Val Emmich has been through ups and downs in his career but the downs are what drives his songwriting and makes him an all around better musician. He knows that not everyone is going to love what he’s all about but he at least hopes you listen long enough to make a decision based on the music. He’d rather win over a room full of new ears than play to a bunch of suits who just don’t get it. It’s with this creative force and truly grassroots effort that he has amassed a loyal following of fans who support his every move.
With that in mind he set out to release his last full-length cd on his own opting out of a deal with a record label. The result? A masterpiece titled Sunlight Searchparty that was essentially recorded live to tape capturing the real essence of the album.
May 1st marked the release of an album of B-Sides titled Songs, Volume 1 – Woodstock. Val and his band are currently touring the East Coast in support of this. Check them out if you get a chance!!
Let’s start off with a fun question…what is it you love about music?
I guess it’s the creative part. Whether its music or anything in general, I just like making something when there was nothing and being able to listen to it in a tangible form. I love that part of it and that’s my favorite part.
Was there a particular moment when you knew that you wanted to be a musician?
Probably when I picked up a guitar; As soon as I picked up a guitar I started writing songs and I probably at that moment wanted that that to be my career even though I didn’t believe it until about ten years later.
Who were your influences starting out?
When I first picked up a guitar, Nirvana was big so they were a huge influence on me…Pearl Jam was big, Smashing Pumpkins, that whole grunge scene. I guess my music is still influenced by them although my tastes are getting weirder.
And now who are you influenced by..
I love Wilco, I love Radiohead, I love the Bright Eyes I love the Beatles, I love Bjork. I love a lot of things but those people speak to me.
What is the best moment you’ve had as an artist?
I don’t know, that’s a hard question. Making this last record was really good…I can remember one specific time we recorded it live where we got a song, the third take for this song “Cover Up” and the producer came out and said you don’t have to do anything else. I knew it. Also when we were doing the Dashboard Confessional tour that we just did, it was our first show and we were like “Whoa, six thousand people” and we’d get out onto the stage and they’d clap. They didn’t know who we were, they were probably just young kids who just liked being at a concert..
And what was your worst moment…
Worst moment…there’s been many. I think probably the worst moment was a private showcase for SONY. It was all just suits sitting in chairs and I drank a little too much wine and I sucked. I think that’s probably why my life on SONY wasn’t that great. The point of that is that music to me shouldn’t be played that way, in a laboratory, for judges. It should be played for people who are there for the experience of the music, not to think about what it’s going to sell. I’ve been trying to forget about that day for a very long time. Ironically, it was at a place called Crash Mansion.
As an artist who has been on a major label, an indie label, and has released a cd on your own, what are your feelings on them?
I think at the end of the day they are not that much different. You need support of some kind whether it’s a big label or a small label or no label at all. You need the money to do those things. There’s good and bad in all of them. Majors have money but if they spend it in unwise ways then it’s pointless. Indies can be limiting. I don’t know how to sum it up other than I guess the good has to outweigh the bad. There’s always going to be some negative. I enjoy being on my own now because I can release things a lot quicker and I write things a lot quicker but I don’t have the money to put out more records so I need some kind of help.
What are your thoughts on music downloads versus actually having the cd in your hands?
It’s not the stealing that I care about..as soon as I like a band and I hear a song, I want to see it. I want to see the words, even if there isn’t a photo of them, that’s even cooler, I want to see how they present themselves. Do they have the lyrics or not? Are the lyrics important? What do they look like? What’s the cover art? I love all that shit. I can’t imagine music existing just digitally but that’s the reality of today. I hate that people listen out of order. Some artists don’t care about sequence, some albums aren’t good all the way through, theres just a couple of good songs. What are people suppose to do? Why would they want the whole album. But then theres those bands that it means more..like Radiohead, that has a flow to it, it’s a whole feeling. The first song is major, it has to introduce the record.
If you could pick any artist living or dead to work with who would it be and why?
The answer is probably obvious…it’s said so many times – John Lennon or maybe Eliot Smith. I don’t know, it seems obvious but John Lennon. Obviously he had amazing talent, I like his subject matter in his stuff and he’s a Beatle goddamn it! Eliot Smith, he just had a way about him that I wish I had. In his writing he was okay with being soft. He created layering. His early stuff had the ability to put these voices on an acoustic guitar and it was compelling and sometimes hard to do.
What’s the one thing about you that people usually don’t see or understand? About your music? Do you think there’s something that doesn’t translate?
I’m always aggravated honestly. If I do a show and people don’t want to get the cd I’m thinking…what did I do? What kind of music do they like that didn’t connect? I hate when people are in a room and not listening maybe it’s a spoiled child thing. For a while, on my first album, people kept calling it emo. I never thought that my music is emo. I just consider it classic music, not classical but rock and roll.
If I could pop into your head as you were dreaming your biggest rock and roll fantasy, what would I see? What would be the coolest thing to happen to you?
I guess working with one of my heroes or having someone I looked up to and influenced me at one of my shows. My dreams are pretty simple at this point, I just want to come to a place like this on a tour and be able to headline and pack the place. Look at Butch Walker, I toured with him, I think what he has is great. He might want more but I’m envious of what he has of going on a national tour and packing the clubs. Every time you reach a goal you want something else though..
Watch the video for The Only One Lonely
You once said that you never write when it feel good. Is that still the truth?
Yes. Actually I write in bursts. I haven’t written in awhile because I’m just living life but I’m always I’m storing stuff. The whole thing went down with Epic and we were being put on hold I didn’t write…I was storing it up. Then, all these songs came out of it. I don’t write when I’m happy and I don’t write all the time, but when I do, a lot comes out.
What’s next for you after this tour and your B-Sides album?
I’m writing some fiction. That’s what I’m going to focus on and find a way to release that. Hopefully release a new record.
Any parting words for the fans?
Just thank you…it’s nice to know that people even remember us.
What about people that have never heard of you?
Pretty Please. All I’ve ever wanted is for the fans to see what I do. I want people to give us a chance.