Night Groove Series), Birdland Jazz Club, le poisson rouge, BAMCafe and as well as on international festival circuits. East coast residencies include Richard Bona’s Club Bonafide and Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem, the original home of bebop.  Braden has traveled to Burkina Faso, West Africa as part of the US Embassy’s Arts Envoy program.  She recently made her debut as a featured vocalist with Post Modern Jukebox. Her vocal versatility has earned her a place as a front woman with The Sketchy Orkestra, the Matt Parker Trio and Oliver Swain’s Big Machine. Her own group Double Bass, Double Voice released their debut album in the US and Japan in February 2017. See Braden live and she’ll make you a believer. This girl is smokin’, smokin’ hot.

What makes you a Girl Warrior? 

I’d say continually putting myself “out there” and actively designing my life qualifies me a Girl Warrior. My belief that all people (that would include all self-identified women and, hey now, that would have to include me!) are worthy of being seen, heard and loved motivates me to trust and follow my own vision. I want to live a big life. That, and my ability to see an opportunity for growth in everything, everywhere, all the time.

You have a big bold brilliant career. Was music always “it” for you?

I am first and foremost a music lover. I’ve been a singin’ fool ever since I can remember but I didn’t necessarily see it as my career path early on. I would sing along with, imitate and study the greats for the sheer joy of it. It was out of that practice that I developed a voice. It wasn’t until high school when I went for a solo and felt a beautiful force and energy come through me – it was powerful. In that moment I realized that I not only had a voice but also had something to say.

From Boise to Manhattan … how’d that come about? 

Boise, ID to Gresham, OR to Victoria, BC to Harlem USA.  I’ve recently begun to embrace my unconventional beginnings as a jazz singer. I used to wish my story made more sense – that I had grown up in a place where jazz, soul and gospel flowed like water, or that my hometown had a little more musical “clout.”  The truth is that my grandmother introduced me to some incredible music early on and I fell in love with it. I grabbed a hold, so to speak, and have since followed music wherever it has led me.  I had great mentors in both Oregon and British Columbia. I packed two suitcases and moved to New York City in 2009 because I knew I needed to be immersed in the music I loved in order to begin to reach the level of artistry to which I still aspire.

You’ve sung in some amazing places in the world. If you could go back to one of those places to do it all again, where would it be? Why? 



My wanderlust runs deep. I’m crossing my fingers that my dream of having a great career effortlessly marries my desire to see the world. So far, so good. I’m currently in Bangkok for a month of music at a jazz club here and I already want to come back! I came over two weeks early to travel on my own in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. There are so many places I have yet to see that I’m not sure I’d prioritize a trip back to anywhere over seeing someplace new. I loved Burkina Faso in West Africa, though I see myself visiting its musical neighbors, Mali and Ivory Coast, before returning. I also adored Cuba. I am bilingual and sing in Spanish as well so South America is also at the top of my list.

What has been your biggest challenge? 

It’s cliché but I have to constantly fight against my own self-doubt and work to expand my understanding of what self-love really looks like. There is an undercurrent of negative self-beliefs that I am forever examining and pushing back against – the belief that I am not good enough, talented enough, that I am an imposter or somehow unworthy of the incredible things that I have been able to experience. What a buzz kill, really. There are also the very real challenges of being a woman in the music industry and a fat one at that. I rely on friends and fellow women artists for support and have also found strength in the body-positive, fat-positive and queer communities.

What obstacles have you overcome and walls have you broken down? 

Moving to NYC within my twenties with no money and building a music career from the ground up!  Being fat has shown me walls and barriers invisible to many. It could be seen as an obstacle but I choose to embrace my embodiment. It is one small part of who I am. If my size and shape hinders me from getting an opportunity, that opportunity was superficial and wasn’t for me – just on principle.

What would you say to your younger Girl Warrior?

Can I just hang out with her and shower her with buckets and buckets of validation? I would tell her that there is space in this world for her and for everything that she has to say and just – to go for it.

