Next in our series of interviews with some of Central Ohio’s finest jazz musicians is vocalist Emily Syring (photo by Josh Smith). Already successful as a vocalist with groups including Bluewater Kings, The Tubs, and Whiskey Business, Syring’s jazz career is on the rise, having recently assembled her own group, the ES Quintet (ESQ). The quintet performs a skillful brand of jazz/pop fusion, with an excellent cast of young musicians including Zakk Jones on guitar, Andrew Willard on keyboards, Jeff Bass on bass, and Matthiessen Nisch Quan on drums. The ES Quintet has two great gigs upcoming, including an appearance at the Columbus Jazz & Rib Fest (see below). Keep reading for insights into Syring’s musical background and current projects:
When and why did you start playing music and jazz?
Emily Syring (ES): I’ve been singing my entire life with various choirs and groups but I first became interested in jazz during high school when I started listening to all the great traditional jazz vocalists. I didn’t have a lot of exposure to this style of music growing up so when I discovered it, I was entirely obsessed. Since then, it’s been a goal of mine to be able to sing this style regularly and professionally. I was able to experiment a bit with this while I received my vocal performance degree at Miami University but I didn’t start singing it professionally until after I graduated. I formed ES Quintet in January of 2016 and we’ve been playing around Columbus ever since.
Who are some of your main influences in your playing/performing?
ES: Of course, the great traditional jazz vocalists, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee, Shirley Horn, Frank Sinatra. During college, I started listening to some contemporary artists that really influenced my style and musical direction. This included Melody Gardot, Stacey Kent, Kat Edmonson, Madeleine Peyroux, Diana Krall. I really love listening to the way these women take the jazz vocal tradition and meld it into a new, unique sound/style while still maintaining the foundation that previous jazz vocalists laid out.
What is your fondest musical memory?
ES: If I had to choose one from my jazz group, I think I’d have to say the first time ESQ got together to run through some tunes we were doing for a demo CD. It was the first time I heard our sound together and the first time I was really able to sing the style I’m most passionate about with my own group. It was just such a fulfilling time and I feel very grateful to be able to perform some of my favorite music with such incredible musicians.
What are you listening to today? What’s on your playlist?
ES: I just got turned on to Esperanza Spalding a few months ago and Cyrille Aimee who I’ve been loving. They’re definitely creating new pathways in jazz singing that are completely changing the way I perceive singing.
What inspires you about the Columbus Jazz scene?
ES: It really inspires me to see how hard everyone works in this city all while maintaining a sense of humility and fun. I really get an impression that people in this city are truly seeking to do what they love and working to achieve excellence of musicianship.
What are you working on currently? Any new projects, exciting shows or releases?
ES: Getting ESQ up and running is my main focus right now. Our upcoming show at Jazz & Ribs Fest is definitely something we’re looking forward to.
Where can local audiences see you play in the near future?
ES: We have two fun shows coming up for ES Quintet:
Thursday, July 21st, 10pm – 2am @ Dick’s Den
Friday, July 22nd, 5 – 6:30pm @ Jazz & Ribs Fest on the Bicentennial Park Stage
Some fall shows are going to be announced soon. You can check out our website esquintet.com or follow us on Facebook to get updates on upcoming shows.