Today’s Feature – May 21-22: Val Emmich

May 22, 2008 at 9:21 pm (Today's Feature)

As you might have guessed, I’ve interviewed Val Emmich (he is today’s feature after all)… but I don’t really know Val Emmich. But, I think we’d get along. We seem to suffer with the same condition: attention deficit disorder, or my favorite three letters, ADD. You may call it a disease, but I call it a blessing. Val says “I’m an extremely restless, highly neurotic person who just wants to be productive… If I’m going to be here I might as well accomplish something while I’m breathing.” And boy is he ever producing. He’s making albums, acting on your TV screen and writing friggin’ novels. Sounds like a productive case of ADD if I ever heard of one.

In all seriousness, Emmich is an unreal talent. His music pulls you off your bar stool, through a violently swinging double door chest first, hands in the air. It breathes pure radiance, music that can jump from a low piano key strike to a screaming guitar retrospective. Throw in some lyrics that perfectly balance the liabilities with the credits and its pure majesty. And this style is all Emmich, “The more albums I do, the less I try too hard to do one thing or another. I try to just let each song take me wherever it wants to go… I don’t have a defined sound and I used to think you needed one… Once I got that out of my head, I think my sound got more honest.” And it’s working out perfectly. So well he’s toured with the likes of Dashboard Confessional, Butch Walker, Gavin Degraw, The Honorary Title and Better than Ezra.

The new record is called, “Little Daggers,” a pop collection that strays from the other five albums Val holds to his credit – “So many of my albums are downers. Really emotional and dramatic. I wanted to make an album that was actually fun to listen to but I also wanted it to say something.” Emmich realizes it doesn’t need to make you cry in order to mean something to you. He’s simply taking bits of life and spinning it on its side, showcasing a whole new angle.

Check out a Val Emmich show for a taste of his passion behind the melodies. And don’t expect him to stay dry – he gets into it. You can also see him on the small screen, with appearances on programs such as 30 Rock and Cashmere Mafia under his belt. And keep an eye out for the novel. If it’s half as strong as his musical penmanship, it’ll be a best-seller. Jump into the XXQ’s to learn more.

PensEyeView.com (PEV): The New York Times said you are “A rocker who rocks to his own beat”. Looking back to your first day in the music business, how has the sound of Val Emmich evolved over time?

Val Emmich (VE): I hope my sound is getting closer and closer to really sounding like me. The more albums I do, the less I try too hard to do one thing or another. I try to just let each song take me wherever it wants to go. In that way, I feel less restricted than I did when I first started out. I had a more narrow idea of what my sound could be. Now it can be anything. This answer might sound vague but that’s the point. I don’t have a defined sound and I used to think you needed one. The “business” side begs an artist to have an easily definable sound i.e. punk, emo, blah blah. Once I got that out of my head, I think my sound got more honest.

PEV: Tell us about the earlier days. Was there ever any doubt that you would be where you are today and going in the right direction?

VE: There was doubt everyday and there still is. I think that feeds the music and who I am. I will always be concerned. I take it all very seriously. A few key people in my life just drilled it into my head that I could succeed as an artist. They made me believe that what I was saying was worthy of being heard. I owe them dearly. I had people letting me live in their house, giving me a place to rehearse, and in some cases just listening to my art with open ears and honest tongues.

PEV: What kind of music were you listening to growing up? Do you remember the first concert you ever attended?

VE: My first concert was insanely MC Hammer. Opening up was Vanilla Ice. I am not being facetious or ironic. Hammer’s pants were in full effect. As a young kid it was all Top 40. Junior high I got into hip hop. EPMD, Naughty by Nature, 2 Pac. Then high school was Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Radiohead. That was my first introduction into rock and it was via that whole alternative rock craze. Those are the bands that made me pick up a guitar. Then college and drugs opened my ears to more sophisticated and challenging stuff.

PEV: You are also a very busy actor as well. With recent appearances on 30 Rock and Cashmere Mafia alongside Tina Fey and Lucy Liu. How do you balance the acting and music career? As well, is acting something you wish to continue pursuing?

VE: Early on, acting was merely a curiosity that provided me with some money. In college, while my buddies were waiting tables, I was taking the train into the city to do acting gigs. I was in commercials and a few tv shows. I was living off of it. It’s an odd way to be introduced into that art. Only in the last few years did I start to take it a little more seriously. I’ve always been a movie buff but love for the craft of acting came only recently. I’m still really a novice. I have a lot to learn.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a profession rather than just a hobby?

