I met Emilie Kahn at the Burgundy Lion on Notre-Dame west last Monday. A slight, pixie-like young woman, she was in the midst of packing up her harp, Ogden. When asked why that was its name, I discovered it was simply the make of the instrument, making me feel a little sheepish, but broke the ice nicely. I was lucky enough to have a really nice conversation about her upcoming album and her music in general.
Angela Beaupre (AB): I love the harp but it isn’t an instrument you see or hear often in non-classical music. Why did you choose the harp?
Emilie Kahn (EK): Why not the harp? It is just the greatest instrument ever. I don’t know why more people don’t play it; maybe it isn’t that accessible. It is just one of those spontaneous things where I was like, “I’m going to play the harp” and went on Craigslist and found a teacher, and just started playing.
AB: Would you say that your style is more pop, rather than alternative or classical?
EK: Well, I learned classical on the harp when I first learning to play it, but I wouldn’t so much call myself a pop artist, but I’m in that realm. You could say alternative, but alternative just means something that it’s not like anything else.
AB: What is it about the harp that makes people take notice? Why do people like its sound so much?
EK: I guess part of it is that it seems exotic to people and they’re not used to hearing it, but I think it is also the fact that with the harp, you play one string on it and the whole instrument is resonating and there are all these overtones and the sound of the instrument is very overwhelming. There is just so much sound coming at you. That is what, I think, for me does it. Also, I think people just are used to hearing it so they are intrigued.
AB: Is your vocal style influenced by the harp? Or maybe other artists? Feist jumps to mind.
EK: Ya, I used to listen to her a lot. I also was interested in Joanna Newsom who is someone that I often get to compared to a lot. It is actually starting to annoy me a little. My music isn’t really similar to hers. The only real thing that connects us is that we’re two girls who play the same instrument, but I mean, Joanna is a genius, and I was pretty obsessed with her. When I first started I learned a lot of her stuff and she is a huge part of the reason that I play now.
AB: The Taylor Swift cover really made people take notice of you. What made you want to do it?
EK: I’ve been playing this song at my shows for several months before I recorded it. I just wanted to do a cover: something people would be surprised by but I wanted them to recognize it. I feel like everyone else seems to think that everything is going great since the cover was released but it doesn’t really feel that way to me. Taylor Swift herself tweeted me, and I still have less than 400 followers, isn’t that insane? It felt great, but then two days later things kind of just went back to normal. That’s how it feels to me on the inside. It seems like viral video that came and went. I guess the thing is too is that I don’t want to be known just for that. Everyone around tells me it’s great, so I try to take it as positive, but at the same time it’s also kind of really superficial. Like, suddenly 20 people want to have a phone interview with me, and I’ve been working for three years on this project and doing so many other things for this project that no one seems to care about.
AB: So what’s next for you after your upcoming tour in Canada, US, UK and Europe?
EK: I’m really looking forward to working on the next album, actually, but still have to tour this one! I’m in the mind frame of what I want for the next one but I can’t really work on it yet. It is probably going to be darker, more organic and stripped down. Maybe with less electronic stuff.
Emilie will be playing at Le Gesu on Friday October 2 at 8 p.m. You can like her on her facebook page HERE.