Emilie Conway Jazz Singer

Finding her Voice

Emilie Conway's initiation into the world of jazz was a remarkable one:

“I was visiting Chicago the summer of 1999 and friends took me to the Green Mill jazz club for my birthday. I had never been to a jazz club before but what I heard that night blew me away and essentially changed the course of my life. It was blue note recording artist, Kurt Elling with guest Jon Hendricks and they were recording his “Live from Chicago” album. I had never heard anything like it yet I had the strangest feeling of having come home! And “home” was right here in this music - so I knew, this is the music I have to learn about and have to sing. There was an after-hours jam session that night and it’s great what a mixture of innocence, ignorance and enthusiasm will do! I went right up to Kurt and his band with “Secret Love” on my mind and he had his wonderful musicians Laurence Hobgood and Rob Amster, work out my key: Bb, I will never forget that. Barry Winograd was there also that night and he encouraged me completely. So that was my “debut” singing jazz - on one of the most legendary jazz stages with some of the world’s finest jazz musicians… not too shabby, eh!!”

Emilie’s baptism by fire with Kurt Elling in Chicago lit a passion for jazz. Following graduation with a BA (Hons) degree in English and German Literature from Trinity College Dublin in 1999, Emilie moved to Munich, Germany where her singing in pubs and at jam sessions soon saw her welcomed into the local community of artists and musicians. Jazz vocalist Melanie Bong, whom Emilie met at the Unterfahrt Jazz Club, introduced the fledgling singer to jazz great and instructor Sheila Jordan. After hearing Emilie sing, Jordan said, “You should come to America.”

Chicago Jazz

Within a year, Emilie returned to Chicago and sought out all the jazz she could wrap her ears around. Her apprenticeships with world-famous Blue Note recording artists, Jackie Allen as well as Sheila Jordan, saw her work reaching a level where she was soon performing at a variety of venues and with increasing demand.

“Chicago gave me a great start. I got to sing in a lot of fun places with great musicians: The Gateway Bar and Grill, Pelaggio’s, Cyrano’s Cabaret Café Simone, Maxim’s, The Lion’s Den, The Charleston, Glunz, Celtic Crossing, Fado, Big Joe’s, Café Mudd and more, as well as River North Art Galleries, and private events, with musicians Bradley Williams, Tom Tallman, Dan DeLorenzo, Bob Lovecchio, Darren Scorza, John Kregor, Neal Alger, Adam Haus, Mark Klumper, Ed Sullivan. Chicago was very, very good to me!”

Emilie was also the “on-call” vocalist for several bands including The Cook County Jazz Commission, Birdwatch, Loose Standards, The John Kregor Trio and Quartet, The Ten Cats. As featured vocalist for The College of DuPage Big Band, she had a number of arrangements written especially for her by Chicago’s famous big band arranger, Bill Westhrup.

Her fresh approach to singing and repertoire, influenced by Irish and folk traditions, attracted attention from WGN’s Barry Winnograd. In October 2005, she was interviewed live on “Live from the Heartland” with Michael James—a US national broadcast. That same year, Emilie completed a European tour with Chicago guitarist, John Kregor, performing with local musicians in Dublin, Paris and Munich including Hajo Von Hadeln and Sava Medan.

Singing and Study

Emilie was awarded scholarships to Berklee College of Music in Boston in April 2006 and to a series of summer jazz workshops at the Vermont Jazz Centre with Sheila Jordan and Jay Clayton in August of 2006. With respect to the studies and her influences Emilie says:

“I wanted to get some music training and I consider myself to be very lucky in that I have got to work with some great teachers who have guided and challenged me - Sheila, Jay, Melanie, Dorothy Murphy, Sheila Mc Carthy .. well I still have lots to learn. I continue to be most influenced by artists Billie Holiday, Joni Mitchell, Edith Piaf, Abbey Lincoln, Elis Regina, Kurt Elling, Sheila Jordan, Jay Clayton and Fionna Duncan. I believe all these vocalists have something in common - a minimalism - Joyce called it “scrupulous meanness”: say what you need to say, as truly, directly and simply as possible, then stop! Silence is beautiful. Why decorate the silence? I don’t need frills on the edges of music or silence - and I know I don’t do it. For me it obscures the meaning.”

Emilie Conway Sings Billie Holiday

Now, nearly a decade after her American initiation into the jazz world, her distinctive voice and inimitable style have earned her much acclaim in Ireland. Since its inception, “Emilie Conway sings Billie Holiday,” has received increasing attention and is loved by audiences. First performed December 2005 at The Boom Boom Room, with an encore performance at that venue in June 2006, the show regularly enjoys a sell-out audience.

