Emm Gryner has been quite busy over the last 10 years.
The small-town Ontario-raised musician has launched an independent record label, released multiple albums of her own and worked with a bevy of international artists, including David Bowie, The Cardigans and Def Leppard.
The Forest, Ont., indie darling’s new CD, The Summer Of High Hopes (released this week), presents a whimsical yet matured sound, although judging from her previous work it is hard to imagine that she was ever immature.
The 11 new tracks showcase Gryner perfecting the art of pretty melodies, emotional vocals, and bittersweet lyrics. The music expresses an edgy sadness and heartache, yet embodies an eternal optimism. Commenting on the hopeful nature of her material, Gryner admits, “I’m always looking for the good in everything, sometimes to a fault.”
Gryner explains the dichotomy of her songwriting by saying, “There’s always been that underlying sadness to the songs, even though they’re very uptempo. The album kind of goes more into that territory … not that I need to go more into that territory,” she adds with a laugh.
Gryner’s songwriting process is fairly simple. She likes her songs to have very strong images and as a result picks her song titles first, then sits down to write the music and lyrics.
“I try to communicate a setting ... like painting a picture,” she explains in discussing the nature imagery in her writing.
Sunshine, the most personal new song, references specific experiences from her life including the release of her first album, The Original Leap Year. Ten years later, Gryner has discovered “when you turn 30 or whatever you sort of turn a new page … you have a little more experience and depth.”
Disheartened with major record labels, Gryner opted out of her Mercury record deal in 1998 and returned to her indie roots by founding Dead Daisy Records. She has never looked back. Today, her label is prospering with a roster of artists that includes In-Flight Safety and Royal Wood.
"I really love developing my label … we’re kind of becoming this little community,” she says.
Reworking older material, developing new artists for her label and playing bass in a new side project, Hot One, Gryner shows no signs of slowing down.
• Emm Gryner will play the Mod Club on Nov. 16.