“Her voice was broken, so I sing aloud”

I work every day to make her proud
Her voice was broken
So I sing aloud.
—Emma Langford

I went to Milwaukee Irish Fest this year and heard some really top-notch Irish music by a lot of young artists who may be using traditional Irish instruments, but are singing about contemporary and deeply personal themes. The one that impressed me the most was the first person I heard on Friday, singer-songwriter Emma Langford.

Her range and vocal colors reminded me of a young non-smoking Joni Mitchell. Her stage presence is engaging and entertaining. And then she sang a song addressed to her 13 year old self, who had been diagnosed with vocal nodules and was told by her doctor that she had three options:

  1. She could have surgery
  2. She could go on vocal rest for 2 years (accompanied by voice therapy)
  3. She could keep singing and have a career as a Rod Stewart tribute artist (her words, not mine – but don’t they sound like something I’d say? maybe that’s why I like her so much)

She chose option 2. And for two years, she couldn’t do what she loved to do most.

I’ve had bad bouts of bronchitis that affected my voice (and my pocketbook), and the feeling of not wanting to do what I feel I was born to do left me feeling – broken. Not just my voice, but my spirit, my heart.

Emma sang, simply and without accompaniment, to tell that 13 year old girl that everything was going to be all right:

I work every day to make her proud
Her voice was broken
So I sing aloud

I think that 13 year old girl that still lives within her – and in all of us, whether we’ve suffered a vocal injury or some other physical or psychic injury – would be proud of her continuing to sing aloud and beautifully, with no sign of ever having had any damage.

She sings about everything from her own personal struggles with anxiety, to songs about getting her boyfriend back after stupidly breaking up with him (and any songwriter who writes the lyric, “Yeah, dick move on my part,” is golden), to songs about the love between a broken church bell and the ruins of a church (probably the most “Irish” sounding of all the songs).

There are so many songs I could share, but this one is her new single. It’s completely different and comes from her upcoming CD. Enjoy this video and check out her YouTube channel. I think you’ll enjoy it. Wait for her “trumpet” solos. 

So sing aloud and be proud. It’ll be all right.