Top News

Up-and-coming Hants County singer-songwriter tackling mental health, LGBTQ issues head first

Emma Burry has been playing the piano since she was five years old. When she’s visiting her parents in Greenhill, she often can be found tickling the ivories.
Emma Burry has been playing the piano since she was five years old. When she’s visiting her parents in Greenhill, she often can be found tickling the ivories. - Carole Morris-Underhill

Emma Burry's songs are helping to break down barriers

GREENHILL, N.S. —

Finding a vessel that will allow people to talk openly about mental health is something an emerging artist in Nova Scotia is attempting to do.

Emma Burry, a Halifax-based singer-songwriter with Hants County roots, released her first single in November 2018 and she’s not holding back when it comes to tackling big issues.

The song, entitled For a Sad Soul, is dedicated in memory of her friend, Cayley Fox, who died due to mental illness in January 2016.

“I want to stick to my values as supporting the LGBTQ community, supporting mental health, speaking up for people who may not necessarily speak up for themselves, and doing what I can to give back,” said Burry while sitting in front of a roaring fire at her parents’ home on Woodville Road, in Greenhill.

Burry, who attended King’s-Edgehill School in Windsor from Grade 7-12, met Fox while playing rugby with the Hants County Machine women’s team. They both attended St. Mary’s University, where they both played rugby and took biology courses together, and they became fast friends.

“I wanted that to be my first song that I released,” said Burry. “At the launch party, where we released the music video, we were raising money for the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia.”

The launch party raised $375. 

The soon-to-be 24-year-old worked with Mirror Image Media to produce her first video, which is available on YouTube.

“In the music video, we wanted to show how mental illness can affect same sex relationships because I feel like that’s not talked about a lot,” she said.

Burry, who said she’s incredibly proud of her first single and the corresponding video, said she’s received a mixed response from businesses she’s asked to share her video to help raise awareness of issues facing the LGBTQ community.

Singer-songwriter Emma Burry is finding her voice and hopes to one day tour across Canada.
Singer-songwriter Emma Burry is finding her voice and hopes to one day tour across Canada.

“Companies are saying they won’t share it because it’s too sensitive of material to share,” said Burry.

“You know that there is still a stigma when companies aren’t willing to share a music video about mental health.”

Burry said the response she’s received from listeners, however, has been overwhelmingly positive.

“I have people all over the world messaging me, thanking me for being so open about the experiences that I’ve gone through,” said Burry.

“I think talking about it... just singing about depression or mental illness, that will normalize it.”

Burry’s second single, Bi the Way, is currently in post-production and is expected to drop sometime in March or early April.

“I think there’s also a lot of stigma around bisexuality and how you have to pick one or the other kind of thing,” said Burry. “I talk about it personally — how I’m more attracted to women. I find men attractive but I would want to spend the rest of my life with a woman. So, it covers that and how it’s a spectrum.”

She said she’s not sure what reaction her latest song will receive, but she’s hopeful it will get people talking about taboo subjects and garner fans along the way.

Where it all began

Burry, who was born in Edmonton, grew up in Port Williams before her family moved to Greenhill when she was 15.

She was always musically-inclined, starting piano lessons when she was five years old, and then picked up the clarinet.

“I started playing clarinet when I was 10. I played clarinet at King’s every year in the class band, jazz band, concert band, cadet band. We performed at Disney and Julliard, and all these places.”

She also dabbled briefly with guitar lessons, but gave those up. She rediscovered guitar when she began university.

And while she would sing, she always shied away from the spotlight.

Emma Burry, with her pal Alice, grew up in Port Williams and has called her parents’ farm on Woodville Road, in Greenhill, home since she was a teenager. Burry currently lives in Halifax, but visits the area frequently. - Carole Morris-Underhill
Emma Burry, with her pal Alice, grew up in Port Williams and has called her parents’ farm on Woodville Road, in Greenhill, home since she was a teenager. Burry currently lives in Halifax, but visits the area frequently. - Carole Morris-Underhill

“I would not sing alone. In coffee houses, I would sing backup for a friend. I was in the choir and musicals but I never would audition for lead roles or anything,” she said.

She’s since found her voice.

She says she doesn’t want her sound to be pigeonholed, but if it is to be classified, it probably would be considered alternative folk with jazz elements.

For Burry, writing music is cathartic.

“I communicate best through music. I would rather sing about what I’m feeling than talk to someone,” said Burry.

“When I’m feeling down or something, instead of calling a friend, I’ll write a poem or write lyrics. Maybe it’ll be a song, maybe not. But I find that it is a really good outlet for myself.”

Although Burry graduated in 2017 with a biology degree, she’s focusing on her music full-time. She rehearses every day and works on writing new songs. She carries a journal around with her in case inspiration hits. And she’s working on landing some gigs.

She’s got one performance lined up in March at Gus’ Pub, and she’s the special opening act at the 4th annual Cayley Fox Memorial Fundraiser on April 5. Chad and the Five Arm Stud will be the headliner. There will be a silent auction and concert, at the Porters Lake Pub, starting at 7 p.m. and money raised will go towards the special scholarship fund that is set up in Fox’s memory at SMU.

Burry said she’s excited to have the opportunity to explore her musical side and hopes to one day play venues across the country.

“Performing across Canada would be amazing, and releasing an album, that’d be huge.”

For now, though, she’d love to play before a hometown crowd.

“I’m mainly in Halifax. If I had an opportunity to do a show here, I would be floored. I would absolutely do it,” she said.

Emma Burry is hoping her alternative folk sound will be appealing to listeners as she launches her music career.
Emma Burry is hoping her alternative folk sound will be appealing to listeners as she launches her music career.

RELATED

Recent Stories