Metro DetroitApril 15, 2014
CD dream is no longer ‘Far Away’
By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer
METRO DETROIT — As the son of veteran Detroit rock guitarist Rick Emmerson, Chris Emmerson grew up surrounded by music.
He even has a box of cassette tapes he recorded around age 10 or 11 that he “would never let anyone listen to.” Emmerson no longer has a cassette player he could use to listen to those old recordings, but he now has something better, and more modern. His debut CD, “It’s So Easy From Far Away,” officially will be issued during a record release party at 8 p.m. April 25 at the Jazz Café inside Music Hall Center in Detroit.
Although he’ll be joined onstage with a band and backup singers, Emmerson, a guitarist, taught himself drums, keyboards, bass, violin, xylophone and other instruments for the CD, which includes a cover of the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” alongside originals.
“I would just have an idea and I didn’t have to call anybody or count on anybody to be there” to perform or record with, Emmerson said of his efforts to learn and play multiple instruments.
The soft-spoken, unassuming Emmerson, formerly the frontman for the local band Hogan Says!, is an instructor at Yoga Shelter in Grosse Pointe Park, as well as an independent music teacher and musician whose accomplished playing has made him an in-demand performer. But it wasn’t until his forthcoming CD that he felt comfortable sharing his original compositions with the world.
“This is the first (recording) that I think I’ll actually be happy with in another year,” said Emmerson, whose previous recordings include an album he made in high school and a more recent CD of instrumentals, both of which remain unreleased. “I feel like I’ve found my voice and gotten more comfortable with time.”
Emmerson — who lives in Grosse Pointe Park with his wife and is about to become a first-time dad in May — grew up in southwest Detroit and later Grosse Pointe Woods, where the 30-year-old attended Grosse Pointe North High School. He has an older sister, a younger brother who performs in his band, and a pair of younger twin sisters, and all but one of the twins plays music or sings.
“I don’t remember when I didn’t (play music),” Emmerson said. “I probably got more serious about it when I was 8 or 9.”
The musician wasn’t even old enough to be admitted into a bar when he played his first gigs with his father at only 17, and Emmerson laughingly recalled sometimes having trouble gaining entry.
“It was a good learning experience,” he said. “It was fun to go through that with (my dad).”
Inspired by friends and fellow multi-instrumentalists Justin Rock and Theo Katzman, Emmerson gradually began picking up other instruments.
“I think each instrument can bring something out of you,” he said.
“It’s So Easy From Far Away” doesn’t follow a theme, but Emmerson said many of the songs “touch on finding out who you are.”
“They’re pretty personal,” he said of his original compositions. “Most of these (songs) are (written from) an observational standpoint.”
RootedGrass Music praised the songs as “at once cathartic and unsettling; much of the album seems to flirt with the complexities and addictive natures of love and regret worthy of a cinematic backdrop.”
Emmerson has already earned the respect of many fellow musicians, including Evan Perri, lead guitarist for the gypsy jazz band The Hot Club of Detroit.
“Chris Emmerson has consistently been at the forefront of the Detroit music scene for years now,” Perri said in a press release. “Combining old and new influences has given him a greater conviction than most. His latest release demands a larger stage.”
Friend and yoga student Ann Fitzpatrick, of Grosse Pointe Farms, whose 11-year-old son, Shane, is learning guitar and drums from Emmerson, has been wowed by Emmerson’s musical versatility.
“He’s incredibly talented,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s just amazing, all the instruments he plays that he has taught himself. … It’s always mesmerizing to watch him play.”
Emmerson grew up hearing his dad’s favorite albums by artists including the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan and Bob Marley. But the artist who had the greatest impact on him was someone closer to home.
“My dad is (a major musical influence) for sure,” Emmerson said. “He’s a really great songwriter. He taught me that melody is the most important thing, and I approach (songwriting) in a similar way.”
Music Hall Center is located at 350 Madison Ave. in downtown Detroit. Admission to Emmerson’s all-ages CD release party is $15 per person at the door, which includes a copy of his CD. The album can be purchased online starting April 26 from iTunes, CDBaby and Emmerson’s own website. For more information, visit www.chrisemmerson.com.