What would you say to future Girl Warriors looking for inspiration?  

I would do my best to communicate the idea that they are already in possession of everything they need to find joy and live the life of their dreams. That can be a tough one though – how much time do we have together?

Who is/are your Girl Warrior hero(s) and why? 

I have role models and certainly look up to the vocal goddesses that have inspired the masses but I’m not so big on the idea of the “hero/ (s)hero.” I am in awe and fall into a kind of love with most people I meet.

What’s next? 

I am working on a new album and it’s been a long time coming. Hopefully a month alone with a piano in a hotel room in Bangkok will result in the completion of some of these song ideas that have been floating around.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 

I have no idea and I feel great about that! One of most important things I’ve learned as an artist is to do the work and detach from the outcome. I say, “yes” to things even if (or especially if) they scare me.  I show up for opportunities and follow through. I create music.  What comes from that is not really for me to say.  At the same time, I am an avid daydreamer and carry within me an elaborate vision of what I want things to look like and how I want it to “feel.”  I do my best to nurture that and give it my focus. In five years, I’d like to be making music with a killing band in beautiful clubs, theaters and music festivals around the room.  And if I let myself be completely honest, I’d like to be playing Madison Square Garden.

 If a song were written about your life, what would it be called?

Maybe “Songbody.”

You can learn more about Emily @ www.emilybraden.com

Preview Soul Walk on iTunes @ https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/soul-walk/id336528400

Follow Emily on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/emilybraden/ and Instagram @ https://www.instagram.com/songbody/

 

 

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Ode to the Single Mom.

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Oh sweet single mom

At the end of the day

When you flop exhausted

And road weary

Into your bed

The pillow beside you

Empty

Whether by choice

Or by chance

Intended or unforeseen

It matters not

You keep your reasons

Close to your heart

Along with all

The other artifacts

That brought you to this place.

The darkness settles in

And the mind races

Relentlessly

Out of control

It babbles and rebukes

Bluffs and bitches

These noisy

Disrespectful

Unkind thoughts

That drip

Persistently

Into the wells

Of tired

Spent eyes

Sockets full.

Your body aches

And cries out

For comfort

Relief

Reassurance

A gentle caress

Tenderness

Human contact

Anything will do

At times like this

When you are

Depleted

Drained

Consumed

By the demands

The needs of others

Your children

Always come first

That’s the deal.

These cherished offspring

The loves of your life

Their birth

The ultimate creative act

Nothing compares

And you know it

You became a Goddess

In the moment

Of their conception

And they are yours

Eternally.

They are the source

Of your greatest pride

Deepest devotion

Unwavering adoration

Biggest fears

Grandest hopes

They inspire you

To soar with the angels

They provoke you

To grovel in the mud

With the devil himself

They have the capacity

To bring out the divine

Reveal the retched

Make you feel

Larger than life

Insignificant as a mite

They give you

Super powers

When you feel helpless.

They bring meaning

To your life

They bring purpose

To your days.

You are unfailingly present

To make their daily life

Extraordinary

The task is both

Daunting and endless

You are there

In the trenches

The bleachers

And hard benches

On the sidelines

Leading the charge

And the loudest cheer.

You are the one there

For homework

For practice

For sports events

For dance lessons

For music recitals

For teacher night

For beach days

For dog walks

For stray cats

For bike rides

For Sunday dinner

For Monday mornings.

You take temperatures

And wipe runny noses

You dry tears

And supply tickles

You’re a chauffeur

And a chef

Entertainer

And educator

You are the

Tooth Fairy

The Easter Bunny

And Santa Claus

Your arms are always

Ready for a hug

Your lips prepared

To smile

Your voice trained

To sing

Your heart eager

To laugh

Your hand fixed

To hold

Your storytelling skills

Are epic

And your goodnight kisses

Are unforgettable.

