Turning Heads with August Billy

Emma Donovan (Emma Donovan & The PutBacks)

November 9, 2020

Episode 22 of Turning Heads features a chat with Emma Donovan, whose second album with the PutBacks, Crossover, is out now. 

Emma has been in the music biz for over two decades. As a kid she would occasionally sing with her family members’ band, The Donovans, then in 1999 she cofounded Stiff Gins with Nardi Simpson and Kaleena Briggs. She appeared on the group’s Deadly-winning 2001 debut album, Origins, before leaving to pursue a solo career. 

Emma's solo work has reflected her love of country music, which was her primary focus before teaming up with Melbourne funk-soul collective The PutBacks in the early 2010s. She met the members of the PutBacks while touring as part of the Black Arm Band and she's also previously toured as a backing vocalist for Archie Roach. 

But none of this experience foretold for the overhaul in Emma's musical outlook and persuasion that came about when she started working with The PutBacks. The debut album from Emma Donovan & the PutBacks, 2014’s Dawn, displayed the influence of artists like Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Stax Records, Aretha Franklin and a lot of contemporary neo soul. 

We had to wait six years for a follow up, but it finally arrived in the form of Crossover in early November 2020. Crossover builds on the deep funk and soul of its predecessor, only this time it all feels more assured, more natural, and more potent. 

In the podcast, Emma talks about her love of Melbourne and her appreciation for the guys in the PutBacks. She also talks about the song 'Mob March', which pays tribute to the history of Indigenous protest and acknowledges the power of the contemporary protest movement. 

Turning heads is recorded on the stolen land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation; the traditional custodians of the land. I pay my respects to their elders past and present, and acknowledge that sovereignty has never been ceded.

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