Emm Gryner: Mainstream Rebel

Manila Bulletin, May 8, 2005 | Go to article overview

Emm Gryner: Mainstream Rebel


Byline: JOJO P. PANALIGAN

For someone who has released eight albums and topped the charts, performed in "Saturday Night Live" and Wembley Arena, and has been nominated in the same categories as Alanis Morisette and Avril Lavigne, Emm Gryner sure sounds convincing when she says, "Im not for mainstream."

Indeed, despite her crossover success, this Filipino-Canadian remains a loud rebel yell in the mostly sell-out world of pop. Before putting up her independent label, Dead Daisy Records, Emm was signed to one of the majorswith disastrous results.

"It was distracting, troubling" she describes. "Imagine 50 peoplewho didnt want to work on your album in the first placefaking concern over your music. I mean, they cant help it; its their job. Still, to any artist, that means working in an uninspired environment. I had to get out."

Emm also frowns on the idea of "shopping" demos around. "The quickest way to shoot down creativity," she quips. "Is in focusing on convincing people to part with their money for your efforts."

Then again, independent-mindedness has always been her strong asset. Though Emm is a piano prodigy ("Mom forced me into ituntil my teacher died"), she opted to go to a rock school, form garage bands and work the 4-tracks once the hormones raged. Her decision to relocate to Toronto for opportunities came as no surprise, too; as with her winning a National Songwriting Contest not much later.

Talent and feistinessthe lethal weapons.

"When youre in that age bracket, you think youre the center of the universe," she looks back, laughing. "You think you can change the world by writing about your tortured love life. You think you got everything figured out until it all unravels."

But tortured love songs proved to be a good start. Later, Emm would release a thematic album, "Songs of Love and Death." The CD, along with previous outputs, cemented Emms stature as one of the most important force in the underground scene. It also won the admirations of such artists as David Bowie (with whom she did session work) and Nelly Furtado (who once listed Emms "Science Fair" as her "desert island" CD).

"Life is about one or the other," she explains. "Death primarily fascinates me. Its something people fear because they dont understand it and because they develop strong relationships that theyd want to hold on to forever. But the truth is, we all were born to die with no security of where we are going. …

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