EMIKO - The Musical Traveler on Her New Release “Simple Love”

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“I was born in Washington, DC, and I spent my childhood traveling between there, Japan and New York City,” world-traveling singer, songwriter, and Hammond HTV host and co-creator Emiko says of her formative years. “Neither of my parents were musicians, but my grandmother on my father’s side graduated from the Juilliard School and was a conductor and a composer, and later became a music educator. She was the one to really get me started in music. When I was around two and a half years old, my mom discovered that I was playing piano pretty fluently. I was just rattling off pieces left and right! So when I got a little older, my mom talked to my teacher at school and they put me into a kind of conservatory 'prep' program at a place called the Levine School of Music in Washington, DC. That’s where I got my start, and where I took just about every kind of [music] lesson that there was.”

As her teenage years approached, Emiko would forego a traditional education for one centered around music. “I didn’t go to high school,” she explains. “It was the early 1990’s, and I got halfway through the eighth grade, and then I was done! I was recording and performing, and music literally engulfed my life. I was playing a lot of classical music on Baroque harpsichord and piano, and later, I started composing my own music and playing out in clubs. At that time, I was listening almost exclusively to Billy Joel and the B-52’s. Music took over for me. And so my parents took a calculated risk and did something that I think a lot of parents would never dream of doing, which was to say, ‘The traditional path is not for our daughter. This is what she was put on this planet to do, so this is what she’s gonna do!’ And they went for it.”

Emiko would soon embark on a musical adventure that would involve 1980’s alternative rockers 10,000 Maniacs. “Instead of going to high school, I started knocking around with the Maniacs," she says. "The late guitarist Robert Buck and some other people in their organization took me under their wing and started mentoring me. I was getting a real ‘life’ education as opposed to a a school-based one, performing and being taken around to different record labels. I did end up going to the Berklee College of Music in Boston for a semester when I was 17, but again, I realized that school just wasn’t for me. So I moved back to New York and I put together a band and started recording, touring and playing every gig I could get my hands on. Later in my mid-20’s, I signed to Sony/ATV Music Publishing, and then in 2010, I moved to England, where I was signed to an imprint of Universal. We released two singles, and then I had a baby and took some time off.”

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Emiko returned to New York and then found her way to Los Angeles, CA, where she continued writing and performing. “Los Angeles has changed so much,” she says. “There really is this feeling of community here. You feel like you can do anything, plus, you’re not buried for six months under snow and ice, like you are in New York!” In 2014, Emiko joined the Hammond artist roster, and in 2015 she became host and producer of the company’s TV network, HTV, which she co-created with Hammond marketing director Gregg Gronowski, who passed away last August. In fact, her latest offering “Simple Love” is in many ways, an homage to her late friend.

“I had just finished a day of interviews for HTV at the 2015 NAMM show,” Emiko explains, “and Gregg came over to me and said, ‘You’ve got one more interview to do.’ I replied, ‘No way. I’m done. I’m tired and I want to go get a pizza!’ But he persisted and said, ‘We just signed this guy. He’s a Hammond organ player and a record producer, and you have to know him. Trust me.’ Soon, there was this crazy blond-haired guy standing there in a purple shirt with a grinning face. It was Ric Cabot Podmore, who had just been signed to the Hammond roster. So I did the interview, said goodbye, and then this past August, I got the call that Gregg had passed away. I had to call some of the Hammond artists to let them know, one of whom was Ric. A few weeks later, I posted a clip of a new song I was working on called “Simple Love,” that I had written for my son. Soon after, Ric contacted me on Facebook to tell me he liked the song and to ask me if I would consider working with him. I was amazed, because he works with some pretty heavy-hitting artists. After we started talking about different songs we might work on together, Gregg’s wife wrote to me to say she loved ‘Simple Love’ and that she wanted a copy of it. She told me, ‘This song really gives hope to people who are separated from their loved ones. And if I could have Gregg back for a day, this is what I’d tell him.’ That’s when I knew this was the song we had to record together."

Ric Cabot Podmore on the Recording of “Simple Love”

“Like almost every notable tracking studio in the world, Colorado Sound hosts a beautiful Yamaha C7 Grand Piano. I’ve used this particular axe on a countless number of tracks I've produced through the years, however for “Simple Love”, we had to come up with something ultra special since it was going to be almost completely exposed for much of the tune. During my pre-production process, Kevin (Clock) and I had a few discussions of what it was I was looking for from the piano sound. After some study of the song and Emiko’s style of playing, we came up with the following technique to capture her piano performance.

Strings and Percussion

Native Instruments Alicia's Keys (virtual piano) was used to create the guide piano track that would later be replaced by Emiko’s organic Yamaha C7 performance. Spectrasonics Stylus RMX was used to create various virtual percussion parts, some of which were then replaced by Christian Teele. We also used Stylus to create the track we lovingly named “Crystal”, which is the chiming sequence that appears in the intro and verses of the tune. Audiobro LASS (Los Angeles Scoring Strings) is the virtual instrument package we used to create the legato parts of the String Basses, Cellos, Violas, Violins, In order to compliment the parts performed on LASS, we used EastWest SoundsOnline Symphonic Orchestra to create the Marcato parts on the cellos and solo violins.

Piano Mics

Microphones used were Neumann U87 Klause Heyne modified on the upper piano region and a Neumann U47 Klause Heyne modified on the lower region. We also used an AKG C24 placed on the underside of the piano to capture a little bit more 'wood' from the soundboard, but only mixed in subtly. This mic combination was then run through the beautifully transparent Grace Design M802 remote controlled mic pre-amps. The remote-controlled version is nice because you can place the pre-amps close to the microphones, thereby keeping the mic level cables short and then running line level cables directly into Pro Tools. In the final mix, we used an EMT 140 Plate Reverb to create a warm and 'crystal clear' type of ambience.

Additional Note

During the fade, which was choreographed by element, the background vocal tracks were given an additional treatment with a Leslie 122 speaker.”