Emily Wells isn’t like other artists. She manages to weave hip-hop and acoustic music into one seamless masterpiece. After carving a unique niche for herself in the music world, she’s back with a new album.
Wells, a classically trained violinist and one-woman band, uses an array of instruments including keyboards, drums, tambourines and violins to create live loops which she sings over. Her eclectic sound and haunting voice leave audiences in awestruck silence.
Wells lived in Indianapolis for ten years and Thursday’s show at Radio Radio had a homecoming feel to it.
“I started here. I would play coffee shops and little bars. LuLu’s Electric Café, I used to work there. I don’t even know if that still exists. Mojo’s, Joe’s, Moe’s, something like that. I used to go to the Chatterbox. I never played there, but I would go there and watch jazz. That place had the most impact on me as far as live music goes,” Wells said. “There are a lot of people here tonight who I have known since I was a kid, so that makes it feel like home.”
While Wells is best-known for her multi-instrumental symphonic craftwork, she has recently experimented with acoustic recording. While on a self-described sabbatical in Portland, Oregon, she began recording a stripped down version of her most recent album, “Mama,” with just her voice and an acoustic guitar. The culmination of these recordings will be released on June 11, 2013 as, “Mama Acoustic Recordings.”
“Since I’m playing the guitar, I have to wear a cowboy hat,” Wells said as she began her show Thursday night, embracing her recent endeavor into acoustic recording. Standing on the right side of the stage, she softly played an acoustic guitar and sang, “Mama’s Gonna Give You Love.”
Next, Wells played, “Los Angeles,” the only new song that will appear on her upcoming acoustic album.
“It’s about loving people and loving a place,” Wells said at the beginning of the song.
The acoustic set concluded with, “Johnny Cash’s Mama’s House,” which Wells dedicated to Susan Kitterman, the founder and artistic director of the New World Youth Orchestra, which Wells played in when she was, “a dirty dirty teenager.” Kitterman was at the show, raising money for the orchestra by auctioning off a guitar.
“Now we’re really going to get into it,” Wells said as she took her place among the keyboards, drums and other instruments that adorned the stage.
Seemingly more comfortable with the vast array of instruments at her disposal, Wells launched into, “Come to me,” building the song piece by piece, beginning with the keyboard, looping the lyric, “I gotcha good,” and adding violin and tambourine loops. Her technical prowess was evident and watching the song come together was a work of art.
To demonstrate the difference between her acoustic and electric personas, Wells chose to play “Mama’s Gonna Give you Love,” a second time, describing the acoustic version as, “a lullaby,” and the electric version as, “being sexy.”
The electric version had a more complex and soulful sound, and while she was weary of playing the same song twice, it really showcased her talent.
“Symphony 1 In the Barrel of a Gun,” featured beautifully high-pitched vocals and was one of the strongest songs of the evening. The combination of violin and vocals were entrancing and the crowd appeared mesmerized.
“This is a song about friends, whiskey and Jesus,” she said before playing, “Don’t use me up,” a simple song featuring prominent drum beats and a focus on vocals.
At the conclusion of the song, she said that she would like some Makers Mark because her beer was warm. Someone in the crowd happily obliged, providing her with a plastic cup full of whiskey with the word, “yes,” written on it.
“I don’t know if this is a marriage proposal or what,” she joked before concluding her second set with a new song.
After the show, Emily hung around at the merchandise table, signing autographs for fans and catching up with old friends, seemingly happy to be in a place that she once called home.
For a peak at Emily’s upcoming album, “Mama Acoustic Recordings,” check out the new song below.
Follow her on Do317 to be alerted next time she comes through town.