An Old Soul

Emily Elbert's bright side

Emily Elbert
Emily Elbert

The biggest surprise at last month’s Old Settler’s Music Festival was Emily Elbert. She won the Youth Talent Competition in 2007, which granted her a spot on the main stage this year, and though still a teen, the Coppell, Texas native possesses an old soul.

Elbert's atypical for many reasons. While many her age are pining to become the next American Idol, she rejects the notion. “As many people come up and ask me if I’m 14 as tell me to try out for American Idol,” the 19-year-old explains. “They mean well. It’s nice that they would want to help me out, but that’s not exactly where I want to go.”

Both parents are professional musicians who exposed her to a broad range of sounds. “It was instilled in me from when I was little, when I was listening to jazz,” she recalls. “I think it’s to my advantage to educate myself on different kinds of music and the expression that comes out of the world. Everything is wrapped up in music, from politics to religion to history to poetry. There’s so much more than is possible to understand. But it’s a great thing to try. I’m interested in as much music as I can wrap my arms around.”

Her education now includes attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she just finished her freshman year. “There’s just music all the time,” she claims. “Like any school, it’s not perfect. It makes you vulnerable because you’re going to school for your creative passion. But it does provide a really unique environment.”

In 2006 she self-released Bright Side, a disc of original tunes with a contemporary folk sound. Today, Elbert’s music has a soulful edge that reflects her interest in 1960s-era R&B, her dusky voice an ideal match for her brand of jazzy, acoustic blues. “I’ve gotten a little bolder,” she agrees. “In the last couple of years, I’ve been turning myself on to things that aren’t acoustic guitar oriented because I think it provides a lot of interesting opportunities.”

School’s out and Elbert is preparing to record a sophomore disc during her time off. Catch her tonight at the newly re-opened North Austin Threadgill’s at 8pm, and the Kerrville Folk Festival this Sunday afternoon as a New Folk Finalist.

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