by Emily Cavanagh
Music as a means of healing is an idea that permeates and informs most of Emily Cavanagh’s life. A singer/songwriter and working musician in New York City, Cavanagh has recorded three records to date and played shows with some of the city’s finest musicians. When not performing, Cavanagh — born to a large Irish family in Chicago and now living amongst the doers and dreamers of Brooklyn, runs a Creative Arts program for the Louis Nine House, a non-profit working with formerly homeless young adults in the South Bronx. A graduate of New York University’s Masters of Psychology program, and Webster University’s Music program, Cavanagh has made a career out of combining her education and passion. She has worked for years with homeless New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS, families with children who are terminally ill, survivors of Genocide, and now with a non-profit working to bring the arts to young people. Advocating art and expression as the saving grace they’ve been for her, she’s inspired many of her clients through the years to write their own music. Cavanagh also uses her music to bring awareness to causes close to her heart; she recently performed at The 18th Commemoration of the Genocide in Rwanda at Georgetown University for the Ambassador of Rwanda to the United States. Cavanagh wrote a song called “Dark was the Night” in honor of a client of hers who survived the Genocide. Cavanagh believes that music gives a voice to people who are often without.
Her latest record Keep it with Mine is set to release this April 23rd. Fundamentally Keep It With Mine is born from the idea that “all our stories interlace with each other’s, connecting us all to another in some way. When asked about the inspiration for the project, Cavanagh shares that “Often, when I have written in the past it has been a reflection of things going on in my own life, but this record has been more about reflecting on the things going on in other people’s,” she remarks. Written during a time of loss in the lives of friends, family, and her young clients, Cavanagh drew from such themes as the fleetingness of life, forgiveness, and the idea that things so personal to each of us are also universal.
Keep It With Mine was a project recorded and produced by Leo Sidran, (Steve Miller Band, Motorcycle Diaries, Ben Sidran) a talented musician and well respected producer, and features collaborations by songwriters Jeremy Zmuda and Nir Sadovnik. While Cavanagh has been singing in New York for years, this was the first record where she worked alongside a producer. Her last two records, recorded in the historic Brill building, took nearly two years each to make, while Keep It With Mine took two months start to finish, and was sung for the most part in two days. “I spent the very last day of my twenties singing this record,” notes Cavanagh. While Cavanagh’s last records pulled from jazz and cabaret and were a combination of many different sounds, Keep It With Mine, has a very distinctive singer-songwriter sound to it. It will be available in stores and online everywhere this spring.
“Blindfold Magazine” had the opportunity to speak with the singer/ songwriter and here’s what she had to say: Music, for me is about having a voice. About telling a story. Connecting with a part of myself that might otherwise go unexpressed if not for a song. While my music is about having a voice, my work is about helping others find their voice. I made a record this year called “Keep it with Mine.”There is a Bob Dylan song by the same name that has been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl. I remember listening to my Dad’s record collection when I was young, wondering if I could tell a story the way that some of his favorite singers did. In our house, there was always music. The music of Paul Simon, and Nat King Cole, and Carole King. Each of them reached a different part of me. Each I considered to be a great storyteller.
The idea behind my record is that all our stories interlace with each other’s, connecting us to one another in some way. I have been inspired through the years by the things that I have seen, and the work that I have done. Through my work, I have witnessed the resilience of the human spirit. I have experienced the kindness of strangers, and learned that even in places where things seem broken, life comes back. I have learned that life surprises me every day if I let it. The songs on this record were inspired by all of this. To me, Keep It With Mine is a collection of stories; stories of friends, of family, of my own heart. Some are of longing for a place in a time, an old love, our youth. Some are tales of loss and letting go, and waking up to do it all again.
Some are stories of other people’s resilience. Some are just the simplest kind of love songs, the kind that will make you want to tap your feet or hold somebody’s hand. The idea is that maybe these stories—all of them, we can keep them together, so it’s not so much to carry. Yours, mine, all of ours.
I am happy to have made a record that speaks to the music I want to be making, and that can hopefully connect on a deeper level with people who know the story behind it. I am honored to be featured in a magazine like “Blindfold” with other artists who are doing what they can to make a difference, no matter how small. In some ways, that’s what it’s all about really–who you love, what you love, and how you can inspire, and stay inspired along the way.