Volume 96, Issue 94
Thursday, March 27, 2003

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Emm Gryner wants to be your Canadian Idol, kind of

By Andrea Chiu
Gazette Staff

It was one of those nights in 1999.

It was the first time I saw Emm Gryner live in concert. It was the kind of night where memories were blurred due to the consumption of beer – good, microbrewery beer. But despite this, there was a certain energy in the air.

In between sips of Robinson's Red Ale, I witnessed the tiny songstress with the big voice perform to a full house. Back in 1999, the name Emm Gryner was usually associated with the one time radio hit, "Summerlong," but she had not yet become a household name. That summer she toured around Ontario's finest living rooms performing to fans and whoever else would listen in order to promote her music.

Four years and five albums later, Gryner rarely performs in homes. Those days are long gone, substituted by world travel, work with the likes of David Bowie and Rob Zombie and a larger fan following. Despite her success, Gryner admits she wouldn't mind being more of a celebrity, especially in these tumultuous times.

"In a time like this, I wish I was more famous. One of the good things about being recognized is that you can influence people," Gryner says. "[The issues] need to be addressed. It can't be going on the way it is with this many people divided over the war. I struggle between making people aware of it and helping people forget about it. It's a strange line to walk."

On this day, Gryner is calling from her new home in Montreal, while in the middle of her cross-Canada tour with Holly McNarland. It's the day after the Academy Awards and the entertainment world is a buzz with Michael Moore's dramatic acceptance speech. Although she relates to many of Moore's opinions, she doesn't feel a need to be as upfront about expressing her views.

"I feel more like Adrien Brody," she declares, in reference to the actor's compassionate acceptance speech. "There's something to be said about bringing attention to [the war] in a positive way. It was more of an emotional expression which I think is missing. We all protest, but there is some real emotion tied to the fact that awards are being handed out while people are dying."

In times of struggle, art – especially music – has served as a release from troubles. Gryner no doubt recognizes her importance as a musician and has tried to feed her fans melodic escape as often as possible by releasing a new album every year.

Last August saw the release of Asianblue, an album that subtly throws references to the punk and retro influences she listened to while growing up in rural Ontario. Due to the success of the album's singles "Beautiful Things" and "Symphonic," Gryner was sad to break the news that she won't be able to continue the tradition and produce another record before the year's end.

"We might have another single. Fortunately, being independent allows you to make your own schedule," she says. "There is probably going to be another tour and it will be in support of this album."

For a musician who works independently, this kind of success is not undeserving, but it is hard to come by. Four years ago when she played "C'est What" on that summer night, Gryner may have had higher expectations for her career. But after discussing the dark side of war, there's no doubt that she is content with her life's path thus far.

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2002 THE GAZETTE