News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Songwriter returning to Sisters

Emily Scott Robinson is returning to this year’s Sisters Folk Festival, after making a big splash at last year’s Festival with her witty and entertaining songs.

Robinson was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, and turned toward the guitar at age 13. She taught herself to play in the early 2000s and began pursuing songwriting after seeing Nanci Griffith in 2007.

Robinson began playing music professionally in 2016 after becoming burned out at her job as a social worker. She released her debut album, “Magnolia Queen,” in 2016, and after a positive response, she and her husband spent four years on the road traveling and living in an RV.

She had the opportunity to tour for the first time as part of the Kerrville New Folk Winners at the Texas festival, embarking on an eight-city tour of Texas.

“I started touring and building up my own fan base as I went and loved finding my audience for my songs,” said Robinson. “I felt a pull to move on from that job and I had always loved music and writing and decided to dive into it.”

In 2020, Robinson wrote and recorded a single, “A Time for Flowers.” John Prine’s record label, Oh Boy Records, reached out to her via Instagram direct message about the song, and how much it meant to Prine’s family at that time.

Oh Boy Records is an independent record label founded by Prine and business partner Al Bunetta in 1981 in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1989, Prine decided to keep an independent label after turning down an offer from Sony to purchase the label.

Jody Whelan, John Prine’s oldest son, who works at Oh Boy Records, sent Robinson the message, and she signed with that label for her latest album, “American Siren.”

Robinson draws inspiration from many of the great singer-songwriters, including Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith, and James Taylor.

“As I pursued music, I figured out I had a gift for performing and went fully into it in 2016,” she said.

Robinson’s sound draws from the lyrics of her songs, and to her it’s more than a sound — it’s a style and a voice.

“Most of my songs are storytelling-based, and then become a co-creative process with the other musicians as far as how they sound, but I try to write songs that cut through the noise,” she said.

Robinson writes a lot of songs about women, and her latest record, “American Siren,” consists of a lot of those stories.

In her website bio, Robinson said:

“It is bigger and riskier and more expansive than my last collection. It feels like I wrote some songs that I’m going to grow into as I continue to perform them. I actually cried after I finished every one of them. I was so relieved that I was able to write them. I carved out a little more of my own experience into these songs… and I think they will have a healing quality to people who hear them.”

Robinson doesn’t really plan out the process of writing her songs, but she draws from stories of people around her and combines with fictional characters and some of her own life experiences.

“After two years, I look at the songs I have and realize I have a whole record,” she said, laughing.

Robinson strives to write songs that aren’t a waste of time for people to listen to and that will cut through the noise of all the types of songs that are out there. A lot of her songs are about what it means to be a human and the good, the bad, the dark, the light aspects of this life.

The pandemic, for Robinson, was a tough time to keep up creatively, when her career and job involves gathering people together.

“It was an interesting time to navigate, and I am so glad to be back out touring,” she said.

There is always a fresh energy while performing new songs. When speaking with The Nugget, she quoted what Jason Isbell said in an interview: “My most favorite song is the most recent one I’ve written.”

For Robinson, that is also the case; she loves performing the new stories she has written for new audiences and finding that writing voice on stage.

“When I perform, I always try and find a freshness and newness to the songs no matter how old they are. I love to tell stories. And it’s not too complicated, but to me, it’s just fun,” she said.

She has shifted how she thinks of touring, no longer seeing it as touring for one album, but playing old and new songs and sharing the songs that she wants to with audiences. After the pandemic, she is technically still in the release cycle for her latest record, “American Siren,” but she will be performing new songs that haven’t been recorded, as well as some of her first released songs.

“I play old and new stuff as well as some meaningful covers and sort of shifted the paradigm in how I tour. I don’t do a traditional show of just playing songs from the latest record. I just like sharing the creative process and share my songs,” she said.

Robinson is returning to the Folk Festival for the second time. Her experience at last year’s Festival was impactful on Robinson because of the audiences.

“The listening aspect of the audience was incredible; they were all so engaged and there to listen to the songwriters,” she said.

Robinson loved being able to connect with other songwriters and with the audience in the Cascades.

“I love seeing mountains other than my own [in Colorado], and the people are the best part of Sisters, and I am so excited to be back there,” she said.

You can see Emily Scott Robinson’s performances at the Sisters Folk Festival September 30-October 2. For more information visit


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