Crossbows, a four-day festival celebrating the diversity of music in Brisbane, is perhaps the perfect setting to experience the pop eclecticism of Emma Dean, as Tyler McLoughlan discovers.
Local lass Emma Dean, touted as a top ten artist to watch in 2011 by the New York Post, is a self-styled mistress of the velvet curtains who melds theatrical elements amongst eccentric pop. Also an expert juggler able to change performance personas as her creative output demands, Dean is in the midst of a run of dates for her duelling-piano style pop cabaret An End To Dreaming alongside Jake Diefenbach when Time Off catches up with her ahead of her appearance at Crossbows Festival.
“We did Adelaide Fringe Festival and that was really beautiful. We played I think four shows there and then we went to Melbourne and then Sydney, and now Brisbane, and New York after that. It's the New York International Fringe Festival so my head is kind of about to explode with all of the different shows that I've got coming up. I'm just taking it one day at a time,” she sighs, no doubt weary after moving straight into preparation for the show once her role as Sally Bowles in the Australian production of Cabaret ended.
“At the moment I'm juggling three different shows; I've got An End To Dreaming, the Crossbows Festival and then my one-woman show called Stripped. In Stripped I actually do play five different versions of myself so that's a bit of a mindfuck, if I'm allowed to say that. In An End To Dreaming I'm playing, I guess it is a heightened version of myself, and then Crossbows will be a more relaxed, non-theatrical style of a gig… It will be a bit of a smorgasbord I think, the Crossbows festival – some old stuff, some new stuff and different combinations of the various instruments on stage,” she says of the festival of music for small ensembles held at the Queensland Conservatorium.
Dean is particularly pleased to be a part of the Crossbows line-up given that she is a graduate of the Conservatorium.
“I'm an ex-Con!” she exclaims with a giggle. “I studied jazz voice there, and it feels like a lifetime ago but it also feels like yesterday, I think,” she ponders before showing her enthusiasm about the range of artists billed to perform. “Katie Noonan is playing and she's an ex-Con graduate, and some other people that went to the Con are performing… I think I'll be able to catch a bit of The Con Artists which is the big band at the Con, and I used to be the vocalist for The Con Artists… It's always so great to see the new musicians that are on the rise that come through the Con. They're so fresh and it makes me really excited,” she gushes.
Considering her left-of-centre performance background, Dean is hugely supportive of events, such as Crossbows, that serve to expose the community to styles of music they may not ordinarily come across.
“I think there's a lot of music out there that doesn't necessarily fit into a mainstream box, and people often, like when I'm talking to my friends and I'm telling them about different bands or different ensembles or things that are going on in Brisbane, a lot of them just don't know about it. So I think just to have this big festival where you're combining some sort of, I suppose, mainstream names or some of the bigger profile artists with some more fringe type music or some of the more classical music or contemporary jazz that a mainstream audience wouldn't necessarily hear about or be exposed to… is really important. And hopefully I'll gain some new fans, and hopefully a lot of the acts will gain some new fans as well – it's really exciting.”