MUSIC: EMILY JANE WHITE | By Alexander Winter


Emily Jane White hails from Fort Bragg, a small coastal town just a few hours north of San Francisco. It was there, embedded in a misty marine layer and surrounded by woodland, where she started playing the piano in preschool. Her music is a combination of folk and blues that thrusts you into the dark and melancholic places in which she often finds solace herself. “Sadness, darkness, melancholy, sorrow, and pain are as much part of life as happiness and joy,” she says.

As a child, White actually wanted to become an equine veterinarian. She rode horses for nine years, studying dressage and jumping, before she finally started songwriting in her junior year of high school and became interested in psychology, women’s studies, and social work. After attending UC Santa Cruz and living in France for a while, she moved back to the Bay Area, where she still resides, to continue her music career.

White already has a large following in Europe, but she is still searching for a wider audience in the United States, one that is attracted to the blue tone of her music. Until then, her mission is to continue writing and recording songs to inspire listeners. While her work might be perceived as mournful—she certainly sings from an emotionally sad place—it’s here that her music thrives. White has an awareness of worldly impermanence that comes with a soft sadness, which is reflected in her sound and reminds of the Japanese notion of mono no aware (literally “the pathos of things”).

Her deep and full voice combined with a glass-shattering ability to project makes her a vocal powerhouse, yet she is always eager to improve her talent, taking voice lessons with Christa Pfeiffer at Community Music Center. Back when White lived in Fort Bragg, she studied under Marilyn Hagar, an art therapist, and Lynn Kiesewetter, a jazz pianist and singer. Nowadays she studies Alexander Technique with Kari Prindl—the identification and letting go of harmful body habits—and Body-Mind Centering with Sonja Riket at CMC—a very wholesome and conscious approach to movement—both of which she regards as tremendously helpful vocal tools.

White highly recommends listening to Nick Cave’s lecture on the love song to understand the source of her music’s emotional heaviness, and she blames Johnny Cash for some of her exploration of darkness and tragedy. She has taken on quite a few collaborative ventures in the past, one of which was a band called The Diamond Star Halos, for which White wrote all of the songs, with friend Brooke Lober singing backup and Gillian Gibb-Gonzales (The Master Plan, Sweat It Out, The Gibbs, Thugboat) playing drums.

Aside from a new, still-untitled record, White is also involved in an electronic project called Blue Ruin with friends Darwin Meiners and Derek Owen-Doss. While her new solo album is engulfed in a cloud of mystery, she revealed to us that where up until now her music has incorporated a lot of guitar and piano, she is currently working with a new bassist and a drummer. So look forward to more electronic sounds with a lot more percussion, as well as vocal layering, to create different textures.

Follow Emily Jane White emilyjanewhite.com









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This article was published in:
Music Issue - Released January 2013
Issue 1 / Version 3 | Buy print copy here
Issue 11
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