Q&A with Emma Gilmartin – 2005 NJA finalist

When did you start singing and why? For example, was there a ‘moment’ when singing came to you as?a calling or vocation?

I took part in quite a few amateur musical theatre productions whilst at high school. I started out in the chorus and ended up getting a few singing roles. I loved singing but had to work hard at improving. My sister used to tell me I sounded awful! Then when I was 16 I joined my school band “Souled Out”. I was introduced to jazz at around age 18 and loved the style a lot.

The real ‘moment’ for me was when I first performed solo at my year 12 Performing Arts Festival. I sang “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (written by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin and performed by Bonnie Rait).

I hoped from then on that I could make singing my vocation.

Which musicians (singers or otherwise) have been your greatest influences? What about them stood or stands out for you?
My greatest influences have been Rickie Lee Jones, Joni Mitchell, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Frank Sinatra. More recently, I have been listening to a lot of Blossom Dearie and Nat King Cole.

What I love about Rickie Lee Jones, Blossom Dearie and Nat King Cole is the sincerity and sweetness in their voices. I really love the way Nat King Cole’s trio could swing and his phrasing in particular was so good.

Ella, Sarah and Frank were so technically brilliant and I continue to learn so much from listening to their recordings.*

What do you look for in a rhythm section?

Firstly, I like to work with relaxed and friendly musicians. I also like to work with musicians who are sensitive about volume because I am not a very loud singer.

I like it when my rhythm section really listens to the way I phrase and can bounce off my ideas. Being a good listener is the most important thing to me.?I am working on it myself all the time.

What are your favourite lyrics, and why?
I love the lyrics to “Blame it on my youth” because they are so sad! My favourite lyrics though, are “Once Upon a Summertime” – they are just so sweet.

What are you listening to now?

I am learning the solo I will be singing at Wangaratta!

I’m also listening to John Mayer (pop singer/guitarist). I love the tone of his voice.

What do you hope to get out of the Wang competition?
I hope to have fun and perform well. I’m looking forward to meeting all the other finalists and seeing their performances too.

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