Artist feeds us pop
straight from heart
Emerge's Calen Le Couteur
recently caught up with Brisbane singer/songwriter Emma
Dean for a chat about music, David Bowie and her influences.
C: When did you first start performing?
I first started performing when I was two, my mum enrolled
me in a dance school and I fell in love with dance. Shortly
after I started learning violin at a music school in West
End. I started performing from a really early age.
C: Do you have any musical influences?
I have many and they are forever changing, I was a big
classical music nerd growing up. Edward Elgar was one
of my classical influences, and when I was a teenager
I found Tori Amos and I thought she was... I don't know,
she made piano music cool and sexy. She'd sit there with
her legs spread wide open and you know, hitting the keys
like it was a guitar so she became my music idol when
I was a teenager. I used to try to decipher her lyrics,
back in the day when we actually had CDs with booklets
and lyrics printed with the artwork.
C: You recently released your song 'Feed It',
what is that song about?
That song is about someone who chose the darkness over
the light basically, it's a conversation between myself
and that person in which, I say 'if you choose to feed
your darkness, then I can't be with you', and that's pretty
C: How many of the instruments did you play in
That song was actually produced by my brother Tony Dean,
who is a multi-instrumentalist and it was the first song
that he professionally produced. I played a lot of the
keyboard parts, then he added guitar and a lot of the
extra layers and really gave it his own flavour. So I
think of that song, along with "Fall Awake"
as being collaborations between Tony and me.
C: You recently performed in a tribute for David
Bowie at Brisbane's MELT festival, which sounds like an
incredible experience, how was that performance for you?
That experience was wonderful, I was performing with people
who I had looked up to for a very long time. Some of the
best performers and vocalists in Australia as far as I'm
concerned, and also some up and comers like Sahara Beck.
It was an incredibly moving experience.
C: You're performing at the Brisbane Powerhouse
in December, what can we expect from the show?
Some of the things I can't tell you cause they are super
top secret, there's a little bit of a surprise in store
for everybody. You can expect myself on the piano and
violin, as well as my brother playing the drums and guitar.
Also an amazing violin/viola/piano player called Richard
Grantham. He will be joining me along with a physical
theatre performer called Jamie Kendall, who I performed
with many years ago when I was in Zen Zen Zo Physical
Theatre and we also toured around Australia in my performance
called Emma Dean and the imaginary friends, and she played
my disturbed imagination called Henry (laughs). He spent
a lot of time without a shirt on, spurting glitter all
over the place. There might be more of that, I don't know.
C: If you only had three words to describe your music,
which three would you use?
Heartfelt, theatrical pop
Cabaret Festival (melbournecabaret.com), 22 May 2016
Mike McLeish sits down with Emma Dean
May 22, 2016
When we at MCF found out that Emma Dean would be
gracing our fair shores as one of the vocalists performing
in The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders
From Mars, we instantly hoped we could convince her to
find the time to do a show of her own, showcasing her
stunning, ethereal vocals and her beautifully crafted
original songs. It worked!
For my money, Emma is right up there with your Kate
Miller-Heidkes and your Sarah Blaskos and your Katie Noonans.
Emma's performing a one-off show with her brother Tony
accompanying her. He's not too shabby in the talent stakes
Mike: I'll kick off with a really boring,
clichéd question that has made songwriters roll
their eyes for generations: what comes first for you,
words or music?
Emma: Words and music have always come
at the same time for me! Of course, sometimes my first
draft lyrics are totally crap and I have to go back and
edit them, but generally it all splats onto the page at
once. When things are really flowing, I feel like I go
into a trace-like state and I often can't remember the
process at all!
Mike: How do you think being a creator
of original material informs the way you interpret and
perform other artists' work?
Emma: I think being a songwriter means
you often hear things through your own musical filter.
Sometimes it gets a bit annoying, but it can be of great
assistance when trying to interpret other people's songs.
Over the years I have developed a better understanding
of the harmonic colours and textures I like to create
with. I also think your interpretation can have a lot
to do with the current backdrop of your life; how you
hear the lyrics may change depending on your own story.
Mike: I mentioned Kate Miller-Heidke
and Katie Noonan while I was blowing some well-justified
smoke up your arse in the intro. You've performed with
the former and supported the latter, both of whom have
carved out such distinctive and diverse careers, whilst
simultaneously staying very true to themselves artistically
(at least from this punter's point of view). And they
– like you – are quite prolific collaborators.
Do you actively seek out collaborators, or do you find
yourself crossing paths with the right people at the right
Emma: Kate and Katie are phenomenal
artists and I absolutely love that they have chosen to
follow their heART and creative calling, venturing down
a less mainstream road which has resulted in them both
creating some truly ground-breaking art. I can't speak
for them, but I know I get bored pretty easily. It's one
of my downfalls because it means I am always looking for
new and exciting creative options to explore. Maybe I'd
be more 'successful' if I stuck to one thing, but I have
always been hungry to try and feel new things. I have
been very lucky that sweet synchronicity has brought me
together with many of my fellow collaborators, although
if I really admire someone's work, I will definitely reach
out to them!
Mike: It's been a while since you last
performed in Melbourne. Why do you hate us?
Emma: Ha ha! I couldn't hate you if
I tried. I have been to Melbourne twice since returning
from New York but the last time was in early 2015! Then
I went back to the US to tour for a couple of months and
things got exceedingly busy. Let me just say how pleased
I am to be back in Melbourne. It is always a pleasure
to be inside you.
Mike: Your show is called Emma Dean
In Concert, which leaves a tantalizing amount to the imagination
of what treasures you might lay out before us. I can't
bloody wait! The broad question is, what do you wish for
Emma: At the moment, I am trying to
live without having too many expectations. I don't have
much control over what my audience feels or how I am received,
especially considering our gigs explore such a wide range
of human emotion. Perhaps one can apply the concept of
'self-validating intimacy' in relationships to the stage?
