Emma Volard draws power from the divine messiness of the human experience. Synthesising acid jazz with modern R&B, dub with pop, and future soul with old-fashioned grooves, the Melbourne-based singer songwriter combines the classic and the cutting edge to build something sleek and scintillatingly new.
Raised between the hustle-and-bustle of inner-city Melbourne and the organic serenity of the coastal town of Philip Island, Emma’s upbringing provided the kind of musical education money can’t buy. Singing and dancing along to pop classics like “Spinning Around” and “I’m Blue” as a toddler snowballed into drum lessons from the age of eight, which turned into vocal training in high school and a voracious appetite for all the classics she could get her hands on, plumbing the depths of her grandma’s record collection to unearth gems by Aretha Franklin, The Beatles, Joe Cocker, and Ella Fitzgerald. Emma’s training continued while studying music at university, where she discovered luminaries like Etta James and Erykah Badu, the latter of whom would become a clear guiding light in her journey towards a place of gleaming fusion jazz music.
This omnivorous upbringing is written between the lines on Deity, Emma’s debut album. Embracing the fullness of Emma’s multi-hyphenate musical upbringing, it touches on breathless polyrhythms and indelible hooks, a clear-eyed political bend and, at the centre of it all, Emma’s sublime, silken vocal. It’s a potent combination that Emma has showcased with her band during live sets at Meadow, Leaps & Bounds, and Brunswick Music Festival, as well as in support slots for celebrated artists like REMI, Emma Donovan, and Horatio Luna.
Emma’s devoutly feminist politics and cutting-edge bricolage has been praised by tastemakers including Double J’s Zan Rowe, Triple J’s Nkechi Anele, and Gilles Peterson. Her music moves forward relentlessly: Deity touches on loose, acidic techno, ambient spoken-word and, in its spectacular, dynamic coda, the kind of darkly-toned avant-garde jazz practised by UK luminaries like Moses Boyd. Above all, though, Emma positions creativity as a brazen political act, a mode of self-expression that can’t be silenced or diminished. “[My music] reminds me to embrace whoI am, to break boundaries, to express myself without fear,” Emma says, “To allow myself to grow and to love unconditionally.”