VE: When I signed my first record deal with Sony in 2003 I realized it was my profession. It took me a few months to believe it. Once it sank in it was really liberating. Still, I keep having this fear in the back of my head that it’s going to be taken away from me. I feel guilty filling out tax stuff or whatever and filling in Musician under the occupation slot. Feels weird. But that’s what I am. Maybe that’s because I always thought I’d be doing something else. Maybe a professor or something. I wanted to be a musician but didn’t think it was actually possible.

PEV: What is a live Val Emmich performance like?

VE: Completely unpredictable, depending on my mood. I wish it wasn’t that way but I can’t help it. It’s often on the verge of flying off the rails. Always passionate and always sweaty.

PEV: Tell us about your soon to be released album, “Little Daggers”.

VE: It’s a pop record. I wanted to make a tight, efficient pop album. I love really good, quality pop music. Anything by The Beatles. Early Weezer stuff. It’s not all I love but it’s one of the things I love. So many of my albums are downers. Really emotional and dramatic. I wanted to make an album that was actually fun to listen to but I also wanted it to say something. So often the word “pop” is a dirty word in music. I think that’s because you think of what you hear on the radio which is often dumbed down to it’s lowest common denominator. But pop is really just a sound that is immediate and catchy. That doesn’t mean it has to be dumb and superficial and shallow. John Lennon wrote very sophisticated pop songs with powerful messages. So did Marvin Gaye. And Burt Bacharach. You can call it rock or R&B or soul or whatever. Over time it’s all become pop to me. Just classic, timeless, and catchy songs.

PEV: How is it different from your previous, acoustic EP entitled “The Fifteen Minute Relationship”?

VE: That EP was my first solo release in 2001. It’s very different than that. That was my first stab at trusting my own vision in a musical project. Since then I’ve released a bunch of albums. This latest will be my sixth. The only thing “Little Daggers” has in common with that EP is the subject matter. Both are about love. How fun and exciting it can be and how difficult and trying it can be. The main constant is that it’s necessary. You can’t live without it. It also happens to be the most common subject for pop songs which is why I used it.

PEV: What happens when you hit that “creative brick wall” and feel like a song is just not coming out right? What is your method to cure that?

VE: I just leave it alone and come back to it later. Later can be a few hours later or a month later or years later. I never forget about an idea I had. I always remember it and I always go back. I don’t really try to write anymore when I don’t want to so I rarely experience a creative block. If I’m not feeling it, I just put it aside. It doesn’t bother me.

PEV: Is there a certain environment you surround yourself in when you sit down to write music?

VE: No. Whenever the mood strikes. The environment will disappear around me if I am inspired to write.

PEV: How have all your friends and family back home, reacted to your musical career?

VE: They are extremely supportive and super enthusiastic about it. They urge me to keep going when I feel like quitting. Without them I would be a mess.

PEV: What city (International or US) do you think offers the best appreciation for music? Why?

VE: I can’t answer that. It’s hard to quantify the collective attitude of an entire city. It’s all about the individuals you meet. I guess Austin, TX would be an obvious answer because of South By Southwest. I don’t know beyond that.

PEV: What is life on the road like for you? Best and worst parts? Any favorite spots along the way?

VE: Best parts are playing to strangers who know your music. That feeling doesn’t get old. Worst part is often the food. Our country’s interstates are full of fast food junk. It’s hard to eat healthy while on tour.

PEV: Is there an “up and coming” artist or band right now that you think we should all be listening to?

VE: No. I’m kind of bored at the moment.

PEV: Having toured with Dashboard Confessional, Butch Walker, Gavin Degraw, The Honorary Title, Better Than Ezra and others, is there someone you have not had the chance to work with or collaborate with, that you would like to?

VE: So many people. I always get shy about saying who though.

PEV: When not traveling or performing, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

VE: A lot of things. I recently completed my first novel. So writing would be one. Reading. Drinking coffee. Watching sports on tv. Playing video games. Watching bad tv. Watching good movies from Netflix. House chores. I can always find things to do around the house. I’m a home body.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Val Emmich?

Uh. Hmm. I own a huge movie theatre popcorn maker. Makes the authentic theatre kind. Is that surprising? I have no idea. I’m an extremely restless, highly neurotic person who just wants to be productive. My biggest fear is that I’m just sitting here filling up space. We’re over-populated as it is. If I’m going to be here I might as well accomplish something while I’m breathing.

PEV: If we were to walk into your studio what would we find?

VE: A computer, typewriter, posters, guitars, keyboards, microphones, percussion, toys, odds and ends. Scraps of paper everywhere. And coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

PEV: In one word, describe Val Emmich.

VE: Lucky.

PEV: So, what is next for Val Emmich?

VE: Dinner.

For more information on Val Emmich, check out www.ValEmmich.com

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1 Comment

  1. emoboy said,

    hy, i’ve got pictures of my new emo hair
    at http://xrl.us/ouog6

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