Big things are happening for local Emily Scott Robinson. Her latest record, "American Siren," was released last week — her first from John Prine's legendary label, Oh Boy Records.
The record is hard-hitting and emotional storytelling compared to her previous album “Traveling Mercies,” which Robinson described as "light-hearted."
"It was scary songwriting for me. It was a vulnerable record that I feel will sink in with people, kind of like the way a good book does, in that the characters in the songs grow over time with people and live with them for a while," Robinson said.
The album was recorded at Echo Mountain Recording Studio in Asheville, North Carolina, and it features artists from across the Blue Ridge Mountain state. Robinson, who grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina, has called Telluride home for over a decade, but views this record as an "homage" to her home state.
"American Siren" is Robinson's third album. Since its release, the album cover has been featured as the cover of Spotify's "The Pulse of Americana" playlist and was mentioned in NPR's All Songs Considered: New Music Friday as one of the Top 10 albums out on Oct. 29.
"I was struck by just how gorgeous and clear-eyed this record was," NPR writer Stephen Thompson explained in Friday's segment.
The NPR program played a portion of the song "Let 'Em Burn" from "American Siren."
"This song flattened me and ran me over with a steam roller. This is how you do a breakup song," Thompson said.
While not entirely autobiographical, "American Siren" draws inspiration from characters and elements in Robinson's life. "Let 'Em Burn" is about a woman Robinson knows "really well" and has a feeling she relates to on a personal level.
Another song in the record that challenged Robinson was "Hometown Hero." The track is about her cousin, a veteran who served in Afghanistan and died by suicide two years ago.
"In a flash, we lost you to the war inside your head," she sings.
While the song was challenging to write, Robinson knew at her cousin's funeral she would eventually write his story.
"I understood that this is a story of many, many people, and many families, hundreds of thousands of service members. Twenty-two veterans a day on average die by suicide," she said.
On her website, Robinson stated the record is "about the siren songs that come up through our lives." While the record is darker than past albums, "American Siren" includes songs like "Cheap Seats," about an artist watching the "big show" from the cheap seats at a concert, hoping to be up on stage one day.
"There's a whole sort of religious strain that runs through this about dealing with your faith and loss of faith and desire and sexuality, but then there's also kick-ass, honky-tonk songs for dancing on the wooden floor in this record, too," said NPR’s Ann Powers on All Songs Considered.
While the album has garnered national acclaim and recognition, Robinson has a fanbase in Telluride.
“Traveling Mercies” has been one of the best-selling records at Telluride Music Company on Colorado Avenue for years, said co-owner Tom Nading. "American Siren" is also for sale on CD and vinyl there.
"We've known Emily for a while now, and it's awesome to see what she is doing. We're hoping to get (‘American Siren’) onto local record players. It's a great record, and I've enjoyed listening to it in the shop," Nading said.
Robinson wrote all the songs, except for “Cheap Seats,” at her home in Telluride during the pandemic. The album also features "Old Gods," one of five original songs written for Telluride Theatre's Shakespeare in the Park production of "Macbeth." The other four songs will also be released on a separate own EP, Robinson explained.
She credits the community and the mountains as inspiration while writing the record.
"Feeling at home and having the grounding of an incredibly supportive music community, and community in general, is a huge part of my process. Telluride is a place that's made me feel supported, but also brave as a creator, and it's been the home of many creative collaborations," Robinson said.
Robinson is currently touring in the Southeast, but will make her way back to Telluride Nov. 20 for an "Evening with Emily Scott Robinson" at the Sheridan Opera House. The opera house stage is a very special place for Robinson.
"It's my home stage. I feel so comfortable performing for my Telluride people, and I feel so much love from Telluride and from the community. I've never had a home like Telluride. It's going to be my favorite show on the tour," Robinson said.
But to become a nationally known artist and move forward in her career, Robinson occasionally has to leave her beloved hometown community. However, she said she is incredibly thankful that the town offers a safe and grounding place, not only for her but for the entire creative community.
"I will do everything I can to fight and advocate for the artistic and music community in Telluride," Robinson said. "We are one of the important beating hearts of this community.”
A local band will be joining Robinson on the opera house stage, comprised of Warren Gilbreath on guitar and banjo, Claybrook Penn on drums, Sam Burgess on bass, and Anneke Dean on violin and fiddle.
Robinson explained the timing of the show during the offseason was intentional because "this is for my people, it's for the locals."
To purchase tickets for the show, visit sheridanoperahouse.com. Tickets are $20 to $25 reserved seating with a $5 ticketing fee.