When Kingston musician Emily Fennell launched her musical career as “Miss Emily” on March 1, 2004, she knew that singing the blues was her calling. Exactly 18 successful years into that career, she received the perfect anniversary gift: a Juno nomination for her album, “LIVE at The Isabel”, recorded at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts here in Kingston.
“It’s all worth it,” said Fennell. “If I could go back in time, I’d tap myself in the shoulder and say ‘guess what’s gonna happen when you’re 40?’ [But] I don’t ever remember losing hope. I always knew this was my journey and one of the purposes of my life. That’s such a gift for me, to know that there’s consistency.”
Fennell almost didn’t submit her album, which has been nominated for Blues Album of the Year.
“I was going through some really incredibly challenging personal times. It was hard to see the forest for the trees. I almost didn’t submit to the Junos — it was the final day for applications and I was having a hard time,” she disclosed.
With the pandemic lockdowns, Fennell said 2021 was a very hard year for her, personally and professionally.
“I lost my grandmother last May, and the ball got rolling then. The year just took a catastrophic nose dive, and I just did not know which way was up. Some days were really, really hard. Gigs started to get cancelled. I found myself separated. I lost my house — and it was a housing crisis. I had no work, I had no income. It was just a nightmare,” she revealed.
This year already looks so much brighter, said Fennell, believing in the “balance of life and the universe.” She said she can feel her grandmother’s presence supporting her.
“I feel this ‘light.’ The clouds have opened a little bit. I felt like I had a pretty good attitude, even in the darkest of times,” Fennell expressed.
The LIVE at The Isabel album is special, Fennell said, not only because the songs were recorded live, but also because of the local venue and the many Kingston-based musicians who were featured in the making of the album.
“I’m grateful to the Isabel for their part in this. That venue is a magical place and helped us create what we created. I just want to share this nomination with the community. It shines a light on Kingston: it features so many Kingston musicians,” she explained.
When asked how she reacted when she heard about the nomination, Fennell said she was screaming with excitement, and called her mom first, and then her 16-year-old daughter, who was at school.
“She is the light of my life,” Fennell said of her daughter. “I became a full-time musician in March 2004. I was pregnant in September 2004. She’s been on this journey with me this entire time.”
The Juno awards will be aired on Sunday, May 15, 2022.
Maple Blues Award
Fennell is also nominated as Female Vocalist of the Year at the 25th annual Maple Blues Awards, with their award show taking place at Koerner Hall in Toronto on Monday, Jun. 20, 2022. She is already a strong favourite, having won as New Artist of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year in February 2020, and having been nominated for Entertainer of the Year that same year.
“My lifelong goal is: serve music,” Fennell said. “It blew my mind that I would even be considered in the company of some of the artists that were nominated. It’s nice to have highlights when they come around to remind me that progress is happening, even when I’m not sure of it.”
The Maple Blues Awards, originally scheduled for January 2022, was postponed to June due to COVID-19 lockdowns.
With the wind back in her sails, Fennell is capitalizing on the energy, and is currently recording a studio album, due to be released in the fall. She describes her music as “soul music with Americana and rock elements,” a signature style sure to be apparent in that upcoming album.
To learn more about Miss Emily’s music, visit https://themissemily.com/