Music Features

Emily Jane White (Interview)

It's a little after 10 p.m. on a Saturday night and the crowd at Sunnyvale in Brooklyn is silent and enraptured. Onstage, Emily Jane White's fingers glide over the keys as she sings Hands, her voice echoing out and filling every inch of space in the venue. This is the reaction that meets White for most songs in her set, followed by applause and shouts of approval. 
If you've heard White's music, you understand its ability to draw you in and envelop you in its fragile, expansive sounds. The Oakland artist has been recording albums under her own name since 2007. Her latest, They Moved In Shadow All Together, dropped this past summer. Songs like Frozen Garden up the cinematic atmospherics, adding to the beauty and the tension of her music. These may be contradictory descriptors, but that fragmented vibe is exactly what White wanted. She aimed to build a musical landscape that reflected the trauma she went through.
"When people experience trauma, they often have post-traumatic stress and a very fragmented sense of self. By using all of these different vocals and using different spaces to record these vocals in, I was creating fragmented vocals and unifying them as a whole," she said. "Oddly enough, that all kind of conceptually came together sort of on its own. I don't know how! But it did."
One of the those different spaces White used was an echo chamber. Through every song, White's voice reverberates over the surface. It took a trip to Tiny Telephone studios in San Francisco to create the desired vocal effect for the album's harmonies.
"I wanted to improve my range, but also just explore something new. I actually went in the echo chamber and recorded vocals," she said. "It was really inspiring. I felt like I was pushing myself and exploring new territories and new sounds in ways that I haven't before. It just brought things in myself and my songwriting that were unforeseen."
They Moved In Shadow All Together is more than just personal for White. It's political as well, addressing police violence against African-Americans, racism and the activist response to injustice. The Black Dove came from a sense of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. White's life in the diverse city of Oakland also personalized the matter for her, as the names and stories of the victims became known.
She added that it is her responsibility as an artist to write about something greater than herself. There are many ways to talk about social problems. But music has the greatest power to reach people on an intimate level.
"I'm taking my own personal experience and connecting it to some more political topics and the greater, more universal topic of trauma and recovery from trauma," she said. "I feel like the beauty of songwriting is that you're able to create a personal connection through the magic of music and use that as a tool to talk about greater things. My music has always addressed pretty heavy emotional landscapes. That's what I've always been drawn to." 
They Moved In Shadow All Together is out now. Emily Jane White is on the road in Europe, with tour dates available here