New York City native Emily Mure has journeyed from playing concert halls as a classically trained oboist to busking as a singer-songwriter on the streets of Ireland. Her third album,Worth (September 2017), brings together all of her rich experiences as a musical traveler, spotlighting both her technical ability and gift for vulnerable, heartfelt songwriting.
Recorded at Dimension Sound Studios in Jamaica Plain, Mass., Worth blends Mure’s clear vocals with a variety of instruments – including strings, piano, organ, and ukulele. It also takes listeners through a complex collection of themes that aren’t always easy to mine, such as coping with anxiety, saying goodbye to one’s hometown, and learning to cultivate self-acceptance.
“Gaining the strength to face these challenges head on — and for me, writing about them — has been a personal journey of healing,” she explains. However, it’s Mure’s hope that the record will help others, as well. “Many of these songs are very personal, but I almost always write with others in mind. Perhaps if someone can relate to something I’ve said, it might offer some comfort knowing they’re not alone.”
All the songs on the album were composed by Mure, save one cover, “As The World Falls Down,” by David Bowie; a tune she decided to learn when the icon passed in January 2016. Having already helmed the majority of violin and cello arrangements on Worth, she decided to try her hand at putting strings to this particular one. “Bowie was such an inspirational force,” Mure notes. “I re-watched Labyrinth since it was one of my favorite movies growing up. When I heard this song, I remembered how much I loved it, and felt moved to pay homage.”
While she has no fear of tackling difficult subjects, Mure also has a soft touch with love songs, as evidenced by Worth’s “Already Are,” a composition she wrote for her husband as a gift on their wedding day. The song summarizes the enormity of recognizing love, building trust, and growing alongside another person.
Mure’s songwriting, which she began cultivating during her years at Ithaca College, has been recognized in prestigious national competitions (Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Telluride Bluegrass Festival) and has been featured on networks including NBC, ABC and PBS. As a live performer, she also frequently collaborates with other artists. Mure spent time in 2017 opening for, singing harmonies with (and sometimes playing oboe for) notable musicians including Joe Crookston, Elizabeth and the Catapult, and The Bones of J.R. Jones.
In a time when embracing the heart and soul of humanity is at a critical moment, Baltimore’s Americana songstress Letitia VanSant releases a poignant collection of originals and one cover on her debut nationally distributed studio album, Gut It To The Studs (To be released in February 2018). VanSant sings of emotional empowerment, taking control of one’s destiny and leading with truth in her singular works.
In her music as in her life, VanSant’s has always sought to wrestle with worthy questions and impact social change. Before her return to Baltimore, VanSant earned a Human Rights Humanitarian Issues concentration from Macalester College (St. Paul, MN). Afterwards she traveled to Detroit to work with the Obama campaign and then signed on with AmeriCorps for a year developing gardens at public schools. Five years of work with a progressive advocacy group landed her in Washington DC. On weekends, she reflected on the state of society through her songs, earning a regional following in coffee shops and clubs.
“We are in this political crisis in part because we have a lot of spiritual work to do,” says VanSant. “This moment requires us to think deeply about our priorities, to confront our fears, to really know ourselves. We have to build the relationships and the emotional fortitude to sustain a movement.”
Upon weighing the power of music to move people, she ultimately left her nine-to- five job to become a musician. She hasn’t looked back since, and for good reason. She’s won a slew of awards with Kerrville (New Folk Winner), the Mid-Atlantic Songwriting Contest (Gold; Folk Category), Falcon Ridge (Emerging Artist), and Rocky Mountain Folks Fest Songwriting Contest (1st Alternate). She’s graced the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, and placed among the Top 10 listener-voted “Songs of the Year” by her local radio station WTMD.
VanSant’s national debut Gut It To The Studs opens in tandem with her life as a full-time artist. To get off of the beaten path, though, one must contend with the uncertainties of uncharted territory. “Where I’m Bound” shows VanSant persevering through a “land of broken promises and streets of fool’s gold” with a “map in the stars,” and by following her faith.
Upon moving back to Baltimore, VanSant left behind a nonprofit career. In an effort to feel comfortable in her new skin, she looked at her emerging life and had to “Gut It To The Studs.” She sings, “gotta get the wires a-running right ‘fore the dry wall goes back up.” “Taking Back The Reigns” reflects the notion that insecurities will follow you wherever you roam. In order to face your demons and not allow them to swallow up your life, you have to encounter the forces unseen and look them in the eye. If you let fear drive your soul, “then left unchecked it will rule the whole world.” “Dandelion” echoes our generation’s keen interest in building communities that are nourishing and real.
On “The Field,” VanSant likens her inner journey to the labor of farming, as she sings, “I’ll pick up my plough and I’ll pick up my hoe, for the soil is rocky and dry.”
The sole cover on the album, “For What It’s Worth,” stands the test of time as a true protest anthem. VanSant churns out a powerful Americana interpretation inspired by recent protests against police brutality. She comments, “Being in Baltimore, you can’t deny the stark injustice of racial inequality. The killing of Freddie Gray woke a lot of people up. We owe so much to the people who fought for justice in decades past, particularly in the ‘60s when this song was first released. I recorded this song as a reminder to myself that the present moment is just as critically important to our nation’s history.”