That is to say, we will all experience the show differently;
the performers and the audience. We will all have different
'favourite moments'. We will enjoy some songs more than
others. We will hear and take away some messages more
clearly than others. And that is ok; in fact, that is
fucking beautiful! Tony and I will be performing a selection
of original songs of the pop/theatrical/folk/alternative
variety – both old and brand new – as well
as some covers performed through the 'Dean filter'. Due
to where I am at in my own life, our chosen songs explore
themes of love, light and loss. It truly is such an eclectic
mix of music and we hope there is something in there for
everyone. It is one of my greatest joys in life to perform
music with my brother, as we have a somewhat symbiotic
musical relationship. Needless to say, we are so looking
forward to sharing this music with our beautiful audience
at The Melbourne Cabaret Festival.
ABC Brisbane, Evenings (broadcast 9 October 2015)
Emma speaks to David Curnow about
her music, and the coming Women in Voice show at
the Judith Wright Centre, Brisbane. (See Gigs
for further details.) The interview includes a live in-studio
performance of her song Light of Day, sung by Emma
on keyboards and accompanied by Tony Dean on backing vocals,
snare drum and floor toms.
Duration: 15:21 mins (Note: Your browser requires requires
Flash to play this clip.)
creative issue (creativedrinks.com.au), 26 September 2015
Interview: Emma Dean by Madeleine Dale
Emma Dean is an artist of many hats. Between being front-woman
of Emma and the Hungry Truth, an occasional solo artist,
an international performer and a community choir leader,
she spoke to us about her band, making it in the music industry
and a Theremin called Terri.
It’s been almost exactly a year since The Creative
Issue last spoke with Emma, and the past eleven months have
been big ones for her and her band. After the release of
their debut album in late 2014 and an Australian tour, Emma
packed the band’s huge, six-piece sound into a suitcase
and took The Hungry Truth to the States, with her brother
and drummer Tony Dean.
“We had him playing not only drums,” she says,
“he was playing guitar, and he was playing the bass
with his foot, so [he had] these pedals set up on the floor
that he’d activate as he played all of these other
things, and he was singing at the same time. It was just
such a spectacle.” The duo swept through New York,
Philadelphia and Amanda Palmer’s Cloud Club in Boston,
which was “a bit of a dream.”
This miniature tour is all the
more impressive considering the usual scale of Emma and
the Hungry Truth: the band features six artists with a dozen
instruments between them. Was it a difficult transition,
from solo-artist to major player in such a rich collective?
Emma says no, though it has been a change. “The difference
with this particular band is that it feels that we’re
all contributing. Everybody is quite invested in the project.”
“We do actually perform songs from other band members,
which is something I haven’t really explored before
in the past—every single member in the band is a song-writer
in their own right, and that makes for a really interesting
combo, and lots of different ideas always being thrown around.
I mean, it could be a recipe for disaster, but somehow we
just work so well together. All of our difference influences
and inspirations kind of explode, and become the Hungry
While the band’s sound has evolved, stripping back
tribal drums and a plethora of strings for a “rock-ier
edge”, they’ve maintain their reputation for
weird and wonderful instruments. I want to know if Emma
has a favourite and if she shares my love for Theremins:
yes, on both counts. “The Theremin’s name is
Terri the Theremin and it’s named after Terri Irwin,”
she tells me. It’s apparently temperamental and will
sometimes add an uncalled for screech during songs, which
is surely just another reason to head along to a show. “I
wonder if Terri knows she’s got a Theremin named after
her?” Emma muses. If anyone knows Terri Irwin, I beg
you to pass this news along immediately.
Currently, things have quietened down as band members
take time to pursue their own projects—“which
is a great problem to have, because they’re all
so fucking talented”—but the possibility of
recording new material is tantalisingly floated for the
second half of next year. In the meantime, however, Emma
has her hands full, with an upcoming Women in Voice concert,
a secret project she can’t tell me much about, and,
of course, her choir, Cheep Trill.
Cheep Trill got its start when Emma returned from her
fist stint in New York, looking for a new community. When
I ask if she’s found it, the answer is unequivocal.
“I’ve found it in abundance. Cheep Trill choir
has changed my life, to be really honest. I was absolutely
miserable living in New York City, although it was an
incredible time in many ways, and I was getting all sorts
of great opportunities with my music, I felt really, really
lonely.” After posting a call-out on Facebook, Emma
found herself with a hundred responses from people equally
hungry for that sense of community, and who can currently
be found flash-mobbing Brisbane Festival. “It’s
just gone from strength to strength, and I think it’s
a place where we all get together and we heal—you
know, there’s always stuff going on in everybody’s
life and for two hours a week we get to put that stuff
aside and it doesn’t matter what religion, what
sexuality, what political leaning you are, we come together
and we sing in harmony and we get along and it’s
just a glorious, glorious thing.”
Emma is perhaps unusually community
minded, in that she’s one of a few artists to come
back to Brisbane after success elsewhere. And, having returned,
she’s quick to extoll the virtues of the local scene.
“I think the art that’s happening in Brisbane
and in Australia is world class, I think sometimes we don’t
realise how amazing the talent is here, and I don’t
think we celebrate it nearly enough. You hear stories of
theatre and opera companies getting overseas artists in
to perform, or movies hiring overseas international acts
to play the lead roles—honestly, we have such talent
and its rich and it’s cutting edge. New York is fabulous,
it’s New York, there are so many talented people there,
but I would love so much for us to be able to celebrate
the uniqueness and richness of the talent here.”
I ask if there’s a responsibility for artists to
give back to the communities that grew them. Emma says it’s
about doing what makes you happy. “I’ve heard
a lot of artists talking about moving to Melbourne because
they think that’s the obvious next move, and they
get there and they’re really unhappy. And for me,
I moved to Sydney, I tried the same thing, and then further
to New York and those places, although they had great benefits—I
wasn’t particularly happy there.” Her advice
to young artists is along the same lines: make decisions
based on your desires, rather than industry trends or what
people say you should be doing.
“It sounds a bit cliché, but just go with
your gut and do what you love, and give yourself time to
develop your art and really work on it. There’s a
lot of pressure for young people to be on the radio, and
to get that hit on triple j and I think, you know, that’s
all well and good, but creating really great art and just
honing your skills takes time.”
