Esperanza Spalding talks "Emily" 

click to enlarge Esperanza Spalding - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Esperanza Spalding
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As a matter of course, Esperanza Spalding is refusing to elaborate on her new show, Emily's D+Evolution. It's not connected to an album release, and the associated press with this new tour has been relatively scant in explainng the actual mechanics of the show, which incorporates movement, spoken word and a series of what Spalding calls “sonic vignettes.” Here's what I know: Spalding's new show is entirely new, unreleased music, and it hinges on the exploration of a character known as “Emily” – which also happens to be Spalding's middle name, a name she was called by many growing up in Portland.

At least, that's what I knew until I chatted Spalding up on the phone last week, and got her to expand a little bit more on her experimental new show. Here's a bit of that explainer; find more on

Spalding says:

“I got the idea on October 17, 2013. .. It was the night before my birthday. I'm all excited, thinking, 'Oh, what am I going to do tomorrow' and 'This tour is going so nice' and blah blah blah. In the middle of the night, I just started seeing these little music videos that would play in my mind's eye. There was this central character – I don't think it was me – but her name was Emily, and she looked different [than me. It was a different feel and a different aesthetic. ... I was also hearing these songs, little fragments. I just started recording all the fragments in Garage Band. I thought, 'When I'm more awake and it's not three in the morning, maybe I'll see what these sound like, and if they're any good. And most of them weren't, but some of them were! ...

“I realized that in this project there was now room, I felt, to explore aspect of performance and creative expression that I hadn't engaged with in years and years and years: acting, poetry, movement. All of these elements that I realized that the friends and mentors that I had been attracted to over the last couple of years are people who are engaging in that level more, with more visual and with more body movement. I was feeling a lack of it in my life. …

“A lot of people used my middle name. I remember there was a point in my life where I was like, 'That's not me. That's not me.' … I went through this emergence in my teenage years, where I was like, 'No, Emily, no, that's too plain, that's too young and kiddy, no. I'm Esperanza and I want to be called Esperanza. So from then on everybody called me Esperanza. Actually what happened in my case, I would say with Emily is that [I realized] that it is me. That is me, too. Yes, I'm Esperanza, … but the truth is they're both me. In a way, I see Emily as the vessel with which I can bring up to date my total self, engaging with a lot of the things about performance and art that I was always curious about that just didn't really get cultivated in my quote-unquote Esperanza stage.” 


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Katherine Coplen

Katherine Coplen

Always looking for my new favorite band. Always listening to my old ones, too. Always baking cakes. Always collecting rock and roll dad quotes.

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