Emi Meyer ups her standards on jazzy new album 'Monochrome'

by Eric Brittingham and Sarai Flores

Staff Writers

Singer-songwriter Emi Meyer says she’s never been one for covers — though she admits a one-off performance of Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” went over really well with a South Korean audience recently.

Her latest album, “Monochrome,” isn’t a covers album per se, but a collection of jazz standards.

“My first album was based very strongly in jazz piano because I was foremost a pianist,” Meyers says of her debut, 2007’s “Curious Creature.” “When (it) was released, everybody automatically said it was like a jazz album, but I didn’t want to be pigeonholed into jazz because I really didn’t know the legacy of jazz singers. I did everything I could to distance myself from jazz for the next several albums, but (this time) it just felt like the right time to go back to it.”

The 11-track “Monochrome” includes Meyer’s own renditions of Bart Howard’s “Fly Me to the Moon” and Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind.” The pieces are well suited to her soulful, smoky vocals, and there’s a real sense that she had a good time exploring the songs, which led to her emergence as a jazz-inspired singer-songwriter.

However, Meyer says creating “Monochrome,” her sixth album, was a challenge as she has spent her career trying to avoid singing pieces by other artists.

“How do you keep a song fresh that’s been sung for almost a century?” she asks, adding that, “You just have to bring your own story to who you are singing that night, it’s just like being an actress.”

“At the end of the day, I’m very insecure as an artist. I think that I always feel like there are better singers, better pianists, but a good lesson I grew up with is that you are your own competitor. In some ways that’s what keeps me releasing albums, I think I’m always trying to get better.”

“Monochrome” also includes two Meyer originals: the title track and “If I Think of You.” She says she included them to let her audience know that she still intends to provide her fans with some original material.

“It’s fun to come back to jazz and think how authentic you can be to yourself in a song or on stage,” she says. “It’s a good challenge, because that’s what jazz musicians think about. There’s no room to kind of hide behind your original music.”

On thoughts of where her work will take her next, Meyers says for now, she will be taking it easy.

“I’ve always felt like I needed to release an album per year and that’s really matched me,” she says, “but I’m at this place in my life where I kind of want to nurture each album and my back catalog. So I’m taking it easy seeing what my next steps are.”

“Monochrome” is in stores now.