Singer-songwriter Emily Scott Robinson knows a thing or two about taking the long way around, and her songs provide solace for others on the same journey.
Robinson started playing guitar as a teenager, teaching herself at home after being inspired by music-loving summer camp counselors. Years later, a live performance from Nancy Griffith sparked a new interest in the art of songwriting. She kept writing throughout college, even as she worked towards earning degrees in history and Spanish. After graduation, she became a social worker and translator, serving victims of abuse and sexual assault.
In 2013, Robinson attended a songwriting retreat in Colorado that changed her life. Inspired by her fellow participants who embraced her songs and exposed her to the ways of traveling musicians, she decided to get serious about her music.
Her debut album, Magnolia Queen, was met with a warm response from listeners and critics alike. It was her sophomore album, though, that launched Robinson to acclaim. Traveling Mercies was much celebrated and introduced a broader audience to her storytelling.
When Robinson shared her 2020 single, "The Time for Flowers," she caught the attention of the folks from Oh Boy Records. Since inking a deal with the beloved Americana label, the talented singer-songwriter has released her 2021 album, American Siren, and the 2022 EP Built on Bones, a witchy, ethereal collaboration with Alisa Amador and Violet Bell.
Let's take a look at 10 songs that showcase Emily Scott Robinson's incredible musical talents.
"Delta Line"from 'Traveling Mercies' (2019)
Robinson is of the special breed of songwriters who makes songs filled with conjured characters feel just as lived-in and authentic as the songs that reflect her own life.
On "Delta Line," we meet a handful of women who struggle with the hard-luck cards they've been dealt. Robinson's lyrics read like poetry, filled with haunting images of trains that come as warnings and bring sleepless nights.
"Cheap Seats"from 'American Siren' (2021)
It's impossible to listen to "Cheap Seats" and not smile. The song chronicles Robinson's years spent working for tips and dreaming from the cheap seats about being the one up on stage.
The feel-good song comes full circle when Robinson talks to her younger self in the last verse: "Here's to the cheap seats, now I'm the big show / I wish I could go back and tell that girl that I know / That every big dream and every heart prayer / And every long road would deliver me up there."
"Marriage Ain't the End of Being Lonely"from 'Magnolia Queen' (2016)
Robinson's debut, Magnolia Queen, is full of songs that possess the kind of wisdom one would expect from a veteran songwriter. "Marriage Ain't the End of Being Lonely" is a piercing look at the way a relationship can deteriorate, draining the love that was and replacing it with pain.
"When It Don't Come Easy"from 'When It Don't Come Easy' (2022)
In 2022, Robinson released her cover of Patty Griffin's "When It Don't Come Easy." Robinson's soprano fits the song like a glove. Backed by a subtle acoustic guitar, her voice takes center stage.
"The Dress"from 'Traveling Mercies' (2019)
"The Dress" took years for Robinson to write. The raw, personal track recounts her experience sorting through laundry and finding the dress she had been wearing the night she was sexually assaulted. Her lyrics are painstakingly honest as she asks, "Was there some sign I ignored? / Was there even time to run from that storm?"
"The Time for Flowers"from 'The Time for Flowers' (2020)
Robinson's catalog holds space for all emotions. She makes room for revisiting old wounds and challenging questions, yet this doesn't cancel out her capacity for grace and hope, which she explores on the tender track, "The Time for Flowers." She sings, "The skies are clear now / The moon is new / Let's raise a glass, my friends / We made it through."
"Men and Moons"from 'Built on Bones' (2022)
Built on Bones is a hauntingly beautiful EP. Each of the six tracks is a spell cast by a coven of witchy poets and musicians: Emily Scott Robinson, Alisa Amador, and Violet Bell. In particular, "Men and Moon" stands out for its simple grace.
The three women's voices are enchanting as the song's lyrics ascend to a prayer: "Aid my voice and aid my love / Turn mine eyes to stars above / Guard my journey through the night / And keep for me a guiding light."
"Borrowed Rooms and Old Wood Floors"from 'Traveling Mercies' (2019)
"Borrowed Rooms and Old Wood Floors" feels like a winter chill coming through the wood panes of an old house. On the stark track, Robinson looks at the lonesome side of living an uprooted life on the road.
In the song's most weary moment, she sings, "Was it this cold last year, I can't remember / The leaves are turnin' early for September / I wish that I could stick around / Another drive, another show, another stranger's house."
"Old Gods"from 'American Siren' (2021)
"Old God" was released as the first single from American Siren and remains one of Robinson's most highly-streamed songs to date. Four years since its debut, the timeless song finds Robinson tapping into some of our most ancient wounds and longings.
"Better With Time"from 'Traveling Mercies' (2019)
Oftentimes, change brings heartache. Sometimes, though, it's sweet, as in the case of "Better With Time." In this popular cut from Traveling Mercies, Robinson's warm soprano resists nostalgia and is rooted in gratitude for the present as she sings, "Oh, the memories are sweet, but I wouldn't trade 'em for / The way we fight a little less now, make love a little more."