Emmalea Deal | An Unapologetically Authentic West Virginia Musician
Article by Miranda Woody
Emmalea Deal, hailing from Summersville, West Virginia, is a young woman with a big dream. Even more so, she’s a young woman with a big voice, and a creative mind full of musical inspiration. As I begin my conversation with the West Virginian singer-songwriter, she tells me, “It might be cheesy to say, but I’ve always been a musical person. I grew up listening to music all the time. My grandparents loved to play bluegrass music at home, and I just really liked it. I liked music and the thought of learning to play music.” I ask Emmalea (“Emmy”) Deal to elaborate, and she does so, telling me, “I was probably six years old and I thought: I want to do this, even if it’s just for fun.”
This humble start is what would eventually catapult Deal into recording original music and playing music all the way from her hometown of Summersville, West Virginia to the “Music City” itself— Nashville, Tennessee. Deal tells me that she played her first talent show when she was merely six years old, and in that moment (after winning the talent show, much to her own surprise) Deal decided to “make music (her) career”, no matter the odds.
Deal followed her dream, learning to play guitar and practicing her vocals almost daily throughout her childhood. Being homeschooled, Deal tells me she had a lot of freedom growing up to explore herself and her connection to the local music scene. At the age of thirteen, Emmalea Deal was connected with some local bands, playing music and attending some shows with them. Deal says now that these formative years of interaction in the local music scene inspired her to put together her own band, play her own shows, and write original songs, which she’s now done for many years.
Intrigued by her backstory, I asked Deal what I’ve come to find is most artists’ least favorite question: “So, what is your sound?” Deal laughs a little, stating, “If you ask any artist, I’d say they’d agree that we all go through changes, or ‘phases’. Every couple years I go through slight— sometimes drastic, but usually slight— changes in my sound. My latest album I’d probably describe as alt-rock with pop (and a lot of other) influences.”
Deal tells me that her latest album, slated for release on iTunes and other online music platforms sometime this fall, is heavily inspired by what she had been listening to at the time it was written. “I was listening to a lot of indie-pop at the time I wrote this record, so that’s what a lot of it is influenced by. It’s a lot of fun, and I think people really like it so far.” Despite that album’s undeniable popularity and charm, however, Emmy Deal tells me that she’s already looking to transform her sound again in the near future.
Deal tells me that she hasn’t always been into the indie-pop scene; she emphasizes that her musical roots were primarily molded by alternative rock from the eighties and nineties, such as Nirvana, No Doubt, and a myriad of other alternative rock legends. She states, “I think a lot of kids these days only listen to older music like that because radio music has, in a lot of ways, lost it’s charm these days. I think a lot of local bands and myself feel that at least, that you don’t even hear ‘real’ guitar or ‘real’ musical instruments in these songs anymore.” Deal, then, tells me that she seeks to bring some “true sound” back to her next record. She goes on to say, “I want to show kids it’s still ‘cool’ to play an instrument. I want my next album, hopefully in the very near future, to be more influenced by my musical roots. Real, raw, alternative rock music.”
With that being said, Deal and I discussed the value of “real music from real people”, which Emmy says she finds “very important to culture, and to people in general. It can make you feel a certain way; like you went back or forward in time, it’s hard to explain. It’s just this awesome feeling of being connected to others in that way. It’s really cathartic and unlike anything else we can experience as humans.”
In agreement with Deal’s sentiment about “real music”, we discuss the music she’s played all throughout her life, before even the recording of her latest album. Deal tells me that she’s done many “weird little projects” throughout her musical career, but one that stands out the most is a “very limited edition” acoustic, unplugged piece that she did in January 2017. Deal states, “In January of 2017 I did a EP type thing that was unplugged, acoustic, and such a genuine experience for me. It was really limited in its release, so I’m also interested as I make more records in bringing that back. I would love to release a few more copies of that record, if there’s interest in it. It really meant a lot to me.”
Speaking of “unplugged and acoustic”, I ask Deal about her experience with performing live shows. Deal tells me, “I play a lot locally, especially in the Charleston and Fayetteville, West Virginia areas. But, I play out of state these days a lot as well.I actually have a show coming up in Asheville, North Carolina later this summer. I’ve also played Nashville in the past, Knoxville, Lexington, and so on. I played those shows during a mini-tour on the east coast.”
In fact, Deal tells me that her all-time favorite show was played in Knoxville, Tennessee at a beer garden called “The Casual Pines”. Deal states, “That show was so amazing. I had the best crowd; it was such a cool moment. People from Knoxville apparently really dig my sound, and I had a lot of fun in that area. The crowd connected with me so much, even with my original songs. It was like, if they didn’t know the words they learned them by the last verse and sang along with me anyhow. It was awesome, and I can’t wait to get back there.” I then ask Deal when she will get back there, and she tells me that she doesn’t necessarily have a full-blown tour set up this year, but she is working on creating one in the upcoming months to promote the release of her new album.
Deal states that right now she’s focusing on promoting her new album’s lead single, “Ghost”, and it’s accompanying music video. Deal tells me that the single is a “big push” for the new album, which she hopes to release as soon as possible so she can “keep creating even more new music sometime soon”. Despite that taking up most of her time, though, Deal has a few shows set up in the coming months which can be found on her official Facebook and official website.
After an awesome chat about music and our mutual passion for the performing arts, Deal and I talk about one last thing that I happen to be particularly passionate about: the great state of West Virginia. I ask Deal if her experience growing up in West Virginia was just as great as mine, and she says, “I love big cities, don’t get me wrong, but West Virginia has this amazing charm. West Virginia is my home. There’s something here you can’t get anywhere else. There’s something so special, so unique to this area; I can’t even describe it. I don’t think it’s just because I’m from here. It’s like, everyone here knows everyone else and everyone is your neighbor. I love that. I love that neighborly feeling.”
On that note, Deal and I begin to wrap up our conversation, but not before she adds one final sentiment regarding her fans. Deal tells me that it’s important to know that she has a lot of younger fans, whom she holds very near and dear to her heart. Deal states, “I have a lot of younger fans, I’ve found. I think it’s because I’m not afraid to be me. I mean, I have blue, short, spiky hair all-over and I wear pretty interesting outfits most of the time. I think they pick up on that and admire it in some way; that I can be myself and not compromise my identity. I always try to tell my fans, ‘do what makes you happy, even if some people think you’re a weirdo’. It’s okay if some people think you’re a weirdo; as long as you’re not hurting anyone else, you have to do what makes you happy. Don’t compromise yourself. For example, a bunch of little girls in Richwood, West Virginia the other night told me they like my hair after a show; it just goes to show that these kids need encouragement. They need to know that it’s okay to be themselves. It can make such a large impact on their lives, even if it’s such a small, short-lived interaction in the moment.”
Deal’s sentiment about her fans and encouraging them, above all else, to be themselves leaves me with a sense of gratitude for artists like Deal and many others throughout the years that have reminded me to be myself, even when I felt like an outsider growing up in a small, rural town. Deal’s message is something we can all relate to, and her music relays her message with eloquence, grace, and a whole lot of rock’n’roll fun.
Miranda Woody-Martin is a twenty-two year old writer and digital marketing specialist from Beckley, West Virginia currently living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Miranda has a B.A in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing from Concord University. When she isn’t found writing, she can be found rock climbing, spending time with her family, or listening to The Doors. Check out her other work on goodmorningmiranda.com.