Image Credits: Esther Art Photography and Kate Davies.
Brisbane, Outside In (broadcast 28 August 2015)
Outside In is a weekly
radio show about culture and the life of different people
in Brisbane. This segment is from a program discussing love
across cultures and includes Emma's tale of breakup and
the love song Take My Love, written and sung by
Emma, featuring Hayden Robbins.
Duration: 8:48 mins (Note: Your browser requires requires
Flash to play this clip.)
Celebrating female artists: Introducing Emma Dean, musician
and choir leader
March the 8th is International Women’s Day,
a day to celebrate and highlight the valuable contributions
women make to our world. One day is not enough, so this
is part of a month-long series of posts celebrating female
Today’s feature artist is Emma Dean, a vivacious
and prolific musician and performer based in Brisbane but
who regularly performs all over the country and sometimes
overseas, including New York.
1. What art do you make? My name is Emma Dean and I make musical art. Sometimes
I write music and perform it with a band called “Emma
& The Hungry Truth”. Other times I teach it. And
on Wednesday nights I lead my very own community choir called,
Cheep Trill, which has reminded me why I fell in love with
music in the first place.
2. What is one of your proudest achievements as
an artist? Starting my community choir. This project grew
out of a deep sense of loneliness and a distinct lack of
community. Instead of wallowing in self pity, I decided
to put a call out for people interested in joining a singing
group. I thought I might receive 10 replies, but when I
opened my emails, I had about 100 eager people waiting for
This project has reminded me that music is about connection
(for me). It heals and inspires people.
It brings people together from all walks of life and belief
systems and gives them permission to harmonise, both musically
and personally. It is such a gift.
3. What has been a challenge recently, and how did
you overcome it? Time management is always a challenge for me. I
say “yes” to lots of things because I love life
and I don’t want to miss out on anything. This can
be problematic when you’re trying to factor in down
time, which I am realising is equally as important as work
time. I’m still working on overcoming this problem.
Actually, I’ve been working on this for about ten
years. When will I ever learn? ; )
4. What are you most excited by creatively right
now? I’m always excited about workshopping new
material with my band.
However, I’m really excited about the concept of
simplifying my life and figuring out creative ways to live
a more balanced and sustainable existence.
I want to create more space in order to create. Does that
5. What is the best piece of advice you’ve
been given about growing your career as an artist? If you sing from your heart, you can never be wrong.
6. Where can we find your work and connect with
you? We are mid-way through a national tour and have
two public shows remaining!
20 Mar 2015– Adelaide – The Wheatsheaf –
with Sam Buckingham and Emily Davis
28 Mar 2015 – Brisbane – The Old Museum –
with Sam Buckingham
You can find us at: facebook.com/emmaandthehungrytruth
Gold Coast (blankgc.com.au), Early March 2015
with Bleach: Emma & The Hungry Truth
Bleach, the Gold Coast’s biggest arts and cultural
festival, kicks off on Friday 6th March (lasting until the
22nd) and brings with it art installations, theatre, film,
street parties and, of course, live music. In Up Close with
Bleach, Liz Ansley gets to know some of
the incredible local talent who’ll be playing at Bleach
2015 a little better.
Emma Dean, of Emma & The Hungry Truth fame,
is next up. 2014 saw the band release their EP Feast to
critical acclaim; and score spots on the lineups at Wonderland,
Mona Foma Festival and Cygnet Folk Festival. Their brand
new single The Hungry Truth (Will Feast On You) recently
debuted in video
form, and the result is a wonderfully
debaucherous visual feast. You can catch Emma and
The Hungry Truth on March 8th performance at Bleach*,
as part of their self-titled tour that kicked off in Victoria
in late February.
How would you describe the music you make to someone
who’d never heard it before? Theatrical, rock, pop, old world meets new world!
Why are you looking forward to being a part of
Bleach this year? We love the festival atmosphere, we love the arts,
and we love the beach! These are a few of our favourite
What are three albums that have helped to shape
you (either musically or as a person) the most? Why are
they so important? Tori Amos: Under The Pink. Because she
taught me that chicks behind a piano can be just a rock
and sexy as guys with guitars.
Enigma Variations: Edward Elgar. Because this was
my first memory of seeing my dad cry during a performance
of this epic work with the Queensland Youth Orchestra. Maybe
my memory is warped, but it made me realise the intense
power of music and how difficult it is to describe why a
song or a piece can move us so very much.
Without You I’m Nothing: Placebo. Because
I found somewhere to put my teenage angst and I learned
to appreciate (and fall in love with) men in dresses and
Describe the most rewarding, surprising, or bizarre
moment in your career so far. Performing an intimate house concert in a penthouse
in New York City and having Alan Cumming in the front row.
Only a year or so earlier I had played Sally Bowles in Zen
Zen Zo Physical Theatres “Cabaret” the musical,
and I had to research the Sam Mendes version in which Alan
Cumming plays the MC. As one of the most captivating film
and stage actors, I’m obviously a big fan. Quite a
surreal and utterly terrifying moment for me.
What does 2015 hold for you? We are about to embark on a national tour followed
by a North American tour! Such a busy and exciting time
for us. For dates and deets you can visit www.emmaandthehungrytruth.com
Who or what are you looking forward to seeing or
doing most this year at Bleach? There are so many brilliant artists on the lineup.
I’m loving Karl S Williams and Clare Bowditch not
to mention the awesome aerial show going on at Sequins and
Sinew, so hopefully we’ll get to catch them.
You can catch Emma and The Hungry Truth at 6.20pm and 7.20pm
on Sunday March 8. They’ll be playing at Sequins and
Sinew in Roughton Park on Musgrave St, Kirra.
& The Hungry Truth Crazy New Clip and Tour
"This one is not for the feint hearted. Upcoming Brisbane
band Emma & The Hungry Truth have just dropped
their latest music video for single The Hungry Truth
(Will Feast On You) and all we can say is wow...."
