Chamber music

Emily Chamberlain

"If passion were a genre, this would be it," says songwriter Emily Chamberlain.

"If passion were a genre, this would be it," says songwriter Emily Chamberlain.

Photo/Anna Hart

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“I don’t want to waste my breath singing something if [the audience] isn’t going to feel something from it,” said local musician Emily Chamberlain.

On a brisk afternoon, Chamberlain, someone more naturally inclined to give warm hugs than stiff handshakes, radiates the same magnanimous romanticism at a small table nestled in Bibo Coffee Co. that drives her work as a performer.

Chamberlain’s acoustic compositional style reveals traces of jazz, indie rock and ambient music, emerging from the convergence of her musical influences.

Her songs embody the intimate sincerity that typifies the singer-songwriter genre, as well as employ the melodic language of the late Ray Charles and the alternative flair of Radiohead—all enveloped in an atmospheric dreamscape reminiscent of shoegaze bands like Blue Foundation.

Aside from an unshakeable air of optimism, arguably the biggest galvanizing factor of Chamberlain’s music, as well as in her private life, is the power of emotion.

“If passion were a genre, this would be it,” she said. “I am sending out the harsh and beautiful emotions I’ve felt, and not just my own, but those around me as well. I want to put that all out there musically and stimulate people so that they want to feel something. That’s the best thing for this world, especially when people feel like they can connect.”

Chamberlain has wasted no time in making a name for herself in the last year, playing concerts alongside other local artists, like Bazooka Zoo and Up is the Down is The. Since her debut in November, Chamberlain has been eagerly taking on opportunities to perform anywhere in town, like bars, art galleries and concert venues.

However, this has not always been the case.

“I had the worst stage fright,” she said. “I was a closet musician. Then I started working at a kid’s camp for children with Type 1 diabetes. People brought their music to perform and I began to play there. I got completely addicted and realized I needed to be making and performing music!”

As a child, Chamberlain was well-acquainted with music, especially her father’s “bluesy jams” and her mother, an opera singer also played a part in Chamberlain’s musical development.

Now 21, Chamberlain writes in her own distinctive style, with evocative melodies, free from musical parlor tricks and theatrics. Instead, she chooses a stripped-down combination of rich vocals and a subdued piano accompaniment to build an emotive channel directly to the audience.

“I really want people to see and feel me being vulnerable up on stage alone, because maybe they’ll get to see how beautiful it is to not always be OK,” she said. “When we accept ourselves and others, we get the opportunity to flourish together.”

While personal experience and society are obvious points of inspiration, Chamberlain’s music is also shaped by her time studying anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno.

“I feel like studying anthropology influences my writing. Understanding and being aware of people in this world puts compassion into me. … That’s the place I write from. … I sing about life, but also about things that I want to see more of in the world, as if to say, ’Look at what we could be!”