Emm started her music career in Toronto, working office jobs during the day while honing her live show in small, local clubs by night. Gryner entered her original song “Wisdom Bus” in a nationwide songwriting contest sponsored by Standard Broadcasting, and won. With the money from this prize, she recorded an album called The Original Leap Year and released it on her own Dead Daisy Records. The album attracted the attention of Violent Femmes producer, Warren Bruleigh.
Bruleigh passed the album onto an exec at Mercury Records who signed Gryner. The result was Public, a Britpop-inspired album that yielded a hit in Canada called “Summerlong.” Several tours followed, with Ron Sexsmith, Bernard Butler, Rufus Wainwright and others.
After Universal Music took over Mercury Records, Gryner was dropped from the label and returned to her own Dead Daisy Records. She released several albums, two of which went on to be nominated for Best Pop Album of the Year at the Juno Awards. During this time, Gryner moved to New York and Los Angeles to write and tour. She also took a job singing and playing keyboards in David Bowie’s band. The gig saw Gryner performing with Bowie at Glastonbury Festival, on Later with Jools Holland and other venues around America and Europe. She appears on Bowie at the Beeb, a live album.
After leaving Bowie’s band, Gryner moved to Montreal and released an album called Songs of Love and Death which was made up of cover versions of Irish songs by The Undertones, The Virgin Prunes, Horslips, Thin Lizzy, The Thrills and others. Recorded in a house she shared with Kate McGarrigle, the album attracted the attention of Irish media. Gryner found a champion in Pat Egan, a legendary promoter and manager based in Dublin, and he set up her first shows.
In 2005, Gryner signed Atlantic Canadian indie band In-Flight Safety. The band went on to receive national acclaim, capture several awards and receive a Juno nomination for Best Video of the Year in 2007. Gryner subsequently signed Toronto songwriter Royal Wood and released his album, A Good Enough Day through Dead Daisy.
In 2006, Gryner released The Summer of High Hopes produced by Nathan Larson. The album was released in Canada and later in Ireland on the heels of a performance at Oxegen Festival.
Nelly Furtado named Gryner’s album Science Fair one of her desert island discs in a VH1 interview, and David Bowie named Gryner and Godspeed You! Black Emperor his two favourite Canadian acts during a promotional interview for his Reality album. U2 frontman Bono recognized the track “Almighty Love” from Gryner’s album The Summer of High Hopes as one of six songs that he wished he had written from the last twenty years of music. (via Wikipedia.org)
ASIANCE: Your are Filipina and Irish. Were you raised to respect both Filipino and Irish history and tradition? Who is Filipino? Mom or dad? Tell us a little about your background!
Emm: My father is of Irish descent and my mother was born in the Philippines. I have a bit of a religious upbringing because of my parents but was not really raised with any set traditions. My mom did cook the odd Filipino dish, but I wish she taught us Tagalog. I love the language and actually find it quite easy to grasp. My dad instilled a great love for literature and music in my brothers and me, and only later did I see what a legacy Ireland has in that regard. I like to think being Filipino and Irish means being the person who genuinely knows how to have a great time, and enjoy the best things in life – food, friends, music, art.
Emm Gryner performing summmerlong live in Winnipeg July’07.
ASIANCE: What part of your Filipino heritage do you think contributed to your success today?
Emm: I find the Filipino people incredibly generous and fun. I like to think I give back no matter my level of success, and that I make time to do things for others. I also resemble a driver at rush hour in Manila when I am at my wit’s end. Those of you who have driven in Manila know what I’m talking about.
ASIANCE: What is your favorite Filipino saying, song, and lesson that you learned?
Emm: Well, I say “Maligayang Pasko” at all times of the year, and it seems to charm even my most distant relatives.
ASIANCE: What other artists of Asian/Irish descent have you worked with and which one of those artists would you like to collaborate with in the future?
Emm: Sadly I don’t think I have worked with too many other Asian-Irish folks. I have worked with a lot of Irish people and not as many Filipino musicians as I would like. Call me!
ASIANCE: What part of your Irish heritage do you think contributed to your success today?
Emm: Resilience, blind faith, a love of the journey rather than the destination. Being a fighter and a survivor. Loving too much.
ASIANCE: What is your favorite Irish saying, song and joke that you learned?
Emm: I love an Irish song by Phil Lynott called Running Back. I also really love a lot of vintage Sinead O’Connor. I love when the Irish want a song and tell you to “give it a lash”.
ASIANCE: Does your family celebrate both St. Patrick’s Day? If so, how do they celebrate?
Emm: I don’t think they really celebrate it. Ironically since my dad has stopped drinking I want to celebrate it a bit more lately.
ASIANCE: What was the most enjoyable and the most difficult part of growing up as an Asian American child of Irish heritage?
Emm: I grew up Canadian, unaware of any differences between me and the other kids. Some small towns and communities in Canada just have a way about them where we celebrate what kids do and not discuss too much about where we all came from. Or maybe I was just too consumed by piano lessons to know or care.
ASIANCE: What are the reactions of audience members when they show up at your performances for the first time expecting to see a Emm Gryner?
Emm: Most of the time they are men dragged there by their female friends. I think dread is what they feel initially, and once they feel the rock, they come away feeling quite in touch with their emotions!
ASIANCE: Do you have a specific physical “type” that you go for in a man based on your own background?
Emm: No, just not shorter than me. A dude would have to be VERY short to be shorter than me. I think it would make me feel bizarre to tower over anyone at 5 foot 1.
ASIANCE: Do you have a sort of crush or deep admiration for someone in the public eye who is also of Asian and Irish Descent?
Emm: Wow, I like these probing questions! I wish I could say I had a crush on Darren Criss but I so far do not!
ASIANCE: What is the “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow“ for you?
Emm: A converted Jeepney with a bar full of Midleton Very Rare whiskey.