Above text below::
Member answering/role: Emma Dean - lead singer/keyboards/violin/percussion
How did you all meet? Tony (drums) and
Emma have known each other their their whole lives. They
share parents. Francesca (keyboard) and Emma had a get-to-know-you-coffee
in 2008 and became fans of each other's music. James (theremin/other
bits) used to cover Emma's songs on YouTube. Laura (cello)
and Emma went to school together. Emma developed a girl
crush on Laura when they bumped heads at the water bubbler.
Emma was drawn to her yellow hair and page boy haircut.
Nathan (guitar) and Emma met each other at various shitty
covers gigs at The Plough (I think?). They bond over food
Your're on tour in the van - which band or artist
is going to keep the most people happy if we throw them
on the stereo? Kate Bush
Which Brisbane bands beforer you have been an inspiration
(musically or otherwise)? George (feat. Katie and
Ty Noonan), Gorgeous (Fi Claus and Emma Heeney), Kate Miller-Heidke,
Jake Diefenbach, The Boat People, Fronz Arp.
What part do you think Brisbane plays in the music
you make? After living in New York, I feel I'm
surrounded by a supportive community here in Brisbane more
so than ever before - musical or otherwise. It's so much
easier to sustain a music career when you have that kind
of network around you. I also realise now how important
space and quiet is for me to create. Brisbane has the right
amount of hustle and bustle mixed with the right amount
What's in the pipeline for the band in the short
term? We're making a music video for our second
single The Hungry Truth (Will Feast on You) (Editor:
View the completed video here),
performing at Wonderland at The Brisbane Powerhouse on 14
Dec, performing at the Cygnet Folk Festival and MONA FOMA
in Tassie during January! It's a busy time of year!
Drinks Interview (30 October 2014)
"Theatrical pop Brisbanites Emma
and The Hungry Truth could possibly be the most uniquely
interesting group of musicians about to explode onto the
With a tour underway and an upcoming debut EP, Holly Woodward
had plenty to chat about when we caught up with the band’s
front-woman Emma Dean""
Take a Bite:
Brisbane siblings Tony and Emma Dean, of Emma & The
Hungry Truth, are inviting you to chew on their musical
talents this Saturday night. The pair are performing at
the Old Museum from 7.30pm, showcasing their audio-cocktail
of theatrical pop and their new EP, Feast. See
more at emmaandthehungrytruth.com.
"Brisbane based six-piece Emma
& The Hungry Truth can best be described as a combination
of theatrical pop, tribal beats, soaring vocals and break-your-heart
lyrics. With the launch of their debut EP “Feast”
singer/songwriter Emma Dean took time out to answer a few
questions for LifeMusicMedia.com...."
You're the Voice
Brisbane choirs sing their hearts out, writes Hannah
Extract from article
covering Emma's choir Cheep Trill: They smile, socialise and sing (some better than others).
But, when it comes to the swelling ranks of Brisbane's community
choir scene, a good voice is not essential. It is having
fun that counts.
Brisbane is home to dozens of community
choir groups and the success of TV shows such as Glee
and the Choir of Hard Knocks, and the movie Pitch
Perfect, has given choir singing a new cool quotient.
The demographic is changing and young hipsters are being
attracted to what was once a pastime dominated by the city's
more mature residents.
One of the funkiest choirs in town
is Cheep Trill, launced by singer Emma Dean on
her return home after a stint living and performing in New
York. Under the talented 30-year-old's direction, Cheep
Trill (facebook.com/cheeptrillchoir) tackles popular
songs, such as Lorde's Royals, Owl City's Fireflies
and Ellie Goulding's Burn, and performs at community
events, such as festivals and school fetes.
"When I started the choir it
became apparent that there are not a lot of community choirs
that cater for an audience that likes modern music,"
Emma says. "Music by Rodgers and Hammerstein is lovely,
but there are other things out there. We like to do contemporary
arrangements of songs that are in the charts at the moment.
It's pretty good fun. When I am having my darkest days I
go to a choir rehearsal and it really lifts me. People are
so hungry to connect and sing these days and it's great
to be able to give them an outlet."....
ABC Brisbane Drive with Tim Cox (broadcast 18 March 2014)
Emma speaks to Tim Cox about her performances in New
York and her debut gigs with her new band Emma and The
Hungry Truth at the Judith Wright Centre in Brisbane.
The interview ends with a live performance of My Heart
My Blood from her Red EP.
Duration:10:33 (Note: Your browser requires requires Flash
to play this clip.)
Newspaper Brisbane, 18 March 2014
Brisbane Megahertzzz Show (broadcast 16 March 2014)
Emma talks to Megahetzzz about the debut of her new
band Emma and The Hungry Truth and her experiences
in New York in 2013.
Duration: 13:37 (Note: Your browser requires requires
Flash to play this clip.)
News, 12 March 2014
to enlarge and read the above Brisbane News article
Sunday Mail (U on Sunday), Brisbane 5 January 2014
to enlarge and read the above Sunday Mail article
Saturday Courier Mail, Brisbane 2 February 2013
to enlarge and read the above Courier Mail article
2012 Articles & Interviews
InFlight Magazine Issue22 2012
to enlarge and read the above Talk Back article
ABC Brisbane Afternoons (broadcast 16 April 2012)
Emma speaks to Kelly Higgins-Devine about her music,
including her album Dr Dream and the Imaginary Pop Cabaret,
her New York shows, a side project with Jake Diefenbach,
and the Crossbows Festival to be held at Southbank Brisbane
in May 2012. The interview includes two songs from Dr
Dream) (See Gigs
for further details).
Duration:18:38 (Note: Your browser requires requires Flash
to play this clip.)
Adelaide Breakfast (broadcast 13 April 2012)
In this interview broadcast 13 April 2012 on Radio
Adelaide Breakfast, Emma spoke to
Angus Randell about the Adelaide
Cabaret Festival to be held in June 2012 and
of her Festival show Stripped....
Duration: 6:41 (Note: Your browser requires requires Flash
to play this clip.)
Magazine Brisbane 12 April 2012
to enlarge and read the above feature article by Frances
In this interview broadcast on 14 March 2012 during
Cabaret Room show, Emma provides a
sneak preview of An
End to Dreaming, performed in Melbourne on
the following Friday.
