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House & garden > Motor City Cribs and Rides

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Published 9/9/2009

Bobby Emmett is your basic pop-obsessed jazz musician who earns a living playing country music. His debut solo album, Learning Love, drops soon. (And it's one the best Detroit records this year, though it sounds straight outta of '74.)

Most of you know Emmett as the former Hammond B3 organ player for the classic-rocking Sights. The last lineup of the Sights fizzled when their label dropped them (label suits didn't hear a single), though the demos were frighteningly good, best stuff they'd ever done. (The Sights, you'll note, have a spanking new lineup and are just completing their new Jim Diamond-helmed album).

Post-Sights, Emmett played with the Wrong Numbers and Doop and the Inside Outlaws (he's on their great new CD) and started touring with country musician Shooter Jennings (that's right, son of Waylon). During some downtime from touring, Emmett found himself bored. "I wasn't doing anything so I decided to write a record."

He built a studio in the Berkley home he shares with his wife, Jaclyn, and filled it with the best vintage analog recording gear he could find. Because if you want to sound like the Beatles, Badfinger or Big Star you need to use the same mics and mixing boards they did. Besides, it'll always sound better than a Pro Tools plug-in effect.

Much of Learning Love was recorded in his small studio with the help of guitarist Matt Thibodeau and bassist Chuck Bartels. To get the vocals, drums and mixing down correctly, Emmitt headed out to L.A. where he enlisted recording wiz Dave Cobb and his studio to give the record that sweet '70s pop sheen.

The resulting album is a Jellyfish, Raspberries, Sloan, living-in-a-pop-fetishist's dream. The 10 three-minute pop songs are full of beautiful layered vocals, soaring — and occasionally shredding guitars — trippy production and clever arrangements.

"My whole philosophy was cut a record and fuck it," Emmitt says with deadpan grace. "If it feels right don't mess with it. It's a pop record cut like an old pop record. If the Beatles were around today some dumbass would be auto-tuning it."


The Learning Love listening party is Saturday, Sept. 12, at the Park Bar, 2040 Park Ave., Detroit. You can catch Emmett playing with Shooter Jennings Saturday, Oct. 3 at St Andrew's Hall, 431 E. Congress, Detroit. Find out more about Bobby's music at myspace.com/bobbyemmett.

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