UTR: You are involved in a lot of music, but what led to the decision to record a full album?
Emily: I’ve been leading worship since my teen years, completing music degrees at Belmont and UT Knoxville, teaching, etc. I always wanted to do an album and felt like I was supposed to make the recording process a part of my life rhythm. But, life happened, and all of the sudden, we were in our mid-30s with two kids, a chronic illness, and bills to pay. And, though we are very proud of our Song of Solomon record, it was released over a decade ago and I knew in my heart that it wasn’t supposed to be the only project for us. I was playing for a funeral a couple of years ago, and my pastor said something like – “most people will go to their grave with their music still inside them” and it hit me like a ton of bricks. If I’m honest with myself, I was deeply afraid of doing something new, on my own, because I felt like I would most likely fail miserably. But a couple of friends along the way have nudged me – gently yet firmly – that I needed to get my music recorded. I was with one of these friends in April of this year, and I was processing out loud, tossing around the idea of making an EP…and she looked at me and said “Emily, the only way you will fail is if you never try.” I made the decision that day, and here we are, exactly 7 months later, and the project is done.
UTR: In This Weary Land is now available – what kind of feelings are swarming as you make your solo re-debut?
Emily: First, I feel nervous, like I’m in a bit of uncharted territory. It feels weird to “put myself out there” in this digital climate. I want people to hear the music because I do believe that I have something beautiful to share, even though I’m not an “established” artist at this point. I also feel that it, in its jazz and orchestral-pop vibes, fills a space that is fairly empty in Christian music. I feel deep thankfulness for the team that I believe the Lord Himself assembled for this project: The jazz master Gregory Tardy on tenor sax and clarinet, Will Reagan of United Pursuit as Engineer and Co-Producer, my dear friend Andrew Bingham as Co-Producer and maker of the most wildly gorgeous sounds and textures you’ve ever heard come out of a guitar, and of course, my husband Andrew, who fully commits himself body, mind, and spirit, into every note he plays. His solo at the end of “Your Spirit Is My Water” is possibly my favorite moment of the album. At the same time, I am also feeling a sense of lament. Several of these songs were written during the uncertainty of the early days of the Covid lockdown, but also, our family suffered the loss of my mother-in-law to cancer early this year. Grief is always weird and hard, but Covid made a hard thing even more excruciating. In This Weary Land is a musical Ebenezer for me and my family – a reminder that God has been faithful, even in the midst of the darkness of these past couple of years.