Duration: 4:01 (Note: Your browser requires requires Flash
to play this clip.)
Sunday Mail Brisbane 31 July 2011 -
U on Sunday Magazine
Click here to
read the above feature article Edge of
by Sally Browne (photography Adam Armstrong)
Magazine Brisbane 26 July 2011
INFORMER ARTS: Cabaret - Emma Dean Interview
ZENOBIA FROST and EMMA DEAN talk CABARET - where
does Sally Bowles (hot pants and all) fit into Brisbane
It’s not the first time Zen Zen Zo and cabaret
have tangoed. In 2010, a duo of performers schooled in
the physical theatre company’s characteristic style
shadowed pop-cabaret partners-in-crime Emma Dean and
Jacob Diefenbach in My Sublime Shadow. Dean returns to
the company to take on the lead role in Cabaret – Zen
Zen Zo’s first foray into musical theatre.
“If there’s any musical Zen Zen Zo should
be doing,” says Dean, “it’s Cabaret.” We
are sipping coffee in oversized red armchairs in a cafe
near Dean’s temporary Brisbane digs (where, incidentally,
Dean has been teaching your humble arts reporter the
tricks of the singing trade – brave woman). “As
a company, I think they really embody the spirit of the
Weimar Republic era.” That the cast’s majority
aren’t necessarily trained dancers or singers is
no hindrance; in fact, Dean believes it’s what
will set apart this production of Cabaret – that
infamous celebration of the decadent, the grotesque and
It’s not only a new experience for Zen Zen Zo. “The
choreography’s very elaborate – and very
athletic,” admits Dean. “I had to be very
open to working with my body, but the training schedule
has been fabulous.” Just as Dean had to adapt for
a physical theatre troupe, Zen Zen Zo’s crew took
a little convincing to realise the dangers of belting
out Liza Minnelli tunes for eight hours a day – but
Dean emphasises the company’s supportive environment. “We’ve
all been learning about each other’s special skills
and how we fit together as an ensemble,” she says.
Perhaps a few surprise wake-up calls helped bind the
cast and crew together. Cabaret takes place against what
Dean calls a “political backdrop” of Nazism
spreading like fire ants over Berlin. “We easily
forget,” she says, “being surrounded by such
open-minded people, that this shit still goes on.” It
was just outside Brisbane’s Old Museum – Zen
Zen Zo’s traditional stomping ground – that
part of the cast encountered a bus stop covered with
anti-Semitic and homophobic graffiti. Later, the Cabaret
cast came to a chilling realisation: had they stayed
in Berlin in 1933 doing “what we were doing as
cabaret performers, as artists, as activists” – the
entire ensemble would have been sent to concentration
The character of the Emcee, played by Sandro Colarelli,
is for Dean the voice of these artists – “the
voice of the underground,” she says. “He’s
the one who goes down with the ship.” Dean describes
Colarelli (fresh from DragQueensLand) as “a superstar” – the
right choice for a memorable role. Dean describes her
own role, Sally Bowles, as something of an onion. “She’s
very hedonistic, totally preoccupied with herself, with
having fun, with fucking around with men and drinking
gin,” Dean explains, but these traits hide layers
of insecurities. “She’s a bit of an onion.
As each of my scenes goes on, layer by layer comes off,
and in the end there’s a moment where Sally’s
In a show concerned with grotesque fantasies and burlesque
parodies, those moments where what is real sneaks in
are all the more resonant. In the words of Oscar Wilde, “Give
a man a mask, and he’ll tell you the truth.”
CABARET runs at the Cremorne Theatre, QPAC,
from Thursday Aug 4 to Saturday Aug 20.
Pop-cabaret starlet Emma Dean was in Adelaide over the
weekend for her only show, “Stripped”, during
the 2011 Adelaide Cabaret Fringe Festival at Tuxedo Cat.
Today, I managed to catch up with the singer/songwriter
over email to ask her a few questions…
RC: Who inspired you to take up dancing and music in
your younger years? ED: My father, Christopher was one of the founding members
of a station called 4MBS Classic FM. Every Saturday morning,
when I was about 3 or 4, he would go on air as one of
the radio announcers and I’d listen intently at
home and try to talk to him through the speakers. Of
course, he never heard me (he he). But, being around
music from such a young age sparked something deep within
me. If I wasn’t playing music, I was dancing. I
loved to move and to feel the rhythm of life flow through
me. It’s such a natural and inherent thing for
RC: Tell us about your first-ever on-stage appearance… ED: To be honest, I’m sure I was far too young
to remember the very first time!! I started learning
ballet at the age of 2 and began at a music school at
the age of 3. I’d guess that I would have been
amongst a large group of obnoxious yet stupidly cute
toddlers playing the recorder (badly)…
RC: The last time you were in Adelaide, you
performed as part of The Wheel of Frank Confession at the 2010
Adelaide Fringe. How does performing your solo show ‘Stripped’ compare
to performing as part of quartet? ED: When you are performing as part of a group, you tend
to feel supported at all times (that is, if they are
awesome like my group were!). When you are solo, it’s
all up to you! So in that regard, it can be quite high
pressure. Having said that, I love the musical freedom
you have as a soloist. If I feel like drawing a phrase
out…I will! If I accidentally skip a verse…that’s
ok! ha ha. I’ve learnt so much about myself as
a performer through “STRIPPED” and I feel
I’m one step closer to achieving some of my performance
goals. When you strip back to the bare essentials it’s
either make or break. It’s my aim to be able to
command a stage, even in stillness. I continue to work
Emma Dean's Latest Album
RC: You’ve just released your second album, Dr
Dream and the Imaginary Pop Cabaret. What inspires you
when writing songs? ED: Everything and anything. This particular album is
like a therapy session! Each song has it’s own
RC: On your most recent blog entry, I noticed that you’re ‘ [keeping]
open to possibilities after “Cabaret” ‘.
Where would you like to see yourself next – perhaps
returning to ballet? ED: Oh god no!!! My bum is too big (or so they tell me!).
To tell you the truth, I was never much of a dancer!
It breaks my heart to say that, but it’s true.
