Backstage News

Creatives’ Day Artist Highlight: Emma Dilemma

June 12, 2018

Emma Berkley was born in Los Angeles but moved to Asheville, North Carolina when she was 7 years old. Ten years ago she came to Nashville in a punk duo called Chicken Little, but as of late she has grown into singer songwriter Emma Dilemma. She met Brian Sexton, President and founder of Creative’s Day at a tea shop in East Nashville and eventually gave him her EP. Brian  invited Emma to participate as one of the artists in the Creatives’ Day Residency program at the Hutton Hotel and here she shares some of her aspirations and what she’s learned in the residency program so far.

If you missed it, be sure to check out the Creatives’ Day Residency at Hutton Hotel overview.


What instruments do you play? 

I play mostly guitar and accordion. And sing.

How old were you when you started playing?

I’ve been singing in school choirs and musicals since I was in elementary school, and sang in the home long before then. I started playing piano when I was 12. But I started playing in a band when I was out of college at around age 22.

If you could play another instrument what would it be?

Clarinet! I’m teaching myself actually…or trying.

What were your earliest musical memories or influences?

Some of my earliest musical memories…well earliest would be listening to Paul Simon on vinyl when I was very little. It enchanted me. I also grew up singing classic show tunes from musicals like Guys and Dolls with my dad around an old stand up piano. My other earliest musical memory was seeing Doc Watson live and Emmylou Harris live. Emmylou was my first live concert that my dad took me to. I was so in love and had listened to her growing up, so this was an inspirational moment for sure. Doc Watson I saw for the first time when I was maybe 8 or 9? It was such a life-changing experience. Seeing someone with such grace and talent. He could tell a story on stage like you were sitting in his living room by the fire. That taught me something about performing.

What musicians do you admire? 

I admire so many musicians, because any musician that is doing good work is working very hard, and I respect that. I really admire(d) Leonard Cohen, Gillian Welch, Tom Waits, Regina Spektor…these are just a few I love so much.

If you could meet/play with any musician alive or dead who would it be? 

Leonard Cohen, hands down. I’ve dreamed of singing back-up vocals for him.

How has it been working with Creatives’ Day?

Brian has been so supportive and encouraging with this project, and he’s really trying to make this an opportunity for growth and learning for all of us.

What have you learned from Creatives’ Day Residency? 

So far, I’ve learned to self-direct a little more in the studio, which is always a challenge, and also be fluid. I’ve also learned about so many avenues that musicians can go down in the business. And I’m learning what directions feel authentic/make sense for me.

What are you most looking forward to about the Creatives’ Day Residency experience? 

Looking forward to getting some solid tracks down, but also making new friends.

What do you hope to learn from the entire Creatives’ Day experience? 

I hope to learn more about myself as an artist and where I want my next project to go.

How is it working in the writing rooms?

The writing rooms are really cool. I’ve enjoyed my time there so far. It’s a nice cozy room with books and candles and instruments. Makes it pretty welcoming to a musician. And everyone who works at the Hutton has been really nice.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?  

Not entirely sure! Possibly still here in Nashville. Possibly somewhere else. But definitely still playing to audiences and recording as much as I can!

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