by Broose Tulloch
Five years ago Emma Cloney told her husband that she not only wanted to learn how to play the guitar, fiddle, and banjo, but that she wanted to teach herself. What’s a boy to do, but lay a banjo, fiddle and guitar under the Christmas tree? Emma and the guitar felt an instant bond, and the songs that would make up her first album (2011’s Something To Say) started to flow.
Emma began reaching out to fellow musicians, playing open mics and jamming with anyone willing, including Rambling Dan Frechette, who coached her into playing her own music at the Bella Vista in early 2010. Just like the guitar, the connection with the audience was immediate and the rest is history.
While her music career was taking off, things on the home front weren’t going so well, the financial crisis that had left millions homeless had Emma Cloney in its heinous and malicious grip.
“After I returned home from touring in 2011, I came face to face with the reality of losing our home. As we packed the last boxes and drove down the long driveway one last time I felt my heart break. With my little girls in the back seat, I told them cheerful lies about how much fun our ‘new life’ would be, even though we had no home of our own anymore. With the loss of the house I felt like I lost my identity, so much of my music had been written about life on the ranch. If I wasn’t ‘this’ anymore, then what was I? How do you tell people you failed at being a successful adult? Only two weeks later the second year of nursing school started and I had never felt so broken, or so low.”
This lead to the epiphany that she hadn’t lost everything, but still had it all, and helped her exorcise an old demon.
“I gained my weight in high school. As a kid in foster care who was hurting very badly, I began to seek my comfort in the form of food. Bowls of feelings were used to fill the empty voids in my heart. My choices in life began to mirror this design as I felt that I wasn’t enough on my own and began to add things to my world (the horses, the ranch, etc). I believed that if I could add enough to my life then I would feel whole. After losing the house and coming to the realization that losing was my finest form of winning, I mustered the courage to face my inner demon. I got really honest with myself about how I got so big in the first place and put aside the excuses. I decided that I was worthy of health, strength and beauty, and I channeled all of my motivation into eating healthy raw foods, and finding ways to love fitness. I shed 100 pounds of trauma, fear, worry, and gained a clearer sense of who I am underneath all that protection.”
Out these experiences came the songs that would form her new album, including the title track.
“Some of the songs were difficult to write; like ‘Stars for Streetlights,’ an honest expression of what the weeks following the loss of our home were like. No more could I look up into a star filled sky from the front porch of my ranch, but rather I stared now into the orange glow of Winnipeg’s streetlights. The songs on this album provided me with the therapeutic relief that only my guitar can. In order to move on as I have, I had to be stuck for a while.”
On Saturday October 12th Winnipeg singer-songwriter Emma Cloney releases her sophomore album Stars For Streetlights at the West End Cultural Centre. Advance tickets are available at the West End Cultural Centre, TicketMaster, Music Trader and the Winnipeg Folk Festival Music Store. Kevin Roy and Keith Dyck open the show.