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

Emily Braden.jpg

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: Countdown to Summer Vacation.

We loved to sit on our front porch in pedal pushers.

I like countdowns.  Especially ones that lead up to a happy event or special occasion.  Like Christmas.  The birth of a child.  A wedding.  On New Year’s Eve I like to watch the ball drop in Times Square.  All that glittery optimism and brilliant expectations for the year ahead.   A fresh new start in ten New York seconds.  Which could be 11 or 12 in the rest of the world given the speed with which a New York second passes.  Regardless, it’s out with the old.  In with the new.  A reason to celebrate.

Even though it’s been decades since I was in school, one of my favorite countdowns still remains that to the start of summer vacation.  There’s nothing else quite like it.  For me, it even trumps counting the days until Christmas. Despite all the caroling and egg nog drinking.  There’s no strings attached.  Just easy breezy eagerness.  And the joy of looking forward to lingering carefree days and laid-back leisure time.

Gretchen Rubin in her marvelous book “The Happiness Project” talks about the four stages of happiness, with the first one being anticipation.  This notion really resonates with me.  Because it goes hand in glove with countdowns.  As I am counting down, I am also anticipating and picturing that some kind of wonderful about to take place.  This in turn releases a bucketful of endorphins.  And those make me grin like a five year old coveting an ice cream cone covered in sprinkles.

Little back story.  The last month of school was both terrific and torturous.  By June in Northwestern Ontario, summer had fully arrived.  No longer lurking around the corner.  It’s presence was fully felt.  From the early morning dew to the humidity that blanketed everything long after the sun had set.  The heat was relentless.  Refusing to retreat.  Even in the darkest hours under a cheddar colored moon.  It was ever present.  And after a long cold winter, we welcomed it with open windows and screens on our doors.

This time was torturous because no one wanted to be there.  Not even the teachers.  Everything you really needed to know was already behind you.  If a teacher was bold enough to introduce something new, no one was listening.  We were a clowder of cats.  Completely disinterested.  We may have seen her lips moving but we heard nothing.  Attention spans were short.  And the intake valve to our brains even shorter.  There was no way anything education related was crossing the threshold to our brains.  Being inside was unbearable.  Being inside a classroom even worse.  The sun was shining.  The birds were singing.  The flowers were blooming.  We were all itching to get outdoors and be a part of it.

The fantastic part of that last month was the relaxed easy-going attitude of everyone.  The teachers did their part.  Classroom windows were flung open wide to allow summer in.  The sweet smell of heat infused with intense humidity, the divine scent of freshly mowed lawns and ubiquitous odor of freshly tarred roads settled over our desks, the blackboard, the books, the collection of potted pea plants on the windowsill.  It was a potent elixir that made us all positively giddy with happiness.

I like to see the world upside down and with a split.

In elementary school it was also the month of outdoor gym classes.  Track and field events.  Baseball games.  Red white and blue hard rubber balls bounced and boinged off sun drenched brick walls.  Hula hoops in neon colors sashayed around tiny waists.  White chalk hopscotch art filled the sidewalks.  Cartwheels.  Headstands.  Skipping ropes and Double Dutch.  Play of all sorts was extended.  And clothes were lessened.  Bare legs and bare arms showing off the beginnings of suntans.  Sandals and rubber flip flops.  Pony tales and new summer haircuts.

In high school every opportunity to be outside was embraced. It was a time to start working on the tan.  The goal was to be beach-ready when the final bell tolled.  Lazy lunches and spare classes were spent languishing on the grass.   P.E. classes were all about the outdoors.  It was track and field season and whether you liked it or not you were out there.  Running or dragging your butt around the track. Horse laughing with your friends.  Good nature teasing.  Disgusted by the sweating.  Complaining at every turn.  But secretly loving every moment.

Breakfast at one of the campsites on our Circle Route trip.

I don’t think Ma and The Old Man counted down the days until my school year ended.  But they too welcomed the lazy hazy crazy days of summer.  Relished the longer days and warm evenings.  This meant more time for The Old Man to tend to his vegetable garden.  Or umpire Little League games after supper. More time for Ma to pause and relax with a cup of tea.  Go for walks or simply watch us kids play from our front porch stoop.

We weren’t big travelers.  Especially going anywhere that required a plane, train or boat.  But we did have an automobile. A Ford.  This was all we needed to get away.  The Old Man got two weeks off in the summer which was a big deal back then.  During that time we’d often go camping or drive down to Duluth for a few days of shopping and sightseeing. One time we went as far as Minneapolis.  And another time we drove and tented our way around Lake Superior.   Doing the Circle Route was considered quite the adventure to our family.  I’ll never forget the thrill of traveling the Soo Locks.  Another favorite summer pastime was driving to Sibley Park, Boulevard Lake or Chippewa for a Sunday afternoon picnic and swim.  Oh the picnics.  How we loved those.  Some planned and some spontaneous.  On muggy evenings, Ma would pack up a basket of food and we would drive to Boulevard to cool down and have dinner.   Who needed a pool or a summer cottage when one of the best places to swim and hang out was just twenty minutes from our house.  We were blessed.

Evening picnic at Boulevard Lake.It’s been said that the family that prays together stays together. That could very well be true.  But I also think that the family that plays together stays together.  At least that seemed to be the case for ours.  Especially in the summertime.  Everyone just seemed to get along better.  A bit like the way we were around Christmas time.  Only the rosy glow lingered.  For two solid months our spirits were raised and uplifted.  Happiness hovered in the clear blue skies over Lake Superior.  Washed over us in Boulevard Lake.  Splashed us from behind at Sibley.  Shone over the Sleeping Giant with a big yellow smile.  Echoed across Ouimet Canyon.  Shouted from the top of Mount McKay.  And giggled inside a tent pitched in the backyard at 204.

It’s June and summer beckons.  Calls me back to that place.  I count down.