Cultural Quilting on the Lower East Side Emily King blends the music of different eras, cultures and genres. Her first album is called East Side Story. The title is a shout-out to the Lower East Side, Manhattan neighborhood where she was raised.
NPR logo

Cultural Quilting on the Lower East Side

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Cultural Quilting on the Lower East Side


Cultural Quilting on the Lower East Side

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

(Soundbite of music)


Finally this hour, an introduction to a singer you probably haven't heard of, yet.

(Soundbite of music)

(Soundbite of humming)

NORRIS: Emily King blends the music of different eras, different cultures and different genres.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. EMILY KING (Singer): (Singing) I just want to live my life because I want and I need to…

NORRIS: Her first album is called "East Side Story." The title is a shout-out to the Lower East Side, Manhattan neighborhood where she was raised. At 21, Emily King still lives there, and her sound is very much an outgrowth of her neighborhood's cultural quilt - reggae, salsa and the sounds of Eastern Europe floating up from the street into her open bedroom window, hip-hop on the radio. But it was her parents, both jazz vocalists that left the biggest musical imprint.

Ms. KING: They were my teachers. I never went to music school or anything like that. I kind of subconsciously soak up everything that they were doing, you know? We had a piano in my house, and they just practiced their vocals and harmonies, and things like that.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. KING: (Singing) It ain't easy, to see is to believe, no.

NORRIS: There's a particular song on the CD that I like to ask you about. It's a song called "Colorblind."

Ms. KING: Uh-huh. This is a kind of organic song. Getting into different kinds of issues, life issues - the issue of race in America period.

NORRIS: The issue of race from your perspective…

Ms. KING: Uh-huh.

NORRIS: …as a bi-racial daughter of one parent is African-American, and the other parent is Italian-American. Is that correct?

Ms. KING: That's right.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. KING: (Singing) I used to think I was the same as everyone till I heard the world that turned and rolled around.

It was hard for me to write about this subject. You know, I have a lot of anger and not just being bi-racial with just seeing at - people still have a hard time accepting each other and I kind of have to look deep and remember some things that I have been through for the lyrics - and it kind of just came, you know, the first time I listened to it after we recorded it, I cried.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. KING: (Singing) Could be.

I don't know, I think it's an important song for me.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. KING: (Singing) To believe what's on your mind. Now I sing it. It's always been so different. Always the same to what we feel inside. They say it's in the rhythm but what really change with me is glad…

NORRIS: Are most of your songs in the CD personal?

Ms. KING: Yeah. I definitely write from things that happened to me. You know, there's a love song on there that I kind of wrote about my family again because I guess they stayed together for a long time and then they divorced. There's a song in there called "It was You." It was me kind of imagining myself in that place, and in writing about it would happen. That was the time I can't understand what happened.

(Soundbite of song, "It was You")

Ms. KING: (Singing) Because it was you all the time. I can remember it was you who promised me forever. That things would be right, it was you, baby, cry. Now you, I'd say goodbye. To the lies and the truth, it was you.

NORRIS: How difficult is it as an artist to write something so personal and then watch that go through the production process where the music grows and expands and becomes something different than what you fist envisioned?

Ms. KING: You know, it's tough is when you have to appease people of that. I'm in the studio with you. That was really, really tough for me.

NORRIS: Where did you find the courage to say no? It's not easy to say when you're a new artist and you get a lot of pressure and you want to sell records?

Ms. KING: I think the courage comes from the knowledge that with or without it, it's going to be all right. Without, I'm going to be in Madison Square Garden when they or back to the cafes. That's where I get the confidence from just having faith that I just have to do what I fell or else I'll be all right on my own. And I think of the process of this album really set that in stone.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. KING: (Singing) I have been waiting for all of this time.

NORRIS: Well, Emily, it's been a pleasure to talk to you.

Ms. KING: Thank you.

NORRIS: Thank you so much for coming by the studio.

Ms. KING: Lots of thank yous, it's been a pleasure.

NORRIS: Emily King's new album is "East Side Story." You could hear more of her music at our Web site,

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. KING: (Singing) Before you came my world was empty. My world was empty. You got the joy that's my song. (Unintelligible) the joy that. I know that we're more than friendly. I know. I know. Because I want to be with you always. (Unintelligible). I have been waiting…


You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.