STORY WRITTEN BY CRAIG OSTROFF
For 21st Century Media
For Emma Cullen, music is about the act of creating and performing. It’s about the camaraderie with her fellow musicians. It’s not a competition.
Still, it’s never a bad thing when you’ve picked up your first award before you even have your driver’s license.
Cullen, a freshman at Perkiomen Valley High School, closed out a very eventful 2014 by winning the 2014 PHL Live Center Stage award in the pop category.
“That was a really, really awesome experience,” Cullen said of her involvement with PHL Live, in which she performed as part of a pop-themed show sponsored by PHL Live at Philadelphia’s Silk City lounge, attended several shows for other musical genres, met local musicians and industry insiders, and was nominated and won in pop category at the awards show at The Trocadero on Dec. 5. “I was not expecting to win it. I was really honored just to be in the top five. I’m not really into contests, but the people and musicians involved with PHL Live were all really supportive. It was about the music, not about competing.”
The waning months of 2014 also saw Cullen earn a spot on TalentWatch, a television show featuring up-and-coming independent musicians that airs in Nashville and Detroit and can be found online at www.TalentWatch.net (Cullen appears on the Dec. 22 episode). She also traveled to the West Coast to perform in Pasadena, Calif., in November as part of the YouBloom Music Festival.
With mature-beyond-her-years lyrics and a confident, powerful voice, it’s not difficult to see why Cullen is garnering a lot of notice on the local music scene. Barely two years after she released her first EP, Cullen is impressing as she evolves from what she calls the “Taylor Swifty” sound of that first release to a more pop-rock flavored sound on her latest single, “Sky Windows,” which she released digitally in July. Her newest tunes, some of which she hopes to perform when she performs at Chaplin’s Music Café on Jan. 31, will continue to show off her progression as a songwriter and performer.
“I really was inspired by Taylor Swift when I wrote the songs on my first EP,” said Cullen, who travelled to Nashville to record her debut. “That’s just who I was modeling myself off of because I hadn’t really figured out who I was as an artist. I have been working on what I want to sound like and I’m still working on my sound, figuring it out.
“The stuff I’m working on now is going to be really different because I am experimenting to find what I really am as far as my sound and my voice. Hopefully I can get a six-song EP out (in the near future), but I’m going to keep releasing smaller things showcasing how I’m evolving.”
Cullen, who first picked up a guitar at around age 8 and performed her first original tune at a music school recital at Chaplin’s when she was 10, has managed to find some stellar local talent to aid her in the early stages of her career. She takes guitar lessons from John Salamone at Creamery Music School, and has taken voice lessons from John Faye, who provided backing vocals for “Sky Windows.”
“It has been a really good learning process for me and I have been really lucky,” Cullen said. “I’ve had a good string of opportunities I’ve been given and I’ve been able to work with a lot of really talented musicians.”
Cullen also caught the attention of Something’s Awry Productions, a video production company that filmed Cullen’s first music video for her song “Left on the Tracks.” The production company — comprised of three young brothers and their mother — won the Best Music Video/Experimental Film award at the Santa Monica International Teen Film Festival in June.
Cullen’s music is available at online retailers including iTunes and CD Baby, and information, links and music can be found on her Facebook page (www.facebook.com/pages/Emma-Cullen/128262717357510), her ReverbNation page (http://www.reverbnation.com/emmacullen4) and her website (www.emmacullen.com).
Cullen will share the bill with local band HONOR when she returns to one of the first stages she ever performed on at Chaplin’s. This might be a great time to check out this talented young singer, because there’s every indication that she’ll soon be playing on much larger stages.
“I hate to think about the future, but I do want to continue to write and play music,” said Cullen, who will open an as-yet-unspecified show at the Dell Music Center as part of her PHL Live prize. “I would love to be able to travel the world, play music, play stadiums. That’s the goal.
“For now, though, I think I’m just looking forward to creating new music that captures the sound that I’m really looking for. And I’m looking for more opportunities to get my music out to people.”
IF YOU GO
What: Emma Cullen will perform with HONOR
When: 8 p.m. Jan. 31
Where: Chaplin’s Music Café 66 N. Main St., Spring City.
Tickets: $15 online, $18 at the door
Info.: Call (610) 792-4110 of check www.chaplinslive.com.