Emma Donovan is an acclaimed Indigenous singer-songwriter. Since starting her music career at age seven as part of family band The Donovans, Emma has gone on to create music known for its intimately personal yet powerful lyrics and vocal delivery. Emma’s over 30 years in the industry has seen her form acoustic band Stiff Gins, join The Black Arm Band (and become their youngest member), put out music as a solo artist and tour and record with the likes of Spinifex Gum, Christine Anu, Yothu Yindi, Paul Kelly and many more.
Since 2014, Emma has worked alongside esteemed rhythm section The Putbacks producing songs inspired by a mutual appreciation for classic American soul. The partnership has seen the release of their debut album Dawn which garnered positive feedback from critics and won over fans worldwide. Emma Donovan reunites with long-time collaborators The Putbacks for their upcoming sophomore album Crossover out Friday, November 6th through Hopestreet Recordings.
Emma was so kind as to answer our questions and share her best advice for aspiring musos, read on below!
What inspired you to pursue music as a career?
My family. I come from a musical family where my grandfather wrote country gospel music influenced by his people and life at Bowraville Mission.
Besides making music, what have you done to get to where you are?
I have stayed close to family in Sydney and kept a strong relationship with my friends who I consider my family in Melbourne. I raise my two daughters now on my own as a single parent and it’s taught me so much as a woman.
How do you approach developing timelines for your career?
I try to work around my kids and family, but most of all I consider The Putbacks too. We all work in music schools or teaching music so I plan around us all, and try to get things done in our own time.
What is the most significant challenge you have conquered in your career?
Just being able to keep creative and consistent in writing lyrics and songs no matter what life throws at me. That’s how I deal with things – especially the hard things. Music heals me and is there for me always. It settles all.
Seeking that extra creative push? Check out our article on Time Management and Motivation here!
What will musicians discover from touring and how should they prepare for it?
Staying healthy, keeping our emotional and mental health good, also managing my children to include them as much as possible on tour and on the road. I will be a happy mum the more I take my children to my gigs and share that life with them. It’s important for me as a mum to do that.
How should people educate themselves on current industry issues?
Stay connected, listen to what musicians are putting out, keep at a community level and focus on our mob and issues that connect us and make us who we are.
Want to learn more about contemporary industry issues? Check out our interviews with music professionals on the topic here!
How have you integrated modern technology into your content process?
I don’t know if I use a lot of modern technology. I’m lucky to use a calendar on my laptop and phone! That’s as tech-tricky as I get! (Lol)
Listen to the new Emma Donovan & The Putbacks single here: