Emily Shirley: Smooth Indie-Pop Vibes from a Texas Soloist

Emily Shirley

Born in Connecticut, Emily Shirley was classically trained in piano, performing in church and high school choirs as well as in musical theater productions. Later she became lead singer of the Boston-based band Amun Ra, where she developed skills in backbeats and electronica while touring through clubs across the Northeast. In 2006, she moved to Austin, Texas, where she reshaped her musical direction, returning to piano, and writing and singing as a soloist. Since 2010, Emily has released many singles and a few CDs, starting with the EP Tiny Truths (2010) and culminating with such recent singles as the poignantly beautiful “Search for Life” (2020).

Several years ago, I started receiving periodic emails through her website about the release of new songs and CDs. Over time, I accumulated a list of choice tracks of her wonderful indie pop music. Like the surprise of opening of a Christmas gift, each of Emily’s songs presents unexpected delights in backing harmonies, instrumental embellishments, and gentle acoustic and electronic touches.

I recommend these tracks from Emily Shirley:

  • Streetlight Glow (2018). In this story about a wronged lady with a gun in a small Texas town, the instrumentation and upbeat attitude are as endearing as Emily’s Texas accent.
  • Eyes in the Dark (2020). Like so many of us who have had episodes of feeling lost in life, Emily explores this theme with lyrics that begin: “I am lost in the dark / How have I come so far / Show me a star / A flicker from a spark / Just a little light for protection.”
  • Search for Life (2020). Unlike anything Emily has released earlier, this song laments the destruction of our biosphere and imagines a voyage to find a new world for humanity. Beautiful harmonies and electronic keys offer a backdrop that David Bowie would have appreciated. Notice the soaring electronic fade at the end.
  • 52 Pickup (2014). In this swanky song about a pair of gamblers who are “feeling lucky,” listen closely for the tinker-toy piano in the background, a device Emily pulls out from time to time.
  • Suffering Soul (2014). In this upbeat story of a woman driving across the desert to a tent revival service, the congregation rises up in song and salvation.
  • Build Me a Boat (2017). A gentle lament plays out as an ambling stroll along the beach where a lady wants to get away from a man. The sublime chorus with splendid backing vocals goes like this: “Build me a boat in the sand / Push me out to sea / Float me away from this wasteland / I just want to be free.”

Give yourself a dose of goodness in the music of Emily Shirley. Enjoy free streaming of this shared Spotify playlist plus additional tracks at FringeToastMusic.com or by following