Finding the roots of African American music through a rising generation of artists.



The Shed Presents: Soundtrack of America

Beginning today, the Soundtrack of America concert series is launching a collaboration with creative space, The Shed, to highlight “the influence of African American music with a new generation of groundbreaking artists.” The festival will run until April 14 at Hudson Yards and feature rising and seasoned performers such as Moses Sumney, serpentwithfeet, Smino, and more.

On “Night 3” of the series, grammy-nominated New York native Emily King will take the stage as one of the headliners. Not only has King toured and opened for icons such as John Legend, Nas, and Alicia Keys, but she has also won recognition from The Songwriters Hall of Fame as part of the Buddy Holly legacy. Check out what King has to say about her connection with R&B and soul, growing up within the city’s music scene, and what she hopes to bring to this year’s festival below.

Congratulations on your feature at New York’s Soundtrack of America festival! Since you are from the Lower East Side, what was your experience growing up in the music scene?

Growing up in NYC there were a lot of spontaneous encounters with music. You’d be on the train platform listening to the most beautiful steel drum player or walk through the park and hear some old school r&b blasting from a boombox. When I was a little kid I would go to my parents’ gigs who were singing jazz back then. My brother and I would go with them to their shows at the Blue Note on West 4th st. and eat hamburgers in the dressing room while they performed. The great thing about NYC is you can see some of the greatest musicians in the world at the smallest clubs in the world any day of the week. That was a really great education for me.

Since Soundtrack of America focuses on, “celebrating the influence of African American music,” can you talk about which artists influenced you the most?

I was surrounded by Jazz at an early age. Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Ella Fitzgerald… The phrasing and melodic changes had a huge influence on me. Growing up in the 90’s I listened mostly to hip hop and r&b. Boys 2 Men, Mary J Blige, SWV, Brandy and anything that played on Hot 97. Michael Jackson was my absolute favorite artist growing up. Later on I got into songwriters of the 60’s and 70’s like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Bob Marley just to name a few…

New York has an extensive music history and culture covering a range of genres from hip hop to punk. Why do you feel you were specifically drawn to R&B and soul?

Growing up in the 90’s, r&b and hip hop was king. That was the soundtrack of my childhood in NYC. Hot 97 and WBLS on every day. I’d listen to the radio on my Walkman..  before and after school and even during. That music had the attitude and swagger that you needed to survive in the city.

How did you decide which songs to perform at Soundtrack of America? Will your setlist reflect the festival’s overarching theme?

I wanted to do a song with my father who has always been very instrumental in me knowing about my family’s history. He’s kept me in touch with my heritage through music and storytelling. I asked if he would join me in singing a jazz standard that my parents used to perform when I was a kid and he said yes! Ha, thankfully! It’s the first time we will be performing together as a duo.

What do you hope to contribute to the concert series and to the new generation of groundbreaking artists?

I hope to carry on the tradition of storytelling through song and represent the vast musical lineage that has shaped the musician and person that I am today. I feel very grateful to be a part of an event that celebrates and acknowledges the extensive contributions of my ancestors.

Image courtesy of Soundtrack of America and Emily King

Stay tuned to Milk for more NYC music news.

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