By Jeff Mackie
When Emm Gryner was a teenager, her younger brothers would sneak into her bedroom and read the uncensored version of her life. You might think the violation would cause Gryner to toss her diary in the trash. But it has done just the opposite.
The invasion of her thoughts and desires inspired the singer/songwriter’s debut album, The Original Leap Year. Gryner, 21, described it as a concept album, with the 12 songs a result of passages from her diary, each tune representing a month of the year gone by.
“I think people have a fascination with reading someone’s diary. So I thought it would be neat to put an album that has a fascination element to it,” she says.
The Original Leap Year is the offspring of Gryner’s lifelong love affair with music. She started playing the piano at four. Six years later she wrote her first song, “Dancing in the Leaves.”
In high school, she took up the acoustic and bass guitar and joined several bands in her hometown of Forest, Ont. Two years ago she moves to Toronto to develop her songwriting and live performance talents. She sent out her demo CD and hooked up with manager Michael Murphy. It was then that she began recording and co-producing The Original Leap Year, which was released last November.
Gryner compares herself to piano girl Tori Amos in the evolution of female musicians. Her voice is so emotionally powerful, and her lyrics so hauntingly honest, that it allows listeners to identify closely with the songs. Her music speaks to the heart of such experiences as failed relationships and growing up.
“I’m sometimes very obsessive and passionate about things,” she says. “But I’m also very reserved, so that’s why I like writing. It helps me get everything out.”
Right now, Gryner is on the verge of a breakthrough in the music industry. The album’s first single, “Hello Aquarius,” has been receiving modest air play on local radio stations. And the video for the song is appearing on MuchMusic. She’s slowly getting exposure across the country.
“I would like people to have the opportunity to decide whether or not they like the album. My only concern is making sure that it gets out there,” she says. “I feel so strong about the songs that I wonder why someone wouldn’t like something.”
Emm Gryner is a musician in control of her music. At only 21, she’s a writer, singer and producer. She recognized the pitfalls of the industry, such as abandoning what you believe in just to sell records. In the end, she feels the album will stand on its own.
“Sure, I definitely want to sell albums, but I want them to be albums I’d want to buy. You’re ripping people off when you make an album that doesn’t have 10 or 12 great songs.”