Exclusive Premiere: Stream Vincent Neil Emerson's Debut Album In Full.
Vincent Neil Emerson wears his influences on his sleeve. It's a fact the Fort Worth-based songwriter doesn't shy away from, either.
Rather than reinvent the wheel on his upcoming debut LP, East Texas Blues, which earns its release this Saturday, July 11 via Dreamy Life Records, Emerson steers hard towards the sounds of his honky-tonk heroes.
“A big part of that is because I'm still trying to find my own sound,” he says. “I've only been playing the guitar for about five-and-a-half years now. Anybody that's just starting out is going to sound similar to what they're listening to. One I get a whole lot is Justin Townes Earle. I really love that guy's music. I have a similar sound and I'm not ashamed of that by any means.”
Another big influence on the record is Earle's namesake, Fort Worth native Townes Van Zandt, most notably the second single, “7 Come 11.”
“It's a tribute to my favorite songwriter, Townes Van Zandt,” Emerson admits. “It sounds a little like a Townes Van Zandt song, and that's on purpose; I designed it that way. Back in the day, Townes tried to put out a record called 7 Come 11, eventually the songs all came out on different records. That record didn't come out because his manager at the time didn't pay for the masters or whatever, so they got re-recorded and that record got trashed. I just liked the sound of it, '7 Come 11.' Basically it means 'good luck,' like when you're shooting dice. '7 Come 11' is basically a term for good luck.”
Elsewhere, there's the self-aware, tongue-in-cheek humor offered up in another stand-out track, “Ugly Boy,” which unabashedly leans on another common countrified trope, making potentially goofy lyrics and spinning them into a mix that's equal parts heartbreaking and hilarious.
“I heard a song by George Jones and Johnny Paycheck that's called, 'When You're Ugly Like Us (You Just Naturally Got To Be Cool),'” Emerson says. “And there's a Blaze Foley song called, 'Fat Boy.' I just really liked the idea of self-deprecation. I tend to get a laugh out of it. There's a couple lines in it like, 'I got a missing tooth and a lazy eye.' I actually am missing my front tooth. It's kind of funny but it's kind of sad at the same time. I'm a big John Prine fan, too, so every record I put out, there's always going to be one kind of drunk and goofy song on there.”
All this isn't to say there's not plenty of Emerson in this debut batch of tunes, though. Over the course of the album's 10 tracks, Emerson drops plenty of wisdom, culled from life experiences beyond those of most 23-year-olds. After moving to Fort Worth a couple years ago for a girl, the East Texas native found himself in a tough spot when things didn't work out between the two. What followed was a stint of couch-surfing and a brief homeless spell before landing a job washing dishes, renting an apartment and working towards making music his full-time gig.
“I told myself when I first started playing music, the one goal I really wanted to accomplish is to play music for a living full-time and nothing else,” Emerson says. “Now I'm there, and it's not always what you think it's going to be.”
While that may be true at times, there's no question that it makes for good songwriting fodder — and Emerson's got quite the solid debut LP to prove it. And while East Texas Blues doesn't officially earn its release until this Saturday as part of a bill at The Chat Room that finds Emerson playing with support from Jake Paleschic, Chucho and a solo set from Quaker City Night Hawks' Sam Anderson, the good folks over at Dreamy Life Records have been kind enough to pass along an early stream of the thing, which you can find below.