Emilie was awarded an Arts Council grant to continue, “Emilie Conway sings Billie Holiday,” with musicians Francesco Turrisi, piano, Claus Kaarsgaard, bass, and Conor Murray, drums at the Linenhall in Mayo as well as to the Galway Jazz Club in Autumn 2007. “Emilie Conway sings Billie Holiday,” was performed to a packed house at Bewleys Café Theatre April 2007.

In Dublin Emilie has performed at the Bleu Note, Cassidy’s, Aurora Café Bar, the Red Bank Restaurant, The Clarence Hotel, Trinity College, The Westin Hotel, JJ Smyths, Stag’s Head, The Sugar Club, The Blue Goose, le Cirq, Leon, The James Joyce Ctr. Cobalt Cafe as well as for private functions with musicians Johnny Taylor, Francesco Turrisi, Michael Behan, Peter Erdei, Dave Mooney, Dave Flemming, Claus Kaarsgaard, (DK) Tom Prior, Conor Murray, Dominic Mullan and Dennis Cassidy.

Via Vermont, Edinburgh, Denmark, Enter Fionna Duncan

Apart from performing in Ireland, Emilie also performs in Germany, the United States: Boston, Chicago, Vermont, and since 2006 in Copenhagen, Denmark with musicians Heine Hansen / Mads Sondergaard, Claus Kaarsgaard, and Guffi Pallesen at Café Intime, Restaurant Wilumsen and at the Plaza Hotel with vocalist Cathrine Legardh.

“I met vocalists Cathrine Legardh from Copenhagen and Cathie Rae from Edinburgh on the course at Vermont in August 2006 and they not only introduced me to the jazz scene in Edinburgh and Copenhagen but also saw to it that the wonderful Scottish Jazz vocalist Fionna Duncan came into my life and music. She is mentor, teacher and role model to me - but no longer guru of malboro lights - since she quit - and I can’t commit to anything approaching the requisite regularity of a “habit”!!”

Upcoming Projects

Emilie Conway’s work steadily embraces national and international projects, actively engaging collaboration between Irish and international jazz artists. In order to maintain her own artistic development, she is dedicated to fostering professional relationships with up-and-coming as well as established musicians. Also, because of her academic background in and love for languages, her repertoire includes pieces sung in several different languages.

“I am so very excited about my upcoming project - “No Regrets,” Across the Continents, the Music of Great Female Vocalists: Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf, Joni Mitchell, Abbey Lincoln, Elis Regina. (Long title, I know, but at least you can be sure we will do exactly what it says on the tin!) I am excited about it for so many reasons: for me this show is an act of claiming my inheritance - of acknowledging the female vocalists who most inspire and influence me, both as artists and women, and pay them tribute. Plus, I get to perform so many musical styles in one show, I get to sing in the beautiful languages of French and Portugese and I have a (quite international) stellar band accompanying me, with whom it is always a sheer delight to sing: Francesco Turrisi, originally from Italy resident four years in Ireland, piano, Claus Kaarsgaard, (from Denmark), double bass, and Conor Murray (from Ireland!) /Joao Lobo (from Portugal via Belgium) drums.”

Owing to the success of “Emilie Conway Sings Billie Hoiliday,” Emilie was invited back to the Linenhall to present “No Regrets" and to Bewleys's Cafe Theatre for 2 nights in December 2008.

Also in November 2008, Emilie Conway and Danish vocalist Cathrine Legardh travelled to the United States on invitation to perform at the Vermont Jazz Centre and Acton Jazz Café accompanied by Harvey Diamond, piano, James Mac Donald bass, and Claire Arenius, drums.


"But Beautiful" In love With Jazz In Summer at Bewleys Cafe Theatre, May 2009.

"it's actually 10 years ago this summer since I first really heard jazz, 10 years ago since that first meeting with Kurt Elling, so this show marks a kind of anniversary! I realised, in putting the show together, that my relationship with jazz always seemed to grow particularly in summer so the tagline - In Love with Jazz In Summer, was obvious. And then, I wanted to sing all my favourite tunes, the ones that have come to say what I am learning about life, about love, about this exquisite experience of being on the planet! For me,that tune by Jimmy Van Heusen & Johnny Burke, "But Beautiful" sums it up. I think it is one of the simplest, most beautiful things ever written.
I am delighted to be singing with Dave Flemming, Johnny Taylor and Dominic Mullan."


