Music has been a part of Emily Beck’s life from a young age. As a child, she was gifted a violin one Christmas and was immediately signed up for lessons, eventually playing in the orchestra. Though she has since parted ways with the instrument, music has remained an important part of her story since those days.
Throughout high school, Beck recalls being drawn to music. She can recount the precise moment she began writing music — after being awoken by her mother in the middle of night and informed that her uncle had passed away, Beck picked up her guitar and wrote a song. Following this, she performed at local open mic nights as a teenager. Her first live performance was held at one, at a since-closed location.
In college at SUNY College at Oneonta, she majored in music industry and audio production — “the other side,” as she calls it — before realizing that she hadn’t lost her passion to perform music herself. Though she attended school with a focus on helping others perform and record their music, the desire to do just that herself only grew stronger as she neared graduation.
“I just started playing a lot towards the end of my college years and I was like, ‘This is really fun, I love this’,” Beck said.
In the fall of 2017, Beck was surprised to find out that she would be graduating in December of that year, as opposed to the spring as she expected. Feeling that time was running short, Beck quickly got to work on writing and recording music using equipment provided by the school. The result was You Say You Love Me, Beck’s first EP released in 2017, which she refers to as her “farewell to college.”
After leaving Oneonta, Beck began meeting local musicians in and around her hometown of Hurley, New York — located just outside of Kingston — to whom she expressed her desires to perform her music live. Their response? “You just ask!” So this was the approach Beck took.
“I had no idea what to say at first,” Beck said.
Quickly, she got the hang of it — emailing venues explaining who she was, what she does and why they should welcome her performance. This format seems to work, as Beck has since become a staple at venues across the Hudson Valley, including New Paltz’s own Snug Harbor — a venue which she considers a favorite due to its welcoming presence. Another favorite is the Kingston Farmers Market which, as Beck explains, is always full of “joyous people like, buying lettuce!”
Though she started off performing solo, Beck also performs with a band as of last year. The group came together following various jam sessions attended by Beck and her piano player. There, the two met other local musicians who sparked Beck’s interest in compiling a band of her own.
“I just loved how it sounded with the drummers that we had, so I decided to see if I could get some people to back up my music,” Beck said.
The band is featured heavily on her second EP, Changing My Perspective, released last year, shortly after their formation. Beck explained that the title of the EP is a literal one, as she felt that it was indicative of her new outlook on her music following the formation of her band.
The songs featured on this EP — along with You Say You Love Me and the unreleased music she performs at live shows — all showcase Beck’s strengths as a songwriter. She has a Joni Mitchell-esque way of making even the mundane sound beautiful, though she cites Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart as her specific lyrical influences.
“I was definitely a songwriter first. I was always into words and writing,” Beck said. “I love the rest of it too, but I think that that’s my main pull right now.”
Beck’s music often tells a story, though she notes that she likes to keep her lyrics open to interpretation. She remembers watching some of her favorite songs lose their magic when the meanings were explained through music videos. Because of this, she chooses to keep it vague when introducing her songs during performances.
When describing her songwriting process, Beck’s ability to pull inspiration virtually out of thin air is on display. Most times, her lyrics stems from words she overhears while out in public or at home. These words are rarely special, necessarily, but they strike a creative chord in Beck that leads to some of her best work.
“My one song ‘Crayola Lullabies’ came to be when I heard somebody say the word ‘crayola,’” Beck explained. “I mean, you hear that word all the time, but for some reason in that moment it stuck out.”
Beck finds it hard to describe her sound, though to sum it up, she offers indie rock when performing with the band, and a more singer-songwriter vibe when solo. She struggles with pinning her sound down because she likes the idea of experimentation, and though she used to feel pressure to stick to one genre, she has recently become open to trying new things.
“I would love to collaborate with other people on different types of music,” Beck said. “I’m definitely open to that.”
Regardless of the sound, Beck’s main goal with her music is to reach people — especially those in most need of healing.
“If my song touches one person, I’ve done my job,” Beck said. “I’ve always wanted my songs to really touch people and heal them. Music is definitely healing, so I think that that’s always been my goal … sing it for the one person who really needed it in that moment.”
So far, Beck has been successful in her goal. She recalls an experience surrounding her senior recital in college, which was attended by family, friends and a handful of students Beck was unfamiliar with. One of them, a freshman, reached out to Beck and explained that she had been having a hard time adjusting to college, but felt comforted by her music.
“I have no idea how that happened, but she sent a long message that really touched me,” Beck said. “It made me feel like this is something that I should be doing, which I think sparked me coming home and being like ‘let’s do it!’”
Looking forward to the future, Beck revealed that she has plans to record a single that is “different than anything [she’s] put up so far,” and hopes to record her first full-length album shortly after. Before then, catch up on Beck’s catalog thus far on her Spotify page, Emily Beck, or wherever else you listen to music.
If you would like to experience Beck’s music firsthand, visit her Facebook page, “Emily Beck,” or her Instagram, @emilybeckmusic, both of which are updated frequently with upcoming performances.