When musicians say they’ve been inspired by certain performers, you just have to take their word for it. Durham singer/songwriter Emily Musolino wants people to know who influenced her right from the moment they see her.
“Etta James is probably one of my biggest influences – I’ve got her tattoo right here,” says Musolino, 26, pointing to her left bicep, where James’s face appears. Above James is Janis Joplin, another of her idols. “They’ve been really big inspirations. Anything with a big vocalist I’m a big fan of, like Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra.” Musolino has always been a fan of older jazz music, but she also grew up on the heavy metal of Pantera and Metallica. “It just seems to come out through my filter in a bluesy, soulful way.”
Bluesy and soulful are two good ways to describe Musolino’s music. Profane, outrageous and downright merciless are also some words that might pop in the cranium while listening to her belt out tunes from her latest release, the 2014 EP “Jealous Girl.” (One of her exes referred to her music as “Adele meets People of Walmart.” “I thought it was funny,” says Musolino. “It was a cool comparison.”)
The title track alone – a menacing, lounge-ish ditty where Musolino assumes the role of a scorned gal getting her revenge on a cheating lady friend – is enough to make you understand how unfiltered Musolino can get as a performer. “I mean, it’s a fantasy, obviously, that didn’t actually happen,” she says. “But that’s the best way to deal with those types of feelings: just get it out through the art.”
As a woman who grew up in the South and came out at age 16, music has not only been a calling, but a form of therapy. Immediately after graduating from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, she returned to her Durham hometown to set up her own recording studio, called Blue Moose Studios, perform and record with other artists (she’s also a member of the indie rock/blues group Dark Water Rising) and release her self-titled solo debut in 2012, which mostly consisted of acoustic numbers. (She’ll be returning to her acoustic roots Friday when she opens for Urban Soil at Raleigh’s Pour House.)
For “Jealous,” she wanted to front her own band and land a rhythm section to back up her raunchy vocals and raucous guitar licks. But even though the official photos for The Emily Musolino Band has Musolino posing with bassist Antwon Timmons and drummer Dru Cannady, a few other Durham artists, including Eric Hirsh (The Beast) and Will Darity (The Brand New Life), also worked on the album.
But she’s not content with only singing her tunes. She’s also dabbling into the hippity-hop. Earlier this week, she shot a video for a tune by Dula X, the “superduo alien rap group” that consists of Musolino and childhood pal Laura Heckman (aka Dr. Laurable).
It may be stating the obvious, but whether she’s coming up with estrogen-heavy, barroom blues or goofily spitting some rhymes with an old friend, we can confidently say that Emily Musolino is a wild one.
Who: Urban Soil, with The Broadcast and Emily Musolino
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Where: The Pour House Music Hall, 224 S. Blount St., Raleigh
Info: 919-821-1120 or thepourhousemusichall.com