It’s been almost four years since the Triangle’s Emily Musolino released her last album, “Jealous Girl” (2014), which features her full band, in addition to local artists like Eric Hirsh (The Beast), Will Darity (The Brand New Life), and more. Musolino’s soulful and fiery voice garnered the Durham native statewide attention from the likes of WUNC’s “The State of Things.”
Musolino owns her own recording studio, Blue Moose Studios in Durham, of which she started right after graduating from Berklee College of Music with her degree in music production. She had the knowledge, just not all the gear she needed upon returning to NC.
“As of now I’ve probably collected about $50,000 in stuff,” she quips. “It’s all kind of paid for itself. I’ve had clients come in, and they all seem very happy about the product.”
It all started when Musolino couldn’t find a producer who could keep up with what she wanted to accomplish as an artist. Now her studio is the lab to Musolino’s mad scientist.
“So I was just like ‘screw it, I’m going to start doing this myself,’” she continues. “Once I started getting into it, I realized it was actually a really awesome creative outlet. It’s different from performing, in that I can do things over and over and over again to craft a certain thing. Whereas [with a performance,] that’s [all] it is.”
As an engineer, Musolino operates as she wants a producer to work with her: by not getting in the way. She wants to make them feel comfortable in what they do best. “I really want to be guiding the artist into what they want,” she tells. “If it’s not comfortable, or if it’s more of a sterile environment, then they’re not going to get a good sound.”
While powerful female vocalists, like Etta James and Amy Winehouse, have influenced her own cords, as a guitarist, Musolino constantly explores new soundscapes and riffs to incorporate into her music. She takes many ques from ‘70s rock and soul pioneers, such as and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Led Zeppelin and Stephenwolfe. Put plainly, she learned a long time ago that comfortable is boring.
“There’s also a mind space you have to be in,” she observes. “It’s not about how many notes you can play, it’s about the melody that’s needed at a certain time. A lot of times, the best solo is really just the melody of the song. Weezer does that a lot: They take a guitar solo and play it as the chorus, and it’s great every time.”
As well, her peers throughout the Triangle area and beyond continue to be of great influence. “In fact, there’s a crazy little hub in Fayetteville that no one really knows about,” she divulges. “My friend Tyrek [Hearon] plays in a band called ‘Lotus Sun,’ and he is one of the best damn guitar players I’ve ever seen.”
Musolino has three different shows slated for her next trip down to Wilmington; it starts with a duo performance of Lotus Sun’s Tyrek Hearon at Jimmy’s at Red Dogs in Wrightsville Beach on Dec. 21. She also will play with Ethan Hanson at Hell’s Kitchen on Dec. 22, and then close out the run at The Calico Room on Dec. 23 with her full band.
“They’re all going to be pretty different shows,” she observes. “Tyrek’s just gonna melt your face off with guitar, and Ethan is more of an incredible songwriter in his own right. The band show is going to be more from the new album—way more rock ‘n’ roll and hard-hitting stuff.”
Musolino has finished music for her forthcoming album,“The Vault,” and is now planning the business/logistics side of a spring release. “Rebekah [Todd] might actually be on the bill with me for that show,” she divulges.
While some songs have been performed at her live shows, many still have been kept under wraps. The livelier tunes, for example, get more play onstage than mellower tracks she’s explored on the record.
“It is definitely my favorite work I’ve put out so far,” she observes. “I’ve just come such a long way . . . and after three years of constantly being on the road, playing everyday—as opposed to before when I really didn’t go full time with music until 2015—all that practice and life experience has made the music come a long way.”
While she completed demos for “The Vault” at Blue Moose, Musolino admits she needed to get out of her own head to see it to fruition. She tapped Fidelitorium Recordings in Kernersville and Bunker Sound Productions in Chapel Hill because both understood what their roles as producers were.
“I had a very clear, set vision of what I wanted,” she explains. “I wanted my sound to be rockin’ but really precise at the same time. That’s the thing musicians who play with me realize, you can’t just bullshit this; you have to really learn the song.”
Like her previous album, Musolino invited several different musicians to perform on this record. Three different key players with various specialities, for example. Organist Joe MacPhail, pianists Gabe Reynolds and Mark Wells, each provided various textures and soundscapes to “The Vault.”
“There’s a huge variety of different genres that are all encompassed in this record,” she continues. “Everything from almost like arena rock to punk to slow acoustic-folk to pop, but somehow it all works. I don’t know how but it always seems to!”
Musolino plays more of uptempo songs at her live shows, such as “Shatter the Ceiling,” a relevant in-your-face punk-rock “feminist anthem.” She likes to start shows with high-energy tunes like “Burn” that hits hard right off the bat. Partnered with sounds almost akin to ‘80s hair metal, “Eye of the Storm” narrates the tale of someone who always seems to be at the center of life’s drama and chaos—whether created by them or not.
“It seems like most of my songs come from relationships or a relationship gone wrong,” she says with a laugh. “There’s a couple of songs that are happy songs, but some of them are somewhat salty.”