Vincent Neil Emerson is a promising young (23) singer-songwriter based out of Fort Worth. He takes his songwriting seriously, and you can hear it in the works he crafts. His songwriting draws from some of the true powerhouses of the craft like Bob Dylan and Townes Van Zandt, while his sound invokes folk music with a hint of the country sound his now hometown is known for. I sat down (emailed him) with Vincent and asked him the soon to be obligatory questions you all want to know. Check out his really introspective responses below and check out some of his sounds. He’ll undoubtedly be playing somewhere near you soon.
Me: For starters, tell us a little about yourself. How did you first get into music? And when did you know this is what you want to do for a living (money be damned)?
VNE: I got my first guitar right around the time I dropped out of high school when I was 17. I’m not sure why I started playing and writing. I guess I was already writing poetry, so it just made sense to put those words to music. It’s easier to show people poems when they’re in song form, I suppose. It’s easier for people to digest.
I started listening to Bob Dylan pretty early on, and that opened up a whole world of music for me. I think I realized that I wanted to do this for a living when I was about 19. I was recording my songs and playing shows and open mics around Denton and Dallas. Back then, I had some pretty big ideas about being a famous musician. Those dreams kind of pittered out though. I started seeing the bigger picture, and reality kind of fell on top of me.
A few years ago, I was sleeping in my car in the dead of winter. I was homeless and jobless. I’d just gotten kicked out of my girlfriend’s house. I was a high school dropout with no future, but somehow, through the mercy of good people, I got back on my feet.
Now I’m focused on trying to build a lasting career. Fame has nothing to do with making good songs, and truth be told, a lot of things that come along with doing this for a living have nothing to do with making good songs. Right now I’m paying my bills with my songs. I feel like I’ve made it already, regardless of everyone else’s idea of success. Whatever happens next is just a plus for me.
Me: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?
VNE: If I had to describe my music to people in terms of genre, I guess I would be somewhere along the lines of country-folk, and early rock and roll with a honky tonk vibe, but I’m sure that will change with time. I’ve always tried to write good music with honest lyrics that are easy to understand. I like to keep things simple. I guess the best way to find out what kind of music I play is to decide for yourself. I don’t claim to be anything, I’m just here doing it. If people dig it, that’s cool. No matter what genre they slap on it.
Me: Who are some of your biggest musical influences, and why?
VNE: I hate to give you the cliche answer right away, but Bob Dylan is one of my biggest influences. Tom Waits once said that he’s like hammer and nails, every good songwriter should keep Dylan in their tool box. My songwriting world kind of got flipped on its head when I heard Townes Van Zandt. He’s the best songwriter that I’ve ever heard, and if you believe in the muses, he must have been having a love affair with one of them. John Prine is another one of those people that hit me like a ton of bricks, he showed me how to incorporate humor right alongside tragedy.
Lately, I’ve been on a Willie Nelson kick. Everybody loves Willie Nelson. He’s more American than Apple Pie or Television. But once you start digging in, he will change the way you think about music. He’s a damn genius. I also listen to a lot of newer people like Justin Townes Earle and John Moreland.
Me: Which of your songs means the most ot you, and if you don’t mind me asking, why?
VNE: I wrote a song called “7 Come 11” that I just released on my first record. It’s a requiem for Townes Van Zandt. Townes made a record called 7 come 11 back in the day that never made it to the public, due to complications iwth his record label and manager. It just sounded like a good title, so I took it and made it a song. It’s my favorite one so far, and I think I’ll be playing it for a long time. It feels like something that can last.
Me: If you could open for any act, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?
VNE: I think I’d like to open up for Harry Nilsson. I heard that guy knew how to party. I’d also like to play a show with Steve Earle before one of us dies.
Me: Any favorite new musical acts, local or otherwise?
VNE: John Moreland is a fairly recent discovery for me. That guy is killing it. Kenny Uptain is another local artist that I really enjoy listening to. David Matsler from the Quaker City Night Hawks is a badass too. Denver Williams and Luke McGlathery are two of my favorite Fort Worth artists to watch as well. Those guys know how to put on a show.
Me: What’s your “stranded on an island” record?
VNE: Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger
Me: Moving onto the home front, what are your favorite (and least favorite) things about the DFW music scene?
VNE: I really dig playing around DFW. It’s my home, there’s so much to love about it. My favorite thing about the DFW scene is the sense of community I have here with a lot of the people I play shows with. They’re like my family.
My least favorite part about the DFW music scene?…. I don’t really know. I tend to ignore the people and things that I don’t like or believe in. I don’t really spend too much time on the negatives.
Me: Favorite DFW venue to play (or see a show). Why?
VNE: The Where House was my favorite place to play. I’m sad it’s gone. There’s a lot of great places to play around here though. Anywhere where good people are hanging out is usually where I wanna be.
Me: Any favorite local acts people should be looking out for?
VNE: Charley Crocket is the jam. Denver Williams is great too. And I’m still waiting for David Matsler to put out a solo record. And Kenny Uptain, of course, my horse.
Me: And for shits and giggle, what’s a fun fact that most people don’t know about you?
VNE: Not many people know this, but I’m actually named after Vince Neil from Motley Crue. It’s gonna come out eventually, so I might as well fess up. Also, I don’t consider myself a country singer! Who would have known?
A big thanks to Vincent Neil Emerson for wasting his time to share his soul with us. The kid’s a great songwriter and he should have a bright future going forward. Be sure to check out his new record, East Texas Blues, below and pop out and say ‘Hello’ at an upcoming show. Vincent will be performing November 20 at Adair’s Saloon in Dallas.