Although “Hold On” marks the debut record for Dave and Emma, they’ve been working together for a long time…since Emma was 4.
As an award winning composer and guitarist, Dave was naturally thrilled when his 3 year old daughter expressed an interest in learning the violin. Starting at age 4 with the Suzuki method, she was a natural and quickly developed an interest in fiddle styles along with her classical training. It wasn’t long before they started performing together. At Emma’s first recital at age 5, after she had performed her classical piece, she and Dave performed Boil’m Cabbage Down to a thunder of applause while someone in the audience muttered, “well how is someone supposed to follow that?!” (see video retrospective) Soon they were performing constantly as Emma’s amazing chops and soulful expression began to dazzle audiences. Several years ago Dave and Emma warmed up for iconic folk singer Bill Staines. Bill took the stage when they had finished and explained that he “was really just Emma’s closing act”. When she was 10 Emma had the opportunity to perform with her dad for bluegrass legend Tim O’Brien. Afterward Tim nodded and said to the people around him, “she’s one of us.” She would go on to win fiddle competitions as well as several scholarships including the Berklee Mark O’Conner Scholarship and the Grey Fox Bill Vernon Memorial Scholarship.
As Emma grew older she began to study jazz as well. Dave couldn’t have been happier. As a jazz and classical guitar major in college, he had been inspired by jazz violinists like Jean Luc Ponty and Stephane Grapelli and was excited about having a jazz violinist of his own. Emma studied with jazz violin great Sara Caswell and spent 2 years at the Manhattan School of Music Pre-College as a jazz major. Emma, like her dad seemed to like to play all the different genres equally. In a 2010 interview she said, “As a musician I feel like it would be wrong at this age to pick a style. My classical lessons just seem to improve my bluegrass, so I look at all these niches I explore as making me a better musician.” It was around this time that Emma also began to discover her voice and an interest in songwriting. When Dave wrote the song “Hold On” he asked Emma to sing on the demo recording, and that was when the seed for their debut recording was planted. Fiddle star Jim VanCleve (Mountain Heart) had heard Emma play his tunes before and knew that not only was she a huge fan, but also a rising young talent. When he heard the Hold On demo, it was the first time he had heard Emma sing and wrote: “Emma’s voice sounds amazing on this song, and well, her fiddle playing goes without saying!”. It was at that point that Dave, Emma and Jim began discussing having him produce their record. Jim was able to bring in several bluegrass stars to play on the record including guitarist Bryan Sutton, bassist Byron House, drummer Kenny Malone, keyboardist Jeff Taylor and fellow Mountain Heart mates Aaron Ramsey and Josh Shilling. The result is a uniquely americana sound performed by virtuoso talent.
The writing has begun for their second release which will be an LP. Stay tuned!