I would love to continue some physical-theatre and actor
training to keep “topping up” my performance
skills. I feel that this has been an integral part of
my development. I’d also like to tour overseas
and take some time out to reflect and ponder before I
launch in to any new projects or albums. It’s a
bit exciting, really. I feel like I’ve got a creative
volcano bubbling away inside of me. :)
Emma Dean's Pop Cabaret Universe by Lena Nobuhara Cabaret Confessional Associate Editor
Singer/songwriter Emma Dean, who hails from the city of
Brisbane, has created her own unique, magical universe
and established herself as “pop cabaret” performer.
Her signature style of catchy alternative pop music and
visual feast of imaginative costumes, make-up and theatrics
has won over many fans – including the New York Post,
who named her as “1 of 10 Artists to watch in 2011”.
With her Cabaret Fringe Festival show in Adelaide approaching
fast (see gigs), Emma takes us through her quirky and creative
You’ll be performing your show Stripped
soon. What was the process for writing the show like?
To be honest, it was a very backwards process. I had been
hired to perform every week for three consecutive weeks
at a wonderful Cabaret venue in Sydney called El Rocco.
I wanted to make the shows low-key but still involve my “theatrical
flair”. I knew I couldn’t afford to include
any other performers so it needed to be a one-woman-show!
I had just released my new album Dr Dream and The Imaginary
Pop-Cabaret so I had already rehearsed most of the songs
that I wanted to perform. In the end it became a question
of how I could string them together in an interesting and
different way using just one person on stage – me!
Remember, I’m used to performing alongside flamboyant
physical-theatre performers, so I was feeling the pressure!
I decided the theme of my show would be about stripping
back the musical layers and revealing the raw emotion and
some of the stories behind the songs – all the things
that are sometimes lost in a big theatrical production.
Then on another layer I’ve incorporated a mannequin
in to the mix who helps me with my costume changes where
I literally “strip” on stage. Don’t worry…no
pink bits. Totally PG!
How did you decide which songs to include and which ones
to leave out?
I always find this tough. But, the great thing about this
show is that there is so much room for movement. The formula
is set, so I can now add and subtract songs as I write
them as long as they fit in to the four scenes/themes.
In fact, my Adelaide show will be different to my Sydney
The shows and videos you create are visually striking
and dreamy. Where do you get the ideas and inspirations
for the costumes, make-up and the whole look of the stage/videos?
I am so lucky to be surrounded by an incredible creative
community of artists, dancers, costume designers, make-up
artists, actors, musicians and dreamers. Most of us work
independently and understand the financial difficulties
that sometimes exist in our chosen fields, so we often
help each other out with various projects. Some of the
artists I have collaborated with on a long term basis are:
Angela White Costume And Couture (who made many of my film
clip and performance costumes), Lia Reutens (who features
in my “Something They Can Hold” video and is
also an imaginary friend), Amanda Laing, Walter Davis-Hart,
Giema Contini, Dale Thorburn and Jamie Kendall (who all
act/have acted as my imaginary friends) and Jonny Williams
(who has made two of my film clips), and Tony Dean and
Ben Stewart (who have played in my band and recorded my
Outside inspiration comes from all things magical. I’ve
always loved Tim Burton movies. I’m fascinated in
exploring the world where reality meets Gothic-fairytale-fantasy
and the place where music and theatre meet and explode!
This is the world I want to live in when I’m performing
How would you describe your distinctive ‘pop cabaret’ style?
To break it down simply, I’d say it’s “piano-driven
alternative pop music presented in a theatrical or cabaret
You were named as “1 of 10 Artists to watch in 2011” in
New York Post. Apart from the size and competitiveness,
what are your thoughts on the American market?
The American market is something I’d like to explore.
I’d been working really hard in Australia for 9 years
without much airplay (which is a shame) and then BOOM…New
York came calling! After the New York Post surprise, my
single “Sincerely Fearful” was in the US specialty
radio charts top 15 for a month alongside the likes of
R.E.M and PJ Harvey. Surreal.
I often wonder if America, due to its large population,
has the ability to sustain an artist like me who sits outside
the mainstream box. I’m not sure. But I’m going
to go over and find out whilst having an adventure at the
How did you discover cabaret?
I’ve always been theatrically inclined and have
been interested in musical theatre since I played the lead
in my high school musical. Cabaret was an obvious step
for me. After working with a company in Brisbane called
Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre, I became interested in performance
techniques, which work on the power and energy of the body
in performance. That’s when I began to incorporate
some physical-theatre actors into my show. It was a really
natural progression. To listen to my music without seeing
the visuals often doesn’t seem like a typical cabaret
experience, although, my songs and themes are clearly theatrical.
For me, it’s all in the live show!
Cabaret to you is….?
A medium in which the “others” of the underground
have a voice…
What appeals to you the most about performing cabaret?
I love the feeling of being in a cabaret club where the
rules of society have flown out the door. I love the freedom.
Of course, it was not always like this for cabaret artists,
especially during WWII. I feel very lucky to be able to
express myself artistically to the fullest extent.
The biggest source of inspiration?
I’m so inspired by the people around me, particularly
my friends and family. Some of my musical inspirations
are Tori Amos, Queen, Wicked (the musical), Cabaret (the
musical), Chicago (the musical), Kate Bush, Silverchair,
Jacob Diefenbach and mucho mucho more!
The best thing about performing as part of the Cabaret
Being in Adelaide again for the first time since the 2010
Adelaide Fringe Festival. Being recognised as being part
of a thriving musical genre that has SO much to offer.
Seeing my dear friends and meeting new ones.
What’s in store for you next?
I’m playing Sally Bowles in the next Aussie production
of “Cabaret” with Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre!
Then I’m planning some shows overseas! Can’t
AU Review - we were there (posted website 8 April
STCH Tour Show @ The Basement 14May11
(Photo Courtesy Johnny Au for AU Review)
Emma Dean announces May/June 2011 tour by Layla Clark
With The New York Post naming her one of "10 Artists
to Know in 2011”, Emma Dean is starting to glow in
the international spotlight. On her latest national tour,
however, she's decided to find a shadowy corner in which
to embrace her dark side and ponder the release of new
single “Something They Can Hold”...
