By Tabassum Siddiqui
By all rights, Toronto musician Emm Gryner should be a star. The talented 23-year-old has a major-label album, a stint on the Lilith Fair tour, and major media spots under belt.
So why haven’t you heard of her yet?
“I think people hear a song, and they don’t know who it is,” Gryner says. “It’s funny, because I played in Hamilton, and I did [the song] ‘Summerlong’ and a friend of mine was in the audience and overheard this girl say: ‘You know, she should really play her own songs.’ I think that has to do with a couple of things — probably video airplay, which hasn’t really been that much — and also it takes a while for people to connect with things.”
With its infectious pop hooks and catchy chorus, “Summerlong” served as a good introduction to Gryner’s album Public. It is full of thoughtful songs the Forest, Ontario native has been writing since her teens.
Gryner knew at an early age she wanted to mak ea creer of her music, so she moved to Toronto. S he was a fixture on the local club scene for two years and made a full-length indie CD, The Original Leap Year, on her own label, Dead Daisy Records, in 1996. It caught the attention of Mercury Records in the United States.
“I’ve always wanted to have the opportunity to get my music out to as many people as possible,” Gryner says of making the leap from independent to major-label artist.
Public features several songs from The Original Leap Year alongside a handful of new songs. “I thought about doing an album of completely new material, because I did have quite a bit of material at the time,” Gryner says. “But I guess I felt like I just wanted to be true to my vision of wanting to make the best kind of record possible.”
Gryner’s many talents are showcased on Public — not only did she write and sing all the songs, but she plays piano, bass, and a few other instruments on it as well. Her grassroots approach and do-it-yourself ethic extends to her indie label, which she still maintains. Despite a hectic schedule, she publishes a handwritten newsletter for fans. “I just think it’s really important,” she says. “Like for example, doing Dead Daisy, there’s so many artists, so many songwriters that don’t get a chance to be heard.”
Along with the major-label move came the inevitable media circus, and Gryner’s been featured in everything from YM magazine to a brief mention in the current issue of Rolling Stone. “It’s funny, I was doing a mini freak-out,” Gryner says when asked if she’s seen it. “I don’t usually freak out about any press thing, but I was like, ‘Ohmigod, they put me in Rolling Stone!’ But the next time I’m in there, they could be slagging me for whatever.”
Following her stint on Lilith, Gryner’s been on tour supporting Public. Fresh from opening up U.S. dates for the Cardigans, she hits on the road again this week as an opener for the Philosopher Kings’ cross-Canada tour. Gryner says these seemingly odd matchups are working out fine. “The audiences are really receptive and very responsive … It’s kind of neat to find out who’s interested.”