“The idea came to me during a time when I was working at a salon, doing chair massages. My fiancée is a teacher. From time to time, we’d fantasize about dropping everything, just hitting the road, having a great adventure, just the two of us.”
Emily Burdette is talking about the unspoken American dream. Not the one about economic opportunity for all. Nor is it the one where we strive to get the perfect job, build the house with the picket fence, and raise our children to have more opportunities than we did growing up.
No, the dream Emily is referring to is not the one of pursuit, but the one of ponder. The one that makes us look up at the stars and wonder if this is all there is. Seriously, there’s got to be more to life than meeting responsibilities, more than simply showing up on time or making sure all the bills get paid.
You’ve thought about it, haven’t you? What would it be like to escape the hustle and bustle, to get away with the person you love most in the world, and just slow things down? The dream is to live simpler, without the grind and without the stress. Wouldn’t we be happier? Wouldn’t life be more fulfilling?
That notion is the inspiration behind Emily’s newest song, released this month, called “Let’s Quit Our Jobs“:
“Let’s quit our jobs and get rich on kisses.
You’ll sip bourbon, while I wash the dishes
Because it’s your least favorite chore.
And I’ll look forward to what we have in store.”
“I am very proud of the finished product,” Emily tells us during a phone interview. “When I first started writing songs, I hated everything I wrote. It was almost painful to look at the paper. Working with Michael Daniel at AudioScribe Studios was a great collaboration. His son Ryan added drums and strings; he added a lead guitar part over my rhythm. I love the way it turned out.”
This is a story that happens far away from the stage and lights. It takes place in a much quieter atmosphere. There are no crowds, no drink orders being shouted across the room, and certainly no applause. Instead, our story starts when an artist picks up a pen and notebook and decides they’re going to create something new for the world to hear.
“It usually happens when I’m driving. That’s when the words and melody come to me. If not when I am driving, it happens right before I drift off to sleep or even when I’m half-asleep. You have to jolt out of bed right away and get the words on paper because you know you’ll never remember them in the morning!”
Music has always been a part of Emily’s life. She remembers that her childhood home was always filled with the sounds of The Beatles, Madonna, Elton John, The Beach Boys, and Linda Ronstadt.
When she was only six, Emily recognized that she could sing and hold a tune. At 12, she took piano lessons. At 14, she tried writing her first song. In high school, after she discovered country music, she picked up a guitar and learned a few chords.
You may have heard Emily perform around town. Eleven years after moving to Wilmington, she’s become a known commodity on the local music scene. Her calendar is always booked with gigs. Fans and venue owners have described her style as a cross between pop and folk. She is sometimes compared to singers like Jewel and Sheryl Crow.
And while singing is a passion, the truth is it’s also been a cause of great anxiety in the past. Early on, Emily would turn down gigs, not out of stage fright, but out of fear that something would go wrong.
“Back in those days, it just felt like every show had an issue. Equipment would always break in the middle of a song, or something else would go wrong, and I could never enjoy myself because I was just bracing for something bad to happen.”
What pulled her through and kept her going was the absolute need to create.
You see, Emily is what you call a Singer/Songwriter, but probably in the reverse order. She is a writer first, a storyteller who paints pictures with lyrics and melody. She says they typically come to her at the same time. She’s tried in the past to write the words first and fit in the music later, or maybe vice versa, but it almost never works. But on those occasions when it comes together at the same time, then magic can be created.
Emily has recorded two albums of all original songs. “Time to Speak” was released in 2011, followed by an 11-track follow-up that came out two years later. Since then, she has released a number of singles that fans can discover on a variety of streaming services.
And now she is helping other local songwriters display their gifts as well.
In 2021, Emily, along with another local musician, Jarrett Raymond, started a performance showcase called “Voice and the Pen.” The series, which rotates between Wilmington venues Live at Ted’s and Mad Katz puts the spotlight on handpicked local performers who exclusively play original songs.
“This town has so many talented musicians. They’re out there performing five, six, seven days a week. But they don’t always have a place where they can perform their original works. We wanted to make sure they have that opportunity.”
Any artists, regardless of the medium, know that the process of creation can be a very isolating task. Often, it’s just you all alone with the words. Only a few ever get the chance to work with others. The really lucky ones get an opportunity to create something with the person who has captured their heart.
Emily is one of the lucky ones.
“My fiancée Jordan has heard the other songs I’ve written about past relationships. One day she was like, ‘when are you going to write a song about us?’”
That song is the one that was released this month. Emily wrote the words, but when you listen to “Let’s Quit Our Jobs,” you get to hear both musicians singing lead on the verses.
The two have been performing around town under the name Burdette Duo.
During most of their performances, Jordan Hughes plays lead guitar and adds seamless harmonies to Emily’s vocals. Jordan was excited to be able to offer a lead vocal on her first recording.
“There’s a joke that musicians should never date each other because we tend to disagree on everything. But somehow we make it work.”
The couple would like to expand by performing in more regional shows throughout the South. Emily frequently books venues near her hometown in West Virginia and plans to play some smaller clubs in Nashville in the near future.
Emily’s real dream is to make a living singing and writing songs for other performers. It may have been a while since the equipment has gone down during the middle of a set, but the anxiety is still there on some level, and Emily hopes one day she can sit back and listen to others sing her words.
For now, though, she keeps writing and keeps singing. She may not have gotten rich off of kisses yet, but she has found her calling and, more importantly, found the person to share it with.