You are a single mom

But you are not alone

Know that

You are loved

And cherished

Admired

Needed

Respected.

You may not hear it

When your head rests

So heavy on your

Singular pillow

But the applause is loud

The honor immense

And the gratitude mighty.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Sunday Morning.

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Hey E Baby

I was thinking about that Sunday morning

Just after we bought the house

It was November and the rain

Was pelting on the window

All dark and dreary outside

So you put our first log in the fireplace

I made coffee just for the two of us

You were hanging photos of the family

Framed in black and white

And all those paintings from the artists

Who had passed through our lives

My Barbara Lewis CD was playing

Baby I’m Yours

The sweet soulful sounds

That have the power to break your heart

You took my hand

And we danced around our new living room

You sang the chorus into my ear

While I cried into that soft spot

On the side of your neck

Hey E Baby

I think those were

The best two minutes of my life.

 

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: On Making America Great Again.

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I grew up in a border town, which meant that in a mere half-hour we could be in Minnesota. Taking a drive to “The States” was something we did on a regular basis. The Old Man, Ma and I would take many a Sunday afternoon drive down to the US border just to wander around the Border Store with it’s creaky wooden floors, endless aisles of trinkets ‘n trash, and all kinds of cheap crap made of plastic.

There was also all the absolutely stupendous candy that you could only get in America. It wasn’t like today where you can get anything from anywhere no matter how far out in the boonies you live. Back then, you had to travel 40 miles south on highway 61 and cross the Pigeon River Bridge to sink you teeth into a wondrous and unforgettable Sugar Daddy, Chocolate BB Bat, Big Cherry Bar, Turkish Taffy, and the oh-so exotic wax bottle mini drinks. Good God they were good.

By the time I was a teenager we had many trips to Duluth, or even as far south as Minneapolis. Most trips were shopping excursions, which often included my older sister and at least one of her ubiquitous girlfriends. I have fond memories of the lions and tigers at the Duluth Zoo. Once the Dag Hammarskjold High School Band did a disastrous tour of Duluth High Schools. I played second clarinet. Enough said. I also made at least one trip to Duluth with my girlfriends Terry and Suzy, where we stayed in a cheap old hotel that stank of stale cigarettes and fried onions, and met two man-boys, one of which wore a toupee. I still blush when I think of it.

I loved American small towns, American boys, American music, American movie stars, American baseball, American shoes, American clothes, American potato chips, American candy and even the American flag because it had stars, which I also loved. Yes, I grew up coveting all things American. Everything about it seemed just a little bit better than what we had. I was proud to be a Canadian girl who loved America.

I remember where I was the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Mr. Ward made the announcement that fateful Friday afternoon just before our class was dismissed for the weekend. I remember how stunned and sad I was walking home from school that miserable overcast November day. I remember the excitement of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon in the sultry summer of 1969. Decades later I would fictionalize the memory in my first novel, Summer in a Red Mustang with Cookies. I remember where I was the morning of September 11 when the twin towers were brought down. The Today Show’s Katie Couric delivered the devastating news in real-time as we watched in horror as they crumbled to the ground in a cloud of smoke and ash. But like the Phoenix rising, I remember how deliriously happy I was when Barack Obama became President. The Americans had a great leader again, one worthy of our respect and admiration, like Kennedy.

And then I remember how bewildered I was almost a year ago when Donald Trump announced that he was officially running for president of the United States and that he was going to make America great again. How was that even possible? First of all, I thought America was already pretty great. I thought this had to be some kind of joke, another publicity stunt, and that he didn’t stand a chance. But now, like most of us, I know that this isn’t a joke. This is seriously scary shit. Come November, it is quite possible that we could all be saying President Trump. I choke on the words.

