Cabaret Festival

Interview: Emma Donovan – Til My Song Is Done album launch

Emma Donovan’s new album to be launched at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival this week

For over twenty years, award-winning Indigenous singer/songwriter Emma Donovan has been touring the country, performing soulful songs and sharing her unique gift of story-telling with audiences around the globe. 

Music and performing has been a huge part of Emma’s life since she was young. She first appeared on stage with her renowned family band, The Donovans, as well as performing church song renditions with her mother Agnes, her five uncles and her beloved grandparents.

Emma returns to Adelaide this Thursday night, 20th June, to launch her brand-new album Til My Song is Done at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Emma recently spoke to Glam Adelaide about her musical journey and shared with us where her love of music came from.

“My love of music and performing certainly came from my family. My grandparents were singers – my grandparents on my mum’s side. They were very musical. I talk a lot about them and I acknowledge them all the time. I was the oldest granddaughter who got all of their attention – a very spoiled granddaughter. My grandparents raised six children and they both came from the mission days. Nan came from the Burnt Bridge mission, which was over in Kempsey and then my Grandfather, he was further into the Nambucca Valley at the back of Barrelville. My love of music definitely came from them because they both were gorgeous singers and sang these beautiful gospel kind of duets. It’s so great they gave me that gift.”

Emma is best known for her work with the band The Putbacks and the extraordinary Black Arm Band project. Emma’s time with The Putbacks saw her win multiple awards, including best Soul/RnB album 2021 (Crossover) and 2022 (Under These Streets) at the AIR Awards as well as Best Soul, Funk R&B or Gospel Act, Best Group and Best Album (Crossover) at the 2021 Music Victoria Awards.

We asked Emma how her collaboration with The Putbacks came about.

“It came from several interactions with different band members over the years. Once, I was touring around Catherine Gorge in the Northern Territory and I was asked to hang out with them next time I was in Melbourne and sing with them. It was totally nuts. When I met The Putbacks, they introduced me to this whole new style of music. That collaboration was something special. I learned so much and it was one of the most amazing collaborations I’ve ever been a part of.”

Emma’s music sees a wonderful blend of country, gospel, and protest music of Indigenous Australia. 

“I think I don’t ever want to be put into a specific genre. I love so many different genres – I feel like I’m this big collector of everything. I grew up on Aussie country music, especially Slim Dusty tunes. There was blackfella country music, blackfella rock’n’roll as well later on in my life – artists like Yothu Yindi. I love reggae so much. I love country music. I think the older I get I feel I don’t need to limit myself. I just need to do as much of everything as I want.”

Emma’s new album, Til My Song Is Done, is her first solo album in some time, and was written to honour the legacy of her family’s country music ways. The Adelaide album launch is part of this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival program.

“So we’ll be playing a lot of the new record. This new record reflects my grandparents. It’s also this ode to being outside of the musical bubble I’ve had with The Putbacks that went on for ten years. I was in that funk-soul bubble, and then coming out of that, I just wanted to explore so many other genres and you’ll hear that in this show.”

Til My Song is Done will be a powerful evening of music and storytelling from one of the best vocalists this country has.

Emma Donovan – Til My Song is Done (Album Launch)
Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre
Thursday 20 June at 8pm

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