Grand Rapids’ Emma Loo

Interview By: Yvonne Glasgow



Side Stage Magazine: For people not from Grand Rapids, can you describe your music? I am pretty sure I can’t, and I’ve seen you play numerous times. You are unique and I think that’s what draws so many of us to you.

Emma Loo: Thank you for such a beautiful compliment!  I don’t put a specific expectation to how I come off, only that I convey the music as it appears in my mind.  I listen to and appreciate so many genres, and I’m sure that comes out from moment to moment in my songs.  At the root, I’m reacting to this life so some expressions are funny and some are serious.  It comes out as a constant flourish of evolving and decomposing wavelengths, and I am lucky enough to get to play with them like toys.  I guess I have no overarching genre, only expressions per song.


You recently played a well-received show at Grand Rapids’ popular nightclub/concert venue Pyramid Scheme and it has been the talk of the town since. What did you do that got people talking?

I’m so glad to hear people are talking about it! We made it a point to add extra elements to the show. We added Dan Wall on beats/sound effects, a string quartet, a magic trick, and fancy outfits (extra fancy). We decided to do fewer original shows so that we could put the time and effort into making each show a memorable event, so I’m glad it went over so well!


You’ve got a new nickname that I’ve noticed online recently. Who dubbed you the “Westside Angel”, and why?

I wrote a song called ‘Westside Angels’ this summer, reflecting on my ‘family of friends’ and what it meant to finally feel at home with the people who accept me for who I am and what I do. That is very important, to feel a genuine love in such a pure way. To feel accepted with warts and all. I lived with my very good friend Zack Godi (Dead Eye Zack/MOLE) for quite some time on the west side. We became family to one another, and our friendship is still stronger than ever. He is an extremely talented artist and created a beautiful picture of me in my makeup and wings from the Pyramid Scheme show, with graffiti style letters beneath saying “Westside Angel”. It goes to show that you may be thrown from place-to-place, but when you find your home and your family- you will have them, and your [feeling of] belonging, for a lifetime.


What got you into music and how did you learn to play the instruments you play?

I have always been drawn to music and art since I can remember; it was a perfect escape. I sang to my stickers in my closet, across from the shelf with the Satan mask. I wrote songs since I was 8, and kept the instrumentation and melodies in my head, but never had the opportunity to show anyone my songs.  I met Sam Kenny out at open mic, and we formed a bond. Later on, I found a keyboard on the side of the road- so I taught myself how to play. About a year later, Sam taught me some chords on the guitar, and I picked it up pretty quick. Later on, Zack Godi, Sam, and I formed a band called ‘Expansion Pack’. I taught myself drums so I could free them up to play other instruments, and it was a great time!  I have also built up some skill with electronic equipment to manipulate my voice (I use a TC-Helicon VoiceLive Play for shows– it’s a little thing that does a lot– it’s a baby genius!), create sounds, and am pretty cool at navigating recording software.


Speaking of Sam Kenny; you and Sam often play music together and you have such a great connection (onstage and off). Do you prefer your solo music or your duos with Sam?

I love to perform as a solo artist because that frees up a particular aspect of myself that I can be as my own spotlighted creature, and each song is a new spotlighted universe that I created– think of the power!  And the relationship and exchange I have with Sam onstage are incomparable. What we do and who we are together takes us in more directions than a particular genre; we are an alliance that crumbles the Styrofoam of the packing peanuts of society. We are the prizes, and love that our friends and fans are too. We break the box.


You have played with many local musicians. What’s it like playing with other Grand Rapids creatives on stage?

I love playing with all the artists around town! I have been featured on Joe Rodriguez’s song “War”, Brother Adam’s song “Owe it All”, and ‘Mild Bill’ Taggart’s song “Waiting”. They are all extremely talented and thoughtful people, and I’m very lucky to have been a part of their projects. I would never have guessed I would have been playing shows with anyone out here, and the fact that I have been asked means a lifetime of moments to me. If little me could know this, I would have just cried. It’s hard to answer this right now without getting emotional. These musicians are what makes this town so interesting, and they are strong voices in this community. These aren’t just songs, they’re anthems to how we love each other and live our lives. This is our shared pain, or memories, or dreams. This is everything to us. It means my life to play with all these bands week in and week out.


I know you go on tour from time to time. Where is your favorite area/place to play outside of Michigan? What’s it like touring outside of your home state as a “local” independent band/musician?

That’s a hard one to put a thumbtack in! We absolutely love Wichita and Kansas City, also L.A. and Louisville. We have had a lot of badass times in those spots- a couple of which we had to check our camera to find out how the after parties went!  We woke up to a wild animal in our motel room only twice.  For me, the more lively and welcoming the scene is in another town, the more we get into it and become fans of the acts there. This builds a strong energy and back-and-forth of bridges between far away communities. Touring makes us appreciate the GR even more– we have a super rich scene here and welcome touring acts so enthusiastically.  


What are your next plans when it comes to your musical career? Any new albums/tours in the works?

Yes and yes! Sam and I are working on our first ‘Emma Loo and Sam’ album right now, along with Sam’s third solo album and my second solo album. We are arranging a winter tour for 2017/2018; the dates are still being plotted out. I am also working on a side project that will involve music, theory on quantum mechanics, the quantum mind, reality theory, social awareness, and e.t. Life.


Learn more about Emma Loo here: emmaloomusic/

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