When I look back on the America of my youth, the America I loved to visit, the America I admired, and the America I thought would be such a cool place to live, I’m sad and overwhelmed with grief by what is unfolding on the other side of the border. Over the past few months, I’ve found myself angry, frustrated, dismayed, disturbed, troubled, worried, offended, frightened and quite frankly, disappointed, ashamed and embarrassed by all the bad behavior and empty rhetoric taking place in a country I so admired. It’s like finding out your favorite uncle wasn’t at all what you thought he was, that he actually deserved to be behind bars and not held in your high esteem.

But I haven’t lost all hope. There’s still a part of me that has faith in the wisdom and intelligence of the American people; that there are more who are good, kind and equitable than ignorant, hateful and prejudiced. There is still a part of me that believes that when the rubber hits the road, the America that I loved as a young Canadian girl is still there; that these great Americans will show the world that they are too smart to listen to the reprehensible rants of a carnival barker, to be influenced by fear mongering, and most importantly, to be duped by a spoiled charlatan with deep pockets, bad hair and a shallow devious mind.

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boo and Lorraine in a Duluth hotel room.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Purple Rain. Purple Rain.

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I learned about Prince’s death during the 2-hour wait to board the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria. I was still basking in the residual glow and euphoria of the Paul McCartney concert that my oldest daughter (OD) and I went to the night before.

Imagine, not only breathing the same air as the ‘cute’ Beatle, but singing along with him. And twenty thousand other people but it felt like he was there just for me. Until Wednesday night singing along to these particular songs only ever happened in the privacy of my upstairs bedroom at 204, where I pretended he was right there with me. Picture it. I’m sixteen years old, lying flat on my back on the floor, eyes closed, the LP Rubber Soul blaring from my record player and I am in teenage heaven.

It was the concert to end all concerts for me. A lifelong rock ‘n roll dream that I never really thought would come true. Shit like that didn’t happen to small-town girls raised in blue-collar neighborhoods from the middle of Nowhere Land. It just didn’t.

But there I was decades later grooving to one of my teenage idols. It was surreal.

It was equally surreal to be sitting in a ferry line-up and flipping through Instagram only to see a photo of my office wall come into my feed. The photo was taken by my youngest daughter (YD) with the caption “Shitty #ripprince #1999.” I immediately commented on her post with, “What?!”

In utter disbelief, I quickly typed #RIPPRINCE in the Instagram search bar. And sadly, post after post, photo after photo appeared with the same message. It rained purple tears.

I went to see Purple Rain with my oldest daughter (OD), the one who treated me to the Paul McCartney concert. She was six at the time. A bit young for a movie experience like that, I know. Please don’t judge. I’ve done plenty of self-condemnation over the past decades, so no need. I’ve taken care of that business for you.

But in my defense, feeble as my case may be, I was irrefutably out of my right mind at the time. I was freshly separated from my husband. My life was more than messy. It was a washout, a calamity of cataclysmic proportions. To say I wasn’t thinking clearly and not making the best decisions, would be putting it politely.

The thing was I loved Prince’s music and I thought he was beautiful and mysterious and sexy and an extraordinary musician. When Purple Rain came out in the summer of 1984, I really wanted to see it. We were living in Toronto. I was a newly minted single mother. I felt alone. Abandoned. Forsaken. Forgotten. And friendless. And by friendless, I mean no babysitter.

So I did what I thought was a good idea at the time. I took my not-yet-six-year-old daughter to see Purple Rain.

Over the years I have been plagued with guilt and have had many regrets about that decision. Questioned my sanity. Pondered the wisdom and prudence of my behavior. Lost sleep worrying that I had scarred her for life. Turned her into a music junkie. A lover of screaming guitar licks. Fostered a penchant for all-things purple. Inspired her to wear platform shoes.

Who knows what horrors I may have unleashed upon my innocent child that Saturday afternoon when we boarded the Dufferin Street bus and headed north to the Yorkdale Mall? No child, we were not going shopping. We were going to the movies. And not some run-of-the-mill bland Disney thing either. We were going to a cinematic and historic event. An epic musical phenomenon.

