emospacebird. on flipping personal pain into empowering pop
From St. Louis to Philadelphia, Erin Dillard — musically known as emospacebird. — made the migration from the midwest to the east coast nearly two years ago, and is carving out a lane for herself in the experimental and electronic scene here in Philly.
As you can likely imagine, the music of emospacebird. is just as unique as her name. The electro-pop stylings range from upbeat to chill and beachy. Dillard’s lyrics are often sunny, yet deeply introspective, and even sometimes regretful. With each song, listeners are left feeling hopeful and optimistic.
What’s in a name? Well, for emospacebird., it started with a doodle that she created while teaching art in a summer camp in Missouri.
“One day I just like told the kids, ‘let’s have a free-for-all day,’” she recalls. “So we just drew whatever we wanted. And I started doodling this pink bird with spiky hair and a choker with stars around it, like this bird in space. And it was like okay, ‘Emospacebird.’” The name then lived on as the moniker of Dillard’s Tumblr, and eventually her stage name.
Dillard began playing piano at the age of nine and considers herself to have grown up in a musical house with her mother being a talented piano player. And growing up with seven other siblings, she found influences in many genres of music.
“Like, I could hear Blink 182 and Paramore one day, and Al Green, Stevie Wonder and D’Angelo the next,” remembers Dillard.
For a while, she just stuck to instrumental music, feeling too shy to perform in front of others, but after tragedy struck her family, she ended up finding solace in songwriting.
“When I was 15, my dad passed away. And then when I was 16, my mother passed away. They died a year and a month apart, like in the same month, but a year apart,” says Dillard. “The first song that I can remember writing was called ‘Son I Know,’ and it was about the passing of my parents and just like trying to find the light and not seeing it in my life anymore. Which is pretty sad, but like for