Emma Franz on singing and remembering how to breathe

Independent film maker Emma Franz (Intangible Asset No. 82) is singing at Bennetts Lane on Saturday 16 March. She was a musician long before she started making films, and music has also been at the core of her film projects. Franz will be performing with Carl Dewhust (guitar) Phil Rex (bass) and Allan Browne (drums)

We spoke to Emma as she prepares for the gig, to find out more…

AustralianJazz.net: I see that you’re performing original songs in your upcoming performance. What have you drawn on when composing this music? 

Emma Franz: I have been drawing mostly on personal experiences and experiences of those close to me. This batch of songs deals with the joys and heartaches of being constantly on the road. People who come in and out of your life, lack of stability, excitement of the new, and the pain of missing significant times of or with those closest to you.

AJN: Is writing an escape for you?  A way of processing life’s questions?

EF: I don’t find it an escape, but it’s definitely a way to process things. Anything that makes you contemplate, clarify or commit to ideas helps you understand your experience and learn from it; to better understand yourself.

AJN: Are there parallels between your film making and your musical practice?

Many – it’s all about expression and wanting to share or communicate ideas that I feel are important, or trying to filter my own experiences by creating a kind of dialogue with others. Different art forms provide different means through which to do this. Either form can be abstract or very direct, but with a feature film you can delve more deeply and create narratives that might make an audience empathise or provide them many different angles through which to contemplate what one is trying to communicate.

Music and song lyrics can focus on a single thought or mood, but in that way the listener can often identify with it in a broader sense. On a purely practical level, filmmaking can be quite solitary (the way I work) and to me feels a lot more like a hard slog with moments of joy, whereas so much about music for me is the collaboration and pure fun in doing it. When you actually present music there is immediate feedback and interaction, which is most of the reward… when it’s working, at least! When it’s not, it can be a frightening thing…

Emma Franz filming the sunset on location - Intangible Asset No 82
‘solitary experience’ | Emma Franz filming the sunset on location for Intangible Asset No 82

AJN: What do you most enjoy about performing?

EF:  Again, it’s the immediacy and interaction with the musicians and the audience. It is the only time I feel that I am truly living in the moment. And another thing I came to realise when I had to spend a few years really lost in my film and unable to practise music, is that when singing, because the breath is really focussed and controlled over a period, it has a meditative, almost yogic quality that is incredibly good for health and mind. I only really realised this once it was suddenly missing and I then had the chance to do it again.

 AJN: What can people expect from the gig?

 EF: That’s a difficult question, because I prefer people don’t come with preconceived expectations, though I hope they will think it will be of some quality and that they might take home something from the experience. But what someone will get out of coming to one of my gigs is not for me to say! Besides the obvious of saying they will hear some great playing by phenomenal musicians, if they are listening hard to the lyrics they can expect to be able to jump to conclusions about my life … but I’m not going to give away which bits are pure reality and which are poetics. So they could look at it as not just coming to a gig, but a sort of game they can participate in… Mostly I hope they enjoy the music I have written and in between tunes we can all have a laugh.

AJN:Is there anything about the gig that will surprise people?

EF: If I told you it wouldn’t be a surprise.

AJN: How did your band come together? What is it about this particular dream team that made them the right band for you?

EF: Carl [Dewhurst] is a beautiful guitarist who can conjure so many forms of expression on his instrument. We have presented some of this material in Sydney and Noumea, so he was a first choice, on top of the fact that he is also a good friend and lovely guy, so I feel supported musically. But that also goes for Phil and Al. Allan Browne is such a beautiful artist and has been so fundamental in the inspiration and teaching of many of the great musicians we have in Melbourne and Australia today. For me it is an honour to play with such an Australian legend who truly deserves all the accolades. This my first gig back in Melbourne under my own name for some time, so it was important to me to have a group with whom I could put all my faith in and have fun with.


Hear Emma Franz, Carl Dewhurst, Phil Rex and Allan Browne on Saturday 16 March at Bennetts Lane in Melbourne

Check out Emma’s feature film Intangible Asset No. 82 on the film’s website

Read more about Emma Franz on AustralianJazz.net