We were going to see Prince in Purple Rain.

The day after Prince died I texted my oldest daughter (OD) and asked her what she recalled of that movie-going experience and how it had affected her.

She texted the following:

“It was great to see Purple Rain as a kid. What stands out: the skinny-dipping scene and the fight he has with his father. Wanting to be on the back of his motorcycle. Jimmy Jam. How fun they were performing onstage.”

And then she texted this:

“I wouldn’t feel guilty. It was a good thing and a fond memory!”

Maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t such a bad mother after all.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Friday Night Dinner.

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This is a little fictional riff I wrote on routines and rituals, the dance of love, the intricacies of marriage and cooking Italian on Friday nights.

Pasta and Salad

They were back to back cooking Friday night dinner. The usual. Pasta and salad. He asked her what she was thinking. She told him the truth. He changed his mind about slicing the cherry tomato in half. Instead he turned to admire her lovely sensual back as she stirred the marinara sauce.

Basil and Oregano

His grip tightened. The sweetness of freshly plucked basil and oregano enveloped the kitchen. The spaghetti strap on her white cotton sundress slipped loosely over her tanned shoulder. Her hair scooped high in a messy tail exposed her delicate neck. He was no longer hungry. The truth had that affect on him.

Marinara Sauce

The sway to her hips as she grooved to Coldplay broke his heart. Nobody said it was easy. They got that right. Her sultry Italian lips kissed the wooden spoon smothered in steaming marinara. When they first started cooking together she would invite him to taste her sauce. But it was no longer his palate that she was seeking to please.

Steamy Sacred Ritual

She adjusted the seasoning and plunged the spoon back into the thick rich sauce. He noticed that one of her turquoise earrings was missing and this made him feel sad. God, it was hotter than hell outside and sizzling in their tiny kitchen. Yet she insisted on keeping this weekly culinary ritual. “Sacred,” she called it. Insane, was more like it.

Boiling Water

He was sweating bullets yet she was cool as a cucumber. Her full childbearing hips rotated in pulsing infinity circles. Round and round. Effortlessly sustaining the rhythm of the driving guitar riff, all the while stirring the marinara. Irony is cruel at times. Some voids were impossible to fill. The stainless steel pasta pot, a wedding gift from her parents, had come to a full boil. Spitting and splashing beads of water violently onto the stove top. Like angry tears. He could relate.

Fistfuls of Linguine.

As she reached for the pasta, he could see the thin translucent scar on the inside of her fragile wrist. Exposed and formidable. Skimming the surface of her veins. He longed to run his finger across it. Feel her vulnerability once more. He remembered how red and swollen it was at first. Like a lost river. But they were beyond that now. She measured the linguine by fistfuls. One for him. One for her. One for the pot. Just in case.

Forks and Other Kokkengrej.

She reached for the stainless steel fork that was stuffed in the pottery utensil jar next to the stove. It was the big one he used to remove the steaks from the BBQ. He knew it was bad form to pierce the meat like that. Releases their juices, she would chastise. Toughens the meat and makes it hard to chew. He knew this. But he couldn’t resist the urge to stab. Impale lifeless objects. It was in his blood. He was once an ancient warrior. She was the Goddess of basil and other fine herbs.

Al Dente.

He leaned back on the counter and watched as she stirred the pasta. He had difficulty breathing around her. There was a time when this was fun. And romantic. He closed his eyes and remembered. How she used to test the spaghetti. How she’d take a few strands and toss them across the room. How they giggled and applauded the sticky ones. How they carved their love in steam.

Breaking Bread

She insisted he cut the bread into perfectly polite little pieces. “It’s not rocket science,” he scoffed as he pulled out the scarred pine board and prepared the filone for cutting. It wasn’t all that different from sawing a piece of wood. A skill he had mastered at his father’s side by the time he was eight. She was all wrong about the bread though. It was made to be broken, torn and ripped apart. Stuffed into their mouths like savages.

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