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Songwriter Emily Brown Uses Music And Poetry To Explore What Language Wants

Emily Brown
Monika Ottehenning
Emily Brown

If you asked Oakland-based songwriter and poet Emily Brown how to best describe her music, she’d call it “lyrically driven, mildly experimental folk music.” Her influences range from Fiona Apple and Steve Reich to Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, and Russian Orthodox Church refrains. Above all, she wants to write melodies that feel like how you'd naturally speak.

I think poetry has a density and, honestly, an obscurity to it that is really interesting to me - and an attention to sound. That's something that I really try to follow in the songwriting process: what does this language want?

In October 2020, she released her most recent album, A Fish Of Earth. That year, she also earned her MFA in Poetry from Mills College, which has been famous for its experimental music scene for over a century. But due to financial issues, the school will grant its last degrees in 2023.

In this edition of Bay Area Beats, Emily Brown breaks down her conversational lyrical style and reflects on what is lost by the closure of Mills College.

David Exumé (he/him/his) is a 2020-2021 Audio Academy Fellow. His reporting interests include music history, immigration, community organizing, and urban planning. He's previously worked at KCRW in Santa Monica and WPRB in Princeton.