Emily Weedon piano.JPG

Emily Weedon & Delta finally get their music out in the open

Read to the bottom of this post for contest details to win tickets to a show and a CD

Emily Weedon readily admits that her childhood sounds like something out of The Coal Miner's Daughter, the 1980 biopic about country star Loretta Lynn.

The Toronto alt-country/bluegrass singer grew up in Coe Hill, a small town of 125 people that's "practically disappeared off the map" according to Weedon and like Lynn, she lived in abject poverty and often didn't have running water or electricity. In fact, she didn't receive new clothes until her parent's house burned down and the town organized a benefit.

She began going to church when she was around that age and became enamoured with the music. While she enjoyed the music's structure, she just wanted to sing!

"I always felt kind of mad at people around me who weren't giving it (their all)", Weedon explains over beers at The Horseshoe. "Like little old ladies who were just like; (she starts singing in a frail-sounds voice) 'Oh Jesus loves me' and I'm like c'mon!"
She began taking piano lessons at the Royal Conservatory of Music when she turned seven, her grandmother had also given her a few lessons before that.

Ironically, "country" was a bad word in the Weedon household. Her mother would often yell at her for "singing with that twang in her voice!"

However, she found herself working in the film industry as an art department assistant after graduating from the University of Toronto's Film program. Despite that she was making good money, she hated the 12- to 15-hour slog that the job entailed.

Weedon had an epiphany when she was stuck in traffic and writing song while on a run for her employer.

"At the end of the school day I'd come home and if I could, I'd play for eight hours at times," Weedon says, recalling her youth. "I would play and play and play. It's always been my grounding point, my touchstone. And I got so far away music and just it grabbed me back and I knew I needed to be closer to it and I need to ground myself again after being in that bizarre floaty industry."

Even then, she played started out in classical before moving onto jazz which in turn got her interested in the blues. She sang in Big Rude Jake's gospel band before getting into indie, rock and pop.

While she was playing keyboards and singing in a band called Driveway, it hit her that country, blues and gospel were all connected.

"I just found songs were writing themselves so all this stuff came out," she says

She then approached a couple of musicians she had worked with before, bassist Gord Light and drummer Jess Capon, with a rather bizarre sounding concept for a group; The Band meets Keane, though The Keane influence quickly fell to the wayside.

While Light and Capon each brought their own sensibility to the band, it was obvious that it was Weedon's baby and Emily Weedon and Delta was born.

It's been a year of beginnings and endings for Delta. They released their long-awaited debut EP, All Out In The Open in the spring. The reason for delay in releasing the disc was simple; they're indie musicians and broke. It took Weedon and her bandmates a long time to put together the cash necessary to bankroll the five-song CD.

Finally committing songs to tape with producer Stuart Cameron (Crash Test Dummies) was a terrifying experience for Weedon.

"Lying in my bed that night, (before heading into the studio with Cameron) I was thinking; 'Who the hell do I think I am?!'", Weedon recalls. "I'm going to make all these poor innocent people get up at 6 o'clock in the morning and haul their asses down to the studio to do my songs. Who the hell do I think I am? Am I legitimate as an artist? Do I have the right to do this?'"

"I talked to Stuart about this and he talked me down off the wall and he's like; 'Don't worry about it, it's all good, it's fine, it's gonna be great.'"

Don't expect a full-length any time soon either, it took a major effort to scrape together the funds for the EP and there's been no label interest. Which is surprising considering all the attention that's been heaped on female alt-country singers thanks to similar-sounding solo efforts from Stars' Amy Millan and Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis.

Instead, Weedon is electing to focus on releasing singles digitally on iTunes. When I caught up with her, she was getting ready to work with former Pursuit of Happiness frontman turned producer Moe Berg.

"I'll just get in the studio and work really hard on two songs, maybe three, and try just to build up a body of work," Weedon says. "Because it's crazy to have been doing this for so long and to not have stuff that's recorded, to just have five tunes, people listen to it and they're like 'it's fantastic, I wish it was longer!' And so do I, but it's just not possible."

Delta recently wrapped up their long-standing Wednesday night residency at The Cameron House. It had just run its course according to Weedon but there were a couple additional factors that contributed to the decision to end it. There's been a steady migration by bands to venues in the West Queen West neighbourhood, such as the Drake and Gladstone, and clubs in Kensington Market like The Boat.

It was also difficult to compete with some of the band's playing in The Cameron's backroom. Delta's down home roots and country didn't stand a chance against a band with Marshall stacks.

Even then, she confessed that it started to feel like she was going there every week and punching a clock.

"You show up at certain time and whether you physically well or spiritually well or emotionally well you have to go and throw the switch and do it," Weedon says. "You have one-off shows, you can kind of psyche yourself out to be like 'I'm gonna do a performance!' and with this gig there were times where I wanted to stay home and watch Law & Order, feet on my couch or whatever, of course every single time I dragged myself down there after doing 17-hour work days, things like that, I was like 'I am so fucking tired!' and then getting everything set up and start the first song."

Still, it did give her a chance to go through the trial by fire that every musician goes through at one time or another; playing to an empty bar where the only person giving you half an ear is the bartender.

"I don't think any musician worth their salt should get up in front of 50,000 people until they've had that experience of busting their guts out for one person who gives half a shit. And if you can make them give a full shit, you're doing something," Weedon states.

Now that the residency is over, she says the band is going to focus more on one-off shows, like their upcoming gig at The Silver Dollar Room. The event is being put together by local music organizer extraordinaire Dan Burke.

Weedon has come up with a fairly creative name for the evening; Girlgrass.

"Because Cracker Cats are there from Saskatchewan and Dan thought we would make a really good marriage with them," Weedon says. "So, it's going to be a great night to see a lot of really fine female performers, without it being about being woman y'know?"

Toronto's Entire Cites are also on the bill.

blogTO has two pairs of tickets to give to the first two people to place a comment below identifying the name of someone (other than Emily) in the band. Winners will also receive a complimentary copy of All Out In The Open.

Emily Weedon & Delta, Cracker Cats and Entire Cities @ The Sliver Dollar
Tuesday August 21st, 9 pm
$7 @ the door.

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