The first cold front of the season swept through the valley and taken the lion’s share of golden aspen leaves with it, but there’s good reason to stick around: On Saturday, the Sheridan Opera House is hosting the first-ever Community Night, starring singer-songwriter Emily Scott Robinson. With $1 tickets, Robinson will perform original music in her trademark style of soulful Americana and powerful storytelling, along with local musicians Claybrook Penn, Tom Nading and Wyatt Listrom. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are only available at the door (cash only).
A collaboration with Telluride Theatre and the Sheridan Arts Foundation, the idea for a community night was born when Colin Sullivan, Telluride Theatre executive director, got to talking with the foundation’s Executive Director Ronnie Palamar.
“We’ve wanted to do this for awhile,” Sullivan said. “The idea is the community comes together for not that much money and has a great time.”
Recently named one of Rolling Stone’s 2019 “Ten New Country and Americana Artists You Need to Know,” Robinson understands the meaning of community in the Telluride region, as she first moved to Telluride in 2011 to take a job with the San Miguel Resource Center, where she worked as a bilingual social worker for two-and-a-half years. Reflecting on moving to Telluride sight unseen from her native North Carolina after being offered the job, Robinson laughs.
“My boss at the time said, ‘Uh, I just want to make sure you know you’re moving to a tiny mountain town with no stop lights that’s like an hour and a half away from the Walmart,’ and I was like, ‘That sounds amazing. Yes! I do! I would like to live there.’”
It was here in Telluride that Robinson began to seriously consider pursuing a career as a musician. Though she grew up playing classical clarinet and learned to play the guitar at 14, it wasn’t until her mid-20s that she began to try her hand at songwriting. She took a week off from her job at the resource center to attend a songwriting camp in Lyons. Not long after, she wrote a song called “Marriage Ain’t The End of Being Lonely,” and entered it into a songwriting contest, which she won. After that, she began to believe she could pursue music as a full-time career.
By 2016, she began to do just that, leaving town with her husband to tour the country in their RV. It all came full circle this summer when Robinson entered the Telluride Troubadour contest at this summer’s Bluegrass Festival. Out of nearly 300 contenders, Robinson won and was awarded a slot to play on the main stage.
“This summer, winning the troubadour competition at Bluegrass, it was this culmination of all the dreams I’d just begun to dream when I lived in Telluride,” Robinson said. “I would go to Town Park sometimes, and I would sit on that stage and I’d look out on the mountains and just imagine playing on that stage and imagine singing to those mountains and to all of my Telluride people at the festival, and I got to experience that this summer. It was amazing. It was the best feeling in the world.”
Robinson recently released her first studio album, a lyrical and evocative collection of songs titled “Traveling Mercies.” While not all of her songs are autobiographical, some are deeply personal, powerful stories drawn from her own life. Others come from the “sonic journey of the stories and places encompassed by three-and-a-half years of traveling around the country in an RV,” she said.
Robinson does not shy away from expressing emotions in her songwriting. One melancholic and haunting song, “The Dress,” describes her experience of being drugged and sexually assaulted by a stranger at 23. Speaking of the experience, she said, “Anger was not my first emotion, after my assault. I wanted to capture the confusion, the loneliness and the chaos. And at every single show I play, there’s at least one person who finds me and looks me in the eye and thanks me for that song specifically. And so I’m grateful to be able to share it.”
“Emily Scott Robinson has been a part of the Telluride Theatre family since 2012, as a performer, musician and friend,” said Sasha Sullivan, Telluride Theatre artistic director. “We love her and are so very proud of her success as an artist.”