Emilie Sings Billie
A 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Life and Music of Lady Day
Bewley's Cafe Theatre, Dec 2009

"This year sees the 50th Anniversary of Billie Holiday's untimely death and in honour of that, I am revisiting "Emilie Sings Billie" with an Anniversary Celebration of Lady Day's life and music. Much is made of the dark side of Billie Holiday but I think to take this focus is to oversimplify and sensationalize. To me, Billie Holiday was a very sensitive very gifted and very independent minded lady about 30 years ahead of her time. She said and sang what thought and felt and that made her controversial. Her honesty and her humanity is beautiful and inspirational and its all there in her music. Joining me in Bewley's on the 2nd Dec will be Johnny Taylor, piano, Dave Fleming, bass and Dominic Mullan, drums. :)"


"You Must Believe In Spring"
Jazz Standards from Bill Evans, AC Jobim, Michel LeGrand, Abbey lincoln & more
DUO, March 4, QUARTET, March 11 2010
Bewley's Cafe Theatre

"You must believe in Spring - well of course you must! Michel LeGrand is right - its the most unlikely thing to happen after the cold brittle relentlessness of winter and yet it happens every year!! Little green shoots and tiny fragile flowers... And rain - (some things are a constant) I love the line in in Jobims "Aguas de Marco," "E a lama, e a lama." (It's the mud, it's the mud! yep, spring involves a whole lot of mud!)
But "Aguas" is such a beautiful and fun affirmation of all the aspects of spring:

"And the riverbank talks of the waters of March
Its the promise of life, its the joy in your heart."

Singing in duo, and singing in quartet bring very different things from the music and following our recent recording I wanted to explore and present this. So that is what we will do on these two Thursdays in March: present music about spring and all that the season brings of love, hope, change colour and a lot of rainy, changeable weather through the lens of the duo and quartet.


"O Cantador" Emilie Conway Sings Elis Regina
The evocative melodies and grooves of Bossa Noca from Brazil, Aguas de Marco, Garato de Ipanema, Madalena & more.
TRIO June 10th, QUARTET June 23rd 2010
Bewley's Cafe Theatre

Ever since "No Regrets" show back in 2008 when I presented the music of my main female influences/inspirations I have wanted to get back to focus exclusively on Elis Regina.

Elis (March 17, 1945 – January 19, 1982)achieved nationwide fame at age twenty when she won a festival competition with the song Arrastao. She went on to become one of the most important singers of Bossa Nova and Musica Popular Brasileira. She was outspoken and protested the dictatorship in Brazil at the time. Her nicknames were "furacão" ("hurricane") and "pimentinha" ("little pepper").

I came to this music initially drawn to its evocative and beautiful melodies and their rhythms. But as I began to understand and sing in Portuguese, I realise that what they were writing, Jobim, Lins, de Moraes, Bosco, Caymmi/Motta, Powell, Buarque, is pure poetry; lyrically and musically a beautiful poetry that truly says something about our world, about power and love, about being human. No wonder Elis sang these songs.

"ah eu canto a dor, Canto a vida, e a morte, canto a amor" Caymmi/Motta
That song, "O Cantador," I never came across a song before like this one, that so expresses what it is like to be someone who sings.....It really sums it up for me.

I am accompanied by from Brazil Robson Rocha, guitar and Andre Antunes, drums percussion and from Ireland, Dave Mooney, bass.


EDINBURGH FESTIVAL FRINGE - "A Time for Love" 28th & 29th Aug
Jazz Standards, Bossa Nova and Traditional from Bill Evans, Johnny Mandel, AC Jobim, Abbey Lincoln & more
The Acousitic Music Centre @ St Brides, 10 Orwell Terrace
Tickets / Info + 44 (0) 131 668 2019

"As time goes drifting by,
The willow bends, and so do I.
But oh my friend, whatever skies above
I’ve known a time for spring, a time for fall
But best of all, is a time for love."
Johnny Mandel/Paul Webster

From birth, time becomes our elusive assailant. We think or worry so much about time, not having enough of it, wasting it, wishing for more of it or wishing it away, wondering where it went to, or where it goes to, … No matter what we do with it, it changes us and we are always acting or reacting to it. A few years ago, this thought came to me and I have not been able to forget it:

"Time is love, and love is how you spend your time."

I really believe it is that complicated-simple that present, beautiful, rigorous, ordinary, mysterious, transformative and funny …but this is just my opinion - and it is the inspiration for this concert.

Emilie Conway, voice
Ronnie Rae, Jr, piano
Ronnie Rae Sr, double bass.