Autobiography of a voice

Singer-songwriter Emily Kollars makes it personal, on stage and on record

<p><b>Alone, but still getting by with a little help from her friends.</b></p>

Alone, but still getting by with a little help from her friends.

Photo by Evan E. Duran

Catch Emily Kollars on Saturday, October 11, at 6:30 p.m. at Harlow's Restaurant & Nightclub, 2708 J Street. The cover is $10 and Joanna Borromeo is also on the bill. To learn more, visit

Most who’ve had the chance to hear local artist Emily Kollars sing—and with recent gigs at Dive Bar, Torch Club and the Shady Lady Saloon, to name a few, there’s been ample opportunity—know that Kollars possesses serious soul.

Vocally, she runs the gamut from powerhouse showstopping moments to more fragile, subdued stretches with the ease of someone who has been doing this for years.

Kollars, who performs Saturday, October 11, at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub, sounds as self-assured as any singer out there, but such confidence is not something that just happens to Kollars. In fact, when the young singer talks about her upcoming EP, she admits to having had some apprehension.

“I didn’t want to even share the songs for a while,” she says. “Some of the songs I did, but I think those are the ones that are more cryptic.”

Despite this assertion, the EP—titled Past 10 and currently set for a spring release—certainly has its share of moments that don’t feel so mysterious. The smooth R&B number “Honey” features lines such as “Your touch, honey, it heals me,” while the bluesy “At Sea” finds Kollars lamenting about being ignored by a lover. If anything, she seems to wear her heart on her sleeve quite freely. Considering how personal the songs are, that’s no small feat.

“Almost all of it is autobiographical, so writing the songs was certainly cathartic,” Kollars says.

As Kollars grows and matures as an artist, she’s also working hard to cement her place within the local music scene. For example, her first EP Out the Door, released in November 2012, comprised something of a community effort as it featured a track list voted on by her fans. In other words, she understands just how important her fan base is.

She also recently provided backup vocals for a Steelin’ Dan show at Harlow’s and says that collaborating with other people is something that’s helped make the Past 10 experience a rewarding one for her.

“The experience of working with other people and collaborating with talented people has been really amazing,” she says. “I may have a certain vision for a song, for example, but it doesn’t even nearly compare to what other people end up bringing to the table. Working with a band, seeing their perspective, it changes your original vision a little bit, which makes it stronger and more interesting.”

And when it comes to interest, music has such a strong hold on Kollars that she can’t envision a future that does not involve her singing. Writing and performing go beyond hobby, Kollars says, they’re an essential part of her everyday life.

“I never wanted to be anything else,” says Kollars. “This has always drawn me in. I don’t intend to quit anytime soon, and I don’t think I could even if I wanted to. I just think it’s really important for my soul. I can’t go a day without singing, and anytime I’m singing, it just makes me so happy. So why stop?”