After her sold out album launch tour in November 2010,
featuring the kooky talents of her 'imaginary friends',
Emma is back on the road in celebration of the latest single
from internationally acclaimed album Dr Dream and the Imaginary
Pop-Cabaret, the haunting Something They Can Hold. These
shows will distill her chaotic, spellbinding show to it's
most basic visceral elements. She'll leave the 'imaginaries'
at home and embrace the black, nebulous, murky world of
a neurotic cabaret songstress fronting a group of musicians.
“Singer, songwriter and self proclaimed ringmaster
Emma Dean is a hobobag full of crazy pills. Like the really
awesome hallucinogenic kind. Driven by her child-like imagination
and bouncy exuberance, her new album “Dr Dream and
the Imaginary Pop Cabaret” has a title that describes
it's sound with sheer perfection.” Ryan Brockington
, The New York Post
So, why is it important to indulge in the darker side
“As an artist I think it's important to indulge
and explore all parts of life!” Emma explains. “I
don't see myself as a particularly dark person but as a
songwriter, I often find myself drawn to the piano when
a dark or turbulent thought hits. I think it's healthy
for me. Perhaps it's a kind of free therapy? I'm very intrigued
by the underground world where the fringe folk live as
well as the cabaret scene, where the rules of society fly
out the door. That's why I'm constantly drawn to working
with company's like Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre and artists
like “my imaginary friends” who are known for
exploring this territory. It's dark. It's sometimes twisted.
And the line between crying and laughing is often very
"...Curious, funny, astute and above all, weird.
She could well stake a good claim to be the new Millennium's
Kate Bush with (her) theatrical approach to music...."Patrick
McKiernan allgigs.co.uk , United Kingdom
"Its just right. Move over Rufus and Tori. You have
company" Noel Mengel. The Courier Mail
Believe: Emma Dean with
Lia Reuters, Walter Davis-Hart
and Amanda Laing
The Muse has many identities (text)
Brisbane-raised songwriter Emma Dean gets physical
to take her music to another level of art, writes Noel
EMMA Dean is enjoying sharing secrets with some of her
closest friends. Imaginary friends, that is. And they
say things she'd never dare say in public.
The friends first started appearing in her songs, and
then in her stage show, and now in the Brisbane-raised
songwriter's second album, Dr Dream and the Imaginary
"I found different parts of my personality coming
through in my songs and these characters. Henry was my
disturbed imagination, Gee Gee my sensual imagination,
Dr Dream my imaginary psychotic psychiatrist, who is the
part of me that likes to analyse people," Dean says.
"From that grew the idea of this concept album,
having a therapy session with Dr Dream, which is like
having a therapy session yourself, all these little confessions."
Like Kate Miller-Heidke and Megan Washington, Dean is
a graduate of the Queensland Conservatorium of Music,
where she studied jazz vocals. There must be something
in the water there; Dean's approach is as quirky as that
of the other two.
But Dean's music and her stage show are also influenced
by her passions for dance and theatre. She studied classical
ballet for 12 years and more recently has been involved
in collaborations with Brisbane physical theatre troupe
Zen Zen So.
"A thing that they didn't teach in my musical studies
was an awareness of my body, which is what dance gave
me," she says. "When I see a performance I find
a lot of musicians are let down by not being aware of
what their bodies are doing and how they react to an audience.
"The training I did with Zen Zen So was all about
developing the energy that makes an audience not want
to take their eyes off you.
"You can have that energy even with absolute stillness.
You don't have to be jumping around all over the stage
to have that impact."
That's handy when you are a keyboard player and mostly
tied to that instrument. When she can, such as in her
Brisbane show at the Old Museum building last week, she
works with three dancers, helping illustrate the characters
in the songs.
"It's physical theatre with elements of dance, movement,
acting. I knew when I started writing these songs that
I wanted a theatrical element but I didn't know what that
would be. When I met performers from Zen Zen So, I knew
that was the answer," she says.
"Even in the songs I was writing before thinking
of the Dr Dream concept, I found there was an underlying
theme there - of imagination, of hope and dreams. It was
like finding the key to bring it all to together."
Dean also performs with her brother, drummer Tony Dean,
with assistance from her partner in music and life, Ben
After spending all her life in Brisbane, Dean this year
moved to Sydney, where she teaches music to sustain her
But she takes advice from American theatre director Anne
Bogart, who she quotes on the sleeve on Dr Dream: "Do
not assume that you have to have some prescribed conditions
to do your best work. Do not wait for enough time and
money to accomplish what you have in mind. Work with what
you have right now."
Dean has no shortage of ideas, nor the drive to take
them to the world.
Dr Dream and the Imaginary Pop-Cabaret
is available from emmadean.com
This week cheeky pop princess EMMA DEAN and her ‘imaginary
friends’ launch album Dr Dream & The Imaginary
Pop-Cabaret with a flamboyant spectacle at the Old Museum.
Fears, nightmares and confessions – BIRDIE finds
it’s all in the bag and more for this ex-Brissie
“The ‘imaginary friends’ are myself
and three physical theatre performers who act as different
facets of my imagination,” explains Dean. “There
is my sensual side, my disturbed side, and Dr Dream the
imaginary psychotic psychiatrist. The show is incredibly
theatrical as you can imagine; people have been calling
it pop-cabaret with some burlesque.”
Which makes the Old Museum the ideal venue for Dean’s
quirky circus-like performance. Inspired mainly by insanity
and rambling thoughts, Dean says she boldly reveals all
to a usually spellbound audience.
“ Dr Dream is the part of myself that always wants
to analyze and tell people they’re right or wrong,”
she claims. “He tries to diagnose what’s wrong
with people. So it’s me sitting in his room, on
his big black chair, and I’m letting him basically
judge me as I divulge all my confessions that stem from
my own insanity.”
Letting rip her anger, insecurities, and complaints about
life, Dean says both the live performance and the album
itself have proven to be the perfect combo of being at
once cathartic as well as entertaining.
