Hailing from Guelph, Ontario, and now residing in Toronto, Emma Worley spent many years dedicated to a career as an emerging visual artist. Upon graduating from the Ontario College of Art and Design University, Worley garnered attention for her sculpture/installation work through exhibitions, installations, and residencies at various high-profile institutions. However, despite her burgeoning success in the visual-arts world, Worley found herself compulsively drawn towards creating the material that would become her debut album, Sentimentalist. Pulling from lived experience, triumph, heartbreak, and everything in between, the wisdom and grace of this collection is telling of Worley's dedication to relatable storytelling and emotional finesse.
Worley began laying the foundation for Sentimentalist with Miles Breithaupt (Babygirl, Father Moth) in the Spring of 2020. Through a chance meeting with bass player and future collaborator, Ben Whiteley (The Weather Station, Julia Jacklin), the project’s intent began to grow. Worley recalls first seeing Whiteley perform alongside Julia Jacklin on her NPR Tiny Desk performance, in which she lovingly refers to him as ‘Beautiful Ben’. The next day, as fate would have it, a chance meeting at a coffee shop directed Whiteley into Worley’s orbit. Soon after, he became heavily involved in the ongoing recording project.
Through mutual friends, Worley invited up and coming producer and session musician Jasper Smith (Georgia Harmer, Jeremie Albino) into the equation. Smith's ear for subtle arrangements and celestial scoring became an integral element in shaping the sonic character of the project. With everyone’s touring schedules put on hold due to the pandemic, this new dream team of like minded studio virtuosos set out on framing Worleys expertly crafted material. Throughout the experience, Worley recalls the camaraderie of the group as unflinching. She fondly reflects on a moment in the alley behind Whiteley's family home, where Whiteley used his phone to record her singing the seed ideas for string parts. From there, Whiteley developed the orchestral arrangements on which he plays cello and double bass. He then sent these recordings to genius string composer Drew Jurecka (Dua Lipa, Bahamas), who brought them to life with viola and violin.
The power of Sentimentalist exists within the restraint and subtlety of the arrangements, which frame the poetic lyrical twists and turns of the dream-like world that Worley has cultivated. There is a playful swagger which harkens to the likes of Rickie Lee Jones, while maintaining the cloak and dagger heart wrench of Leonard Cohen. This record feels effortless, yet finely sculpted, and reaches well beyond the expected confines of a first release, rather showcasing the maturity and confidence of a songwriter deep into their catalogue. It proves that sometimes a leap of faith can plunge you deep into a new world of endless possibility.
Killbeat Media Release, May 11 2022.