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Current Release: “FEED IT”

Written by Zenobia Frost

In brief:

Heralded for her captivating vocals by the New York Post, Brisbane’s own Emma Dean made New York City’s off-Broadway circuit her domain. There, her award-winning cabaret adventures laid the foundations for an intimate new sound. Called home by sultry climes and birdsong, the maverick singer-songwriter has returned to her Brisbane stomping grounds with a head full of ideas, determined to reignite the city’s sense of musical community. In 2014, the Dean brains-trust — Emma and multi-instrumentalist brother Tony — founded a cheeky choir, Cheep Trill, followed by grassroots musicians’ network The Tiger Common. A consummate performer, Dean has toured the world, performing alongside Jesca Hoop and Kate Miller-Heidke, and in support of Macy Gray, Jinkx Monsoon, Katie Noonan, Amanda Palmer and The Dresden Dolls. Dean’s sensuous storytelling and incandescent melodies light the way to an electric next stage in her career. Listen out for her addictive new single, “Feed It”.

In full:

Heralded for her captivating vocals by the New York Post, singer-songwriter Emma Dean has returned to her stomping ground in Brisbane with a sensuous, electric new sound. Her upcoming single “Feed It” is an intimate anthem: Dean layers trademark heart-opening lyrics with addictive hooks. She slides with precision from mood to mood, blending electronic and acoustic tones. Her voice, mellifluous but powerful, is incandescent in performance — an uncanny, moving life-force.

“Her singing voice is an absolute spectacle.”

Following 2010’s Butterfly Club “Under Our Wing Award” (shared with the likes of Tim Minchin and Sammy J.), Dean exploded the cabaret genre through raved-about collaborations with theatre company Zen Zen Zo and singer-songwriters like Jake Diefenbach (Geppetto). 2014 saw unconventional six-piece group EMMA & THE HUNGRY TRUTH record their debut EP, “Feast”, with five-time ARIA-award-winner Paul McKercher. Then, in 2015, the band’s efforts paid off, with an invitation to perform at Hobart’s prestigious MONA FOMA festival.

A musical maverick in her own right, Dean has also performed alongside Jesca Hoop and Kate Miller-Heidke, and in support of Macy Gray, Jinkx Monsoon (RuPaul’s Drag Race), Amanda Palmer, The Dresden Dolls, and Katie Noonan.

More recently, 2016’s MELT Festival at Brisbane Powerhouse saw Dean gleam in a star-studded tribute to David Bowie’s intergalactic career, with its sell-out season extended by popular demand. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust was declared a festival highlight, with Dean’s performance called “transcendent” (Scenestr). Just a few months earlier, Women in Voice (Judith Wright Centre) received glowing reviews, in particular praising Dean’s vocal diversity and on-stage charisma:

Dean’s unique voice and vibe are stronger than ever; she’s delicious enough to send a shiver down my spine … and she’s a clear favourite with the audience.

In 2013, Dean spent a year in New York — the city that named her “one of 10 artists to know” (New York Post). She found herself in-demand off-Broadway, becoming a regular at venues the Laurie Beechman Theatre and 54 Below. Back in 2011, Dean had embodied Sally Bowles in Zen Zen Zo’s award-winning, off-kilter production of Cabaret (Queensland Performing Arts Centre, 2011); in NYC, Dean lived Sally’s dream, performing alongside the stars and strangelings of the Big Apple’s infamously colourful theatre district. Here, Dean could push the boundaries of cabaret to polish a sound all her own. The result was Imaginarium, debuted at The Laurie Beechman Theatre, an uncanny chamber-pop theatre experience produced by Spin Cycle (Joan Rivers, Jinkx Monsoon)

“…50% “Wicked” and 50% Tori Amos and 100% addictive, you will find an unavoidable sound worthy of the repeat button.”

A year in New York proved to be a time of metamorphosis. Armed with a distinctive, supple voice, Dean returned to Brisbane with a firm resolve to bring a more joyous sense of musical community to Brisbane. First came colourful grassroots choir CHEEP TRILL, flash-mobbing Brisbane with cheeky covers, mash-ups and soaring harmonies. Since 2015, THE TIGER COMMON — a collaboration with Corinne Buzianczuk (Administration and Logistics Coordinator) and Tony Dean (Assistant Musical Director and teacher) — has brought together Cheep Trill, creative workshops, and musical coaching to build a supportive community fuelled by the bliss of group singing.

“Feed It”, due for release in late March, owes its rich sounds to a collaboration begun in childhood — the single was recorded and produced by Emma’s brother, Tony Dean. The siblings returned to the USA to tour together in 2015, playing in New York, Philadelphia, North Adams, and Boston’s famous Cloud Club — home of Amanda Palmer and Jaggery’s Mali Sastri. Back in Brisbane, 2016 holds plenty worth listening out for.

“It’s a satisfying serve of warmth, humour and melancholy splashed over a little rock, served up oddball, and well worth a taste.”

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