Updated: Jun 7, 2022
Emma Langford At Seventeen single is out now!
Emma Langford shares cover of Janis Ian’s ‘At Seventeen’
On a golden afternoon in April 2020, as the dust began to settle on Ireland’s latest Covid restrictions and case numbers, Emma Langford threw open the curtains, sat on her bed, and shared a version of beloved ballad At Seventeen – a simple home-video of the singer and her guitar that invited the listener to sit and breathe for a moment, capturing the imagination of her followers and drawing many new fans to her work.
Her post on Twitter simply read: “I get asked to do this song at nearly every wedding or pub gig ever and this is my first time sitting down and actually giving it a go”.
As views for her video continued to rise, requests appeared in the comment section for Langford to try her hand at other Janis Ian songs; She later recorded a version of Ian’s “Tea And Sympathy” which was also well received.
In August, Emma was contacted directly by Janis Ian herself, extending an invitation to be part of a collaborative project she was working on. In an effort to build a global community and to spread a bit of joy, this musical icon of the 1970s was asking emerging and established artists to interpret a new song of hers called “Better Times”. Janis had been steered towards Emma by Philadelphia-based broadcaster, Sean Timmons.
“I genuinely thought it was just a clever, well-targeted scam – especially when the e-mail opened with “Dear Emma, My name is Janis Ian; I’m a singer-songwriter with a pretty active Facebook page…” – the real Janis Ian hardly thought I didn’t know who she was? Anyway, it really was her, obviously, and we got chatting – we’ve been emailing over and back since – and to cut a long story short a copy of my album [Sowing Acorns] now lives in Janis Ian’s house, and she’s given me her blessing to release her beautiful song!”
At Seventeen was one of two tracks arranged and recorded by Emma Langford for RTÉ Radio 1’s hit show Sunday With Miriam. Langford worked remotely with instrumentalists Ann Blake, Lucia MacPartlin and Ben Wanders, with all musicians recording their parts separately at home. Drummer and engineer Ben Wanders created an initial mix for radio broadcast that captured the atmosphere of a real live studio performance. Chris O’Brien and Graham Murphy then came on board to finish production on the track to release it as a single.
O’Brien and Murphy worked with Emma in producing her 2017 album Quiet Giant and more recently, Sowing Acorns. After hearing her performance on RTÉ Radio 1’s Sunday With Miriam, the Grammy-nominated duo contacted Emma and suggested they team up once again on producing the track for its official release.
“Ever since April last year I’ve gotten a bunch of requests to actually release a recording of the track, but I was worried about all the legal issues around releasing a cover of another artist’s work, and I didn’t know if it was something Janis herself would be comfortable with… At last in January I plucked up the courage to ask her if it would be okay for me to release it, and she came back to me to say she’d be so happy knowing there was a version by me out there.”
“I feel a connection with the song; I was an awkward teen myself, so singing it is totally cathartic, and I’ve loved putting my own stamp on it and sharing it with the world, giving it another breath of life. At Seventeen was released by Janis in ’75 and it rings true in ’21 – I’m sure a kid out there could hear something in these lyrics today that tells them they’re not alone. It’s a perfect, timeless song about the trials of adolescence.”
The artwork for the single, which features a photo of Emma taken by Conor Kerr, was designed by Clare-based creative Myriam Riand. As with all of Langford’s work, care and consideration went into the presentation of her work: “I wanted an image that complements the halcyon charm of the track, that lovely warm, slightly fuzzy sound – like a vintage record; and something that honoured the style of record artwork typical of 1975 when the song first came out.”
With the issue of gender balance back in the spotlight in the music industry right now, this release could not be more timely. Janis Ian and her management had to be creative in 1975 in how they marketed and promoted At Seventeen – the song was being marketed towards women, but radio stations were dominated by men. Over the course of a gruelling six-month campaign, Ian featured on every daytime TV show possible, copies of the song were sent to program directors’ wives; and eventually, Ian landed a spot on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson which pushed the song over the line, making it a hit. It was nominated for five Grammy Awards, the most any female artist had ever been nominated for at the time, and won for Best Female Pop Vocal.
Buy/Stream ‘At Seventeen’ today on Bandcamp HERE
For more info on Emma go HERE