“Some of the songs are about the music industry
too,” she adds. “Not feeling as though I fit
in sometimes. There is a song called Bigger Than Me, Bigger
Than You, which is about a phase where I felt incredibly
lonely as a solo performer. I wanted very badly to be
a part of a community and I had this vision of running
away and joining the circus. I would be the ringmaster
and the leader of all the circus freaks. I think it was
a dream that stemmed from the fact I’d moved from
Brisbane to Sydney and I was scared of being isolated
from old friends and musicians I’d worked with.”
But the transition hasn’t been as rough as Dean
first feared … In fact, with the success of both
the album and the live show, she’s hardly even had
time to soak it in!
“ When I moved, straight off the bat I was doing
a headlining tour which was called Emma Dean Meets Dr
Dream,” she says. “It’s been pretty
crazy ever since then. I’d love for my audience
to grow and to break into the mainstream. It’s tremendously
important as an artist to be stubborn. About five years
ago I saw a fortuneteller and they actually predicted
the exact costume that I would wear at my first album
launch, which was pretty quirky when I realised it. They
said I was going to be really big in the Asian market
and to try my luck there! Those were the exact words that
were said to me. That was probably five years ago now,
so I’ve got two years to hurry up and make it happen!”
EMMA DEAN launches DR DREAM & THE IMAGINARY POP-CABARET
at the Old Museum on Friday Nov 26 (all ages), supported
by Safety Dance and The Jane Austen Argument. www.myspace.com/emmadeanband
Pop 5 With Emma Dean (text)
Who first told you about the birds and the bees?
“I always asked my parents how a baby is born but
my mum always said the same words, ‘with a little
bit of this, and a little bit of that’… So
for an embarrassingly long time I pictured god up in the
sky with salt and pepper shakers and I thought that’s
how he made a baby. Then I discovered ‘The Joys
Of Sex’ with my next door neighbour and got a rude
shock when I saw the graphic pictures. It didn’t
look as pretty as I imagined.”
Which popstar would you most like to spank?
“Someone I used to really fancy when I was younger
was Mark Owen from Take That. I’d love to see their
reunion show if they come to Australia, it all depends
on finances, doesn’t it?”
Have you ever done anything ridiculous for a dare?
“Oh my gosh … I probably shouldn’t say
this one … I was once arrested for stealing the
Hanson Christmas album. It was a dare with my two high
school friends – I got off more lightly than them.
They were very naughty girls! The album was all originals
with a few covers, I think I still might have a version
of the album – not the stolen one!”
What’s the scariest thing that’s ever
happened to you?
“I chopped off my thumb on my nanna’s exercise
What or who would you like to be reincarnated as?
“Oh! Tim Burton’s lovechild! With Helena,
of course. Actually, I would love to star in a Tim Burton
movie, I’d love to do music for the movie and to
star in it, that would be the ultimate for me.”
A mistress of entertainment, merging theatre and music,
this singer/songwriter will enthrall Tableland's Folk
Festival goers with her perfect timing, uber-expression,
lyrics and voice range.
With her first album Hanging Out The Washing,
released 5 years ago at the tender age of 22, there's
no stopping this live-wire. Having entertained at this
year's national folk festival and last years's Woodford,
Emma Dean is no stranger to the genre. "I found
in the past my music goes down well at the festivals.
I have a highly emotive voice and love musical theatre.
Story telling is very important to me and being able
to understand lyrics." says the jazz bachelorette
who has been playing to packed audienes in recent musicals
Downside Up and The Tempest..
The multi-instrumentaltist will be accompanied by her
brother Tony on drums, and three physical performers,
urging the audience through their wacky pop cabaret
journey. The entertainer's circus of face-painted personalities
represent 'facets' of Dean's personality - Henry, her
disturbed imagination, GG, her sensual imagination and
Dr Dream, her imaginary psychotic psychiatrist. The
'dancers' negotiate the stage with manic movements while
their songstress mesmerises the audience with keyboard
The Tori Amos inspired musician spent two years in
Kate Miller Heidke's band. "I was on the violin
and keyboards and it was lots of fun." This classically
trained musician is vaudevilling her way to the top.
Emma Dean and the Imaginary friends will be playing
at the Pavilion Frisay at 9.30pm, Saturday at 8.30pm
and Sunday .345pm
To catch a preview of her magical world visit www.emmadean.com
or http://tablelandsfolkfestival.org for the 30th Tablelands
Folk Festival site.
Emma Dean is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist
whose music and performances delve into the magical world
where live music meets theatre.
In Real Life Computer Game, the debut album
from this unique performer, Emma continues to delve into
new sonic territory.
It's bigger, it's bolder, and it's more ambitious than
anything she's ever done.
Her theatrical fascination led Emma to the dark side
in early 2009 - the decadent world of cabaret.
The musical Downside Up (co-written with Jacob
Diefenbach) debuted to a sold-out audience at The
Judith Wright Centre in Brisbane.
Shortly after, she began another theatrical collaboration
with world renowned Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre Company,
for their óff-kilter'adaptation of Shakespeare's
Question: What are your influences? Answer: champagne and the theatre, nfroufrou
and Angela White Costume and Couture, Tim Burton and fairytales,
love, hate, life, death, sex, longong and observation.
Q: What are some of your favourite current
artists? A: Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, Taylor Mac,
Imogen Heap, Amanda Palmer, The Dresden Dolls, The Killers,
Liza Minnelli, Angela White, Steven Mitchell-Wright, The
Danger Ensemble, Wicked the musical, Chicago the musical,
Ben Stewart, Tony Dean, Jacob Diefenbach and my imaginary
Q: How do you see yourself as an artist? A: A piano slammin', strange movin',
neurotic boofy-red-haired pop-cabaret singer.
Q: What sets you apart from other acts? A: The on-stage explosion when pop music
collides with theatre, the use of physical theatre creating
a visual feast as well as an aural feast, boofy-red hair
and men in tutus.
Emma Dean will join Australian entertainer Deni Hines
and Toowoomba's Cool Nights Big Band for one night at
the Empire Theatre on Saturady September 25.