when you listen to emily’s skahan‘s debut solo album mean things i’ve said about other people, it’s hard to believe that such perfectly heartfelt words could come from someone who is as absolutely fucking crazy as emily. then you hear lyrics like “and you said, ‘good morning, you beautiful stranger, jesus christ i am so hungover and do you have any particular feelings about advil liquid gels and pancakes?’” and it all makes sense, because crazy as she may be, she lives – and writes- more honestly than anyone i know. her album is stunning. so stunning, in fact, that i had to thank her, literally thank her, for producing something so beautiful.
one part of montreal folk band motel raphael, emily skahan is an established singer/songwriter/busker (number 2 in the city according to cult mtl) (but, you know, number 1 in our hearts). it was my sincerest pleasure to catch up with emily to talk about love, her inspirations, song writing, and the roommate she can’t live without. in celebration of mean things i’ve said about other people, here are some nice things emily skahan has said about other people.
first off, can you tell little city readers a bit about yourself, and how the experience of creating this album has changed you?
well, i very much identify with motel raphael, my band, as a unit. i love being in a band, and the others definitely complete my songwriting in ways i cannot. working alone is really fun but doing solo stuff makes me love being in a band even more.
i would describe myself as ridiculous, my music as playful. making this album has made me an avid appreciator of deadlines and punctuality. the people who worked on it with me were so dedicated and i love them all.
who has been your biggest inspiration, musically?
man…it’s a toss up. i really love alicia keys and jann arden. they are both strong, assertive women whose songwriting styles i admire and constantly emulate.
and what about your biggest inspiration in life?
my parents. they’re the freaking bee’s knees and they love each other and their kids so much. i would be such a jerk if i didn’t have such an incredible family.
tell me about three people that played an important role in the creation of your album?
al lafrance / one of the most reliable, loving men on the planet. it was his wacky idea to record this album and his confidence in me is something that i wish all performers had. it’s my secret weapon. i love him so much.
mathilda carney / mathilda is one of my best friends and did all the makeup for the album art. she also photoshopped my face which is nice cause my skin looks more impeccable than it EVER will on there.
sophie croteau / sophie did the graphic design for the album and is pretty much the fastest worker in the world, not to mention she is so artistically gifted. we were strangers before she worked on this and now i can safely say that she is a friend i would do anything for.
without naming names or exposing anyone’s dark secrets (actually, you totally can if you want to), can you tell me about one relationship (platonic or not) that shaped a song on your album?
well, the song “baltimore” is the oldest one on the album. i wrote it the winter of my second year of university, after my fish died…i mean, the song isn’t about the fish, the song is about the boy i fell in love with a while before getting the fish, but the fish dying just made the breakup way worse, ya know? it was an awesome relationship, first love, that sort of thing. this album is choc-full of firsts. and it is a simple track, much like the relationship it is about…it is called “baltimore” because the first people i showed it to were my upstairs neighbors, whose apartment was nicknamed BALT; the ladies who resided in it were named brittany, alecia, lindsay and taylor, thus making “baltimore” the obvious name for the song.
i guess what i’m trying to say is that it sounds like a simple love song that isn’t even two minutes long but what inspired it was the time in which it was written. which feels like a hundred years ago.
what about your back-up vocalists, and the other musicians/artists we hear on the album?
aw man, what a talented group of people. i have incredible friends! eight of my favorite people in the city sing with me on the album. what i like about the singers on the album is that they are my buddies, and the two things that get me through tough times are friends and music. so recording vocals with them felt very right, because a lot of my lyrics on this album are from conversations with the people singing on it.
so nice! who is someone you could absolutely not live without? does that kind of “can’t live without” feeling find its way into your album?
someone i can’t live without is my roommate, nick denton. he works at burritoville and when you go there you should tip him a hundred dollars. he is a kind, gentle giant, is always there when i need him, and just an altogether super easy person to come home to. he often ends up being the first person to hear my music and is always full of positivity and great constructive criticism. i have never had a big brother but I am pretty sure that if i did i would want him to be a replica of nick. never underestimate the beautiful feeling that is coming home to one of your best buds.
name an artist that you feel you share something in common with, musically.
one of the vocalists on the album, johnny griffin, is a SUPER gifted vocalist, writer, and guitarist. he is on a level that i would never want to compare myself to, but i think that the way his voice carries emotion is similar to mine. he sings from the heart, and i think i do too. love big or GO HOME!
if you could switch places with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
jian gomeshi. his life is so sweet, he gets to talk to people about their passions, i don’t know what could be a better job.
which combination of artists would best describe the sound of your album?
if norah jones and kimya dawson hung out with robyn? maybe? ya.