May/June 2015 Lyric Contest Spotlight: Winner Emily Robinson

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

 

Emily Robinson

1st Place
“Marriage Ain’t The End of Being Lonely”
Written by Emily Scott Robinson
Interview by Caine O’Rear

Can you tell me a little bit about this song, when you wrote it, how it came together and what inspired it?

I’ll start off by saying that it is not autobiographical. I wrote it this summer and it’s in the tradition of Southern folk music and a folk ballad. I’m in a really happy marriage, but I really think when people get married, they think that marriage can protect them from sadness or loneliness or pain. I wanted to write a song that struck at the heart of it feels like when you realize that marriage can’t protect you from that, that you’re still a human being and that you’re going through the human experience. I was traveling through Europe with my husband and taking some time to write and that song came out.

How is the songwriting scene in Chattanooga?

It’s a very warm and welcoming community and one that’s growing quickly. There’s a great organization called Chattanooga Songwriters Association that I connected with pretty quickly. They do a monthly songwriter showcase and they support local songwriters. But I’ve found that songwriters tend to isolate themselves a bit, so it takes some time to draw people out and get them in one group. So I think the local songwriting contest that they do here at The Camphouse really brings people together. A lot of old and young talent.

How long have you been writing songs?

I’ve been writing since I was in my early 20s but I hadn’t really done any hard work, nose-to-the-grindstone type of stuff until recently. Songwriting, I learned, was going to be quite a bit more work than I wanted to put in [laughs]. I wrote my first song (which I still play) when I was 20, so I think that was a gift from the muse, or whatever you want to call it. After that, I kept writing parts of songs and didn’t like what I wrote or didn’t feel too great about it, so I didn’t do that actual hard work of songwriting until I was in my late 20s. Now I’m 27. I went to a songwriting school/workshop out in Plain Grass a few years ago and started to really get into it and now I feel like I’ve got the focus and the tools to work with my creative drive. It’s incredibly rewarding.

What made you want to write that first song when you were 20?

Going out to see live music has always inspired me. I went to see Nanci Griffith at the Carolina Theater the night I wrote that song. I went with my mom. Nanci Griffith is a wonderful songwriter. I had this feeling watching her that I had that in me, or it was something that I could do. I played guitar and sang for a while and grew up idolizing a lot of songwriters. I listened to a lot of Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris and and Patti Griffin and was really steeped in these female songwriters. So I tried my hand that night, stayed up all night and the song came out pretty well-formed. But it doesn’t always come that easy. I think of songwriting as a birthing process. They take time to incubate, then you’ve got the labor pains and you’re not sure that it’s gonna happen and then finally it comes out.

Do you write every day?

I do. I’ve realized that it’s good for me to write every day, but not good for me to expect something wonderful to come out of me every day. I really like “free” writing, so I’ll give myself some time and say, “Tonight, I’m going to write whatever comes.” And sometimes that’s random verses or a chorus I really like. I’m not gonna worry about finishing a song or completing it. I’ll just let it come out. Then I have to schedule myself time with the songs I really love that have potential. I’ll have to give the song the time it deserves, sit on my bed with a bunch of notebooks spread out everywhere and a rhyming dictionary in front of me, thinking of lyrics that make sense and a story for the song. Whether I’m doing “free” writing around the character or around the scene that’s set in the song, I’ll have the creative sessions and the finding-the-song sessions.

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