Essentially Pop’s Liam Anthony talks to musician Stephen Emmer about the importance of challenging yourself as an artist, the advice he has for aspiring musicians and of course, his new album Maison Melody.
To look at Stephen Emmer’s repertoire as a musician is both inspiring and intimidating as an interviewer. Having collaborated with many musical and artistic legends including, Midge Ure, Yoko Ono, Lou Reed and Chaka Khan, his musical resume is a collage of true visionaries. He also has an unequivocal musical affinity with the UK where he describes pop music being a way of life. His band, The Minny Pops, were signed to Factory Records and they subsequently supported Joy Division on tour. Emmer was also a member of both The Associates and Lotus Eaters in the eighties.
A musical career that spans many decades and myriad collaborations, it is refreshing to hear him talk about his new album, Maison Melody. An album he recorded alone, no vocalists just a piano, some strings and the occasional electronic subtleties. The record has ten capacious instrumental tracks which were all recorded by Stephen alone in his native the Netherlands. We talked about how he was looking for some solitude and isolation and a place to create without distractions. Little did we all know that the idea of isolation would eventually be something universal.
Maison Melody can be described as Neo-Classical. An album of direct and striking melodies. It is beautifully haunting and visceral at the same time. Emmer mentioned how he was influenced by piano music from over a hundred years ago to even contemporary piano melodies. Additionally, he told me how he discovered Catalonian composer, the late Federico Mompou and how he was seminal to his project.
I asked Stephen about the art of collaborating and how making Maison Melody for him was a necessary challenge. He is a curious creative, faithful to both his passion and intuition. Talking to Emmer and witnessing his inquisitiveness towards music afforded me an insight into his creative process. Despite having such an esteemed career, he was willing to offer some advice for aspiring musicians. He told me how it is important to be tenacious and not to be afraid of rejections. He laughed before saying “music is like a marriage”.
When I talked to Stephen about his future musical endeavours, he answers with such enthusiasm. Naturally, he is keen to perform Maison Melody live. He shared with me his relentless sources of inspiration, there is always a reference, a concept or something visual. Our conversation oscillated from Miles Davis, Kraftwerk and even Pablo Picasso. He is erudite and speaks with both nostalgia and excitement about music and the visual arts. Before we end our conversation, he shows me his iPhone where he has over a thousand entries in his notes section. In other words, over a thousand potential ideas. His only fear is that he won’t have the time to do them all.
Maison Melody is out now and is available on Spotify