Photograph courtesy of Emma Rae
Above: Emma Rae wrote, arranged and performed all songs in her debut album Old Oak Heart.
Emma Borrie, whose stage name is Emma Rae, likes to say that singing and songwriting are in her blood; they are an essential part of her life and purpose. Born to parents who were both musicians, there was no shortage of instruments in the Long Island house where Borrie grew up. She remembers falling asleep with her sister, Leah, under a drum set while they listened to their father’s band rehearse. It was not uncommon for people to burst into song, including her late mother, a guitarist and singer.
“It’s how we communicated,” says Borrie who as a child took lessons in drums, piano and bass. She later joined the chorus in high school, played trombone (like her dad) for the school’s jazz band, wind ensemble and chamber orchestra, and began songwriting at fourteen to channel her grief after her mother died suddenly.
From these and other musically formative experiences, Borrie says, she learned to think of music as a universal language that connects people by providing a means for deeper expression and understanding. “Sometimes you need more than words to say what’s on your mind, and music is a way to make people hear,” she says.
Two years after graduating from Berklee College of Music, where she studied songwriting, Borrie now calls Stamford home. She continues to write music while working as a studio singer, booking performances in New York and Connecticut (including Stamford), and teaching voice, keyboard, music theory and songwriting at the Pop Music Academy in Springdale.
To a novice, this schedule might seem frenetic. Not to Borrie, who shrugs the idea off. She explains she is focused on telling stories through music and is confident that she is doing it exactly the way she’s supposed to: by choosing to draw inspiration not from her own experience but from “the wonders, problems and diversity in the world” she observes around her. “I think of myself as a witness,” she explains. “I listen to conversations and hear seeds of songs. I keep a notebook in my car and write down ideas. I think, ‘What hasn’t been written?’ It doesn’t have to be about yourself. There’s so much more versatility if it’s from everywhere.”
Her creative output reflects this. In her debut album, Old Oak Heart, with original songs written, arranged and performed by Borrie, she “channels nature” in the title song and in “Hydrologic,” a rumination about the trajectory of the water cycle. Contrast these with “Run from Me” and “I Know,” two recent releases by the band Great Dane that feature Borrie, and it becomes clear that Borrie has plenty to say.
Visit emmaraeofficial.com for more about Emma Rae, her upcoming performances and links to her latest music and videos.