Ever since she launched 10,000 in October of 2015, singer-songwriter and harpist Émilie Kahn has barely had a moment to herself. She hit the road alongside Ogden – the model name of Lyon & Healy brand Celtic harp she uses – opening for Montréal’s Half Moon Run. It was a long trip that took her all over Europe and the U.S.
Ever so shy, the young woman born in Saint-Lazare (about halfway between Montréal and the Québec-Ontario border) speaks softly and calmly, in the manner of her touching, gracious songs. Kahn’s musical universe is contemplative, dreamy, a folksy kind of indie pop that veers between melancholy and romanticism. These songs were created over a period of three years. Back in 2013, despite a critically acclaimed EP, the artist was still filled with self-doubt about her potential, and the significance of her work.
“I had moments of very deep doubt while creating 10,000,” says Kahn. “When I signed with Secret City (Patrick Watson, Jesse Mac Cormack), I was still unsure of my songs’ musical quality. But I slowly grew more and more confident. I chose that title for the album while I was writing the song of the same name, where I wondered if I’d ever make it with my music. In that song, I sing the words ‘Ten thousand talents that you’ll never see, ten thousand talents that I’ll never be…’ There are so many people making music! So, even though I know I can make it, I was still afraid no one would notice. Ultimately, this album is the antithesis of those fears.”
As for her previous EP, Kahn tapped Jesse Mac Cormack to produce her album. “I was in another musical project before and I had recorded with him before. I also heard other stuff that he produced and I really liked his work,” she says of the prolific producer and musician. “As soon as I got Emilie & Ogden, I contacted him. He’s very young, but he’s so creative! We did large swaths of the album at Studio B-12, a strange house of a million rooms in the middle of the countryside. We stayed there for a week. Most of the vocals were recorded in another studio, near Morin Heights, with Éloi Painchaud. That process was quite lengthy, a long and winding road,” Kahn admits about the incubation of 10,000. “Then the album sat in a drawer for awhile, because we had no idea if we’d find a label willing to put it out, or if we would put it out ourselves. But, in the end, Secret City approached us.
Shortly after wrapping up the recording for 10,000, Kahn covered Taylor Swift’s “Style” and made a video for it. So far, the clip has been seen more than 325,000 times on YouTube.
“I don’t know what to think anymore,” says Kahn. “I still love playing that song, but on the other hand, I don’t want to become just a YouTube sensation. It was quite intense when it started getting traction, just before I released the album. I wondered if it was a good idea, but with time, I do think it was. I thought it was interesting to take a pop song and turn it into something completely different. By taking a different approach, we can sometimes create different emotions than the ones evoked by the original. My cover created a small buzz and helped attract audience and media’s attention to my music.”
“In the end, it’s Taylor Swift herself that got the ball rolling by tweeting a link to my cover version. I wonder if she actually watched it!” laughs Kahn, admitting her love for sugary pop songs. “As a teen, I listened to a lot of indie stuff: St. Vincent, Feist, Metric… I was already in a band when I was in high school, and when I listen to the stuff we played back then, I realize it’s not that far from what I’m doing today. But I still listen to full-on pop, like Beyoncé, Drake and, of course, Taylor Swift!
“Somebody told me once, after a concert, that I actually make pop songs, but orchestrated and interpreted in a completely different way. So, in the end, my music is very much a melting pot of all my influences.”