Some musicians explore the craft through different instruments, while others choose one and stick with it. Emsy Robinson picked his tool of choice, the bass, as a teenager. And he's never looked back.
Now, the 31-year-old is a career musician who collaborators and bands appreciate for his unique sound. He has collaborated with everyone from Charley Crockett to The Travoltas to Rise & Shine to Kirk Thurmond & The Millenials. He's opened for The Flaming Lips, Ludacris and Macy Gray.
At Bishop Lynch High School, Emsy drew inspiration from a visiting group of jazz musicians in the Music Learning Band Program. Thanks to long fingers and the encouragement of one teacher, Emsy picked up the bass. By 2006, after two years at UNT studying music, he was seeking time on stage.
“When MySpace was still really cool,” says Emsy, his ad for ‘bassist seeking gigs’ caught the attention of the band Joint Method. An epiphany came during the first packed headlining gig he played with them at Club Clearview in Deep Ellum. “This is what I should be doing," he remembers thinking.
Eventually, Emsy met singer-songwriter Paco Estrada through CoLab, an improv hip-hop band. (Emsy plays guitar with them Tuesday nights at Three Links.) Estrada’s acquaintance led to Salim Nourallah and Emsy’s work with The Travoltas, and an eventual tour with the Old 97’s. "All these degrees of separation," he says. "And then people just started calling me.”
He has the confidence to keep his sound lean. “One thing I hear the most is that I’m tasteful. Let me see if I can get the job done with like five [notes],” says Emsy. “If you hear a really cool song on the radio that everyone loves, it’s really simple stuff.” He uses “Another One Bites the Dust” as the example of a song that is “only seven or eight notes ... but it’s iconic, people can identify with it.”
One quality which has made him popular with local bands is his likability. “No matter the size of the stage or which project is the current priority, I know that I can trust Emsy to make the experience better,” says Tomahawk Jonez of Cure for Paranoia.
For a musician-producer to quit his corporate job and cash in his 401k to work on an EP, Jonez had to really put trust in Emsy by hiring him as a session musician to record bass. “Our chemistry and his level of musicianship led to him becoming a contributing writer, co-producer and us playing live all over Texas together,” Jonez says.
Emsy is honest (and successful) enough to say that personalities matter. “I’m more inclined to play with somebody that I feel’s a good person, that I’d like to hang out with," he says, "than somebody that might have a really good paying gig but they’re kind of a douche.”
Emsy also teaches music to kids through a program with Dallas ISD, contributes to trailers for films for Texas Theater, and has had instrumental pieces put out by Malone Pictures. Admittedly though, his five-year plan revolves around international touring and running a studio of his own. “I guess I’m really lucky that I get to do [music] full-time," he says "What’s unique about our generation is that we’re more inclined to do the arts as the thing we'll do in life.”