Emma Russack
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Emma Russack

Northcote, Victoria, Australia | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | INDIE

Northcote, Victoria, Australia | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Folk Alternative


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"Emma Russack: You Changed Me"

Surroundings loom large in Emma Russack’s songwriting. True to its title, 2012’s Sounds of the City communed with her newfound base of Melbourne as well as echoing time spent in South America and Wollongong. Two years later, You Changed Me dwells in settings just as powerfully and just as naturally. There’s the “London Town” of one song’s title, the Paris of another (“He wants to show me his city”) and the lure of relocating someplace warmer (‘Cairns’) or closer to her rural upbringing in Narooma, NSW (‘Get Back’). ‘In the End’ was even recorded in the bush, with bird sounds accompanying her wavering vocals and acoustic guitar.

It’s not just towns and cities that lend a sense of time and place: Russack taps the personal (in fact, autobiographical) resonance of dwelling in supermarket aisles, of reading meaning into unfolded sofa beds and of crying all the way home in a cab – wherever “home” might be at the moment.
Teamed again with Alec Marshall (Hot Palms) and Cameron Potts (Cuba is Japan, Baseball) – who contribute beautifully mercurial guitar and drums, respectively – Russack takes a great leap forward as a songwriter here, lingering on words and details for devastating effect. She makes lyrics about heartbreak seem anything but stock-standard, but rather transformative (see the album title) and eviscerating. There’s such a frankness to what she sings that it’s almost shocking at times; she complicates the import of the verb “fucked” by drawing it out on ‘London Town’ – “On the last day when we fucked…” – making it seem at once cheap, profound, regrettable and impossible to forget. “It was not nothing,” she sings, trying to convince the subject (an older man) after it’s far too late. That’s fitting, as it’s a song about seeing the truth only in hindsight – “I thought I was dangerous/I thought I was wild/I thought I was everything you liked.”

That’s not to say it’s heavy listening. In fact, for all those personal revelations, Russack sings with a breezy assurance that seems more strengthened by the lyrics’ ordeals than shaken by then. And some songs are simply lighter in tone than others: while the opening ‘Get Back’ establishes the album’s intimate lyrical honesty, it’s tempered with soothing country licks. So goes ‘Cairns’, its spindly hook curling forward like the tangible aroma of something delicious in an old cartoon. ‘Stars’, a reflection on lying on a trampoline at night at age 14, is short and relatively sweet; when a classmate gushes about the science behind the stars they’re looking up at, she muses: “But what about the way they shine?”

Even with the differences in tone, these songs are so of a piece with each other in terms of musical and vocal delivery – save for the field trip of ‘In the End’ – that You Changed Me often feels like one long, snaking track. Adding to that feeling is ‘Scented Candles’, its suite-like structure pointing back to its origins as a would-be rock opera. (Ditto the brief moment of prog-folk menace around the line “What have I become?”) Russack may dabble in varied arrangements, spanning flute on ‘Women’, strings on ‘Paris’ and pedal steel on ‘Two Lovers’, but it’s all a way of wringing out the full potential of her words.

Those words, again, are worth poring over. “You don’t like me when I’m loose/When I’m anybody’s woman,” she sings on ‘In the End’, with backing vocals by The Middle East’s Jordan Ireland disappearing from her side. ‘You Shouldn’t’ recalls “playing with fire” in a relationship that’s unhealthy but yet makes you feel “wanted, so wanted.” Similarly, the title situation of ‘Two Lovers’ doubles the affection she’s getting “but it’s not good for my head.” One wishes other songwriters could deal so convincingly with power and sexuality in relationships; on the psych-tinged and album-defining ‘Woman’, Russack maps out the influence of a man who turns her on to “animal calls in bed … men in dress shoes … sport on TV … fine wine, fromage at 4am.” She adds, “It’s no surprise you’re seeing lots of women/’Cause I felt like a woman with you.”
That song gives us the album’s thesis – a whispered “You changed me” – and we’re left wondering how much that change was for the better, and how much of it even stuck in the end. Closing with ‘Paris’, which radiates a kind of sadness that warms your belly somehow, the album drifts off instrumentally for a spell, like the credits of a film or the moment-of-truth, time-spanning final pages of a novel. If the first album was all about the city, this one is about the world, and those final moments answer reflections on the past with a future that’s still wide open.

As Russack advises earlier on the record, as much to herself as to anyone else: “Life is short/Make the most of the time you have/Fall in love, see the world.” - Mess + Noise

"You Changed Me"

You Changed Me begins with Emma Russack yearning to ‘get back’ to her hometown for family dinners, her familiar schoolyard faces, and the simple country town way of life. The rest of the album delves into honest introspection as the singer-songwriter explores who and what changed her into the person she stands as today.

Throughout her career, Russack has poured her life events into her music, with emotions left to drip on the lyric sheet. The life lived on this record has seen a few more stamps on the passport, a break-up, musical detours, and the simultaneous wide open road and self doubt of single-dom, as lamented in the lyrics, “I thought I was dangerous, I thought I was everything you like”.

The song that gives the LP its title is the smoky-roomed soul and admonished acknowledgement of ‘becoming and feeling like a woman’ through a particular tryst, “I never thought I’d like animal calls in bed, or… a man in dress shoes”. The restrained funk guitar again chimes through the breathily whispered track ‘You Shouldn’t’, where Russack sits muddled between feeling wanted, yet left alone.

At the end of the 10 tracks, the artist leaves the listener, and the album, in Paris. She’s a bit worldlier, surrounded by and open to the potential of romance, yet arriving with the battered baggage of lost love. In just over half an hour of music, Russack pours years of maturing, growing, and all the things that have changed her into one fine collection. - Tone Deaf


You Changed Me 2014, Spunk Records
Sounds of Our City 2012, Spunk Records (Australia) / Skycap Music (Europe)



If you follow the Princes Highway northeast across the Victorian/New South Wales border, as it winds up through the Biamanga National Park and over Corunna Lake, you’ll reach the clear blue waters of Narooma, NSW where our singer-songwriter heroine grew up.
Writing her first song at the age of eight, Emma Russack’s first brush with fame came in 2007, when her covers of Neil Young and Joy Division received millions of views on YouTube. Having decided a strong online presence wasn’t quite to her taste, Emma has since preferred to take a more organic approach to sharing her earthy voice and her brand of hushed folk with a hint of smoky-roomed soul and blues. Emma’s collection of work is intensely personal and autobiographical; she writes songs about love, loss, intimacy and friendship. Moving to Melbourne in 2010, Emma’s debut LP Sounds of Our City documents her adjustment to life in the big smoke after a year in South America, about leaving someone, crossing the lines of friendship, and that it’s okay to want something more. Her latest album You Changed Me spans the years of 2011 to 2013 and is aptly titled. It demonstrates growth, development and complexity, but also represents a significant change in Emma’s life: single for the first time in seven years and experiencing all the fun and excitement in a newly found independence. Tracked over four days in the undulating surrounds of Yowrie on the South Coast, You Changed Me is a deeply introspective and honest narrative of loneliness, exploration and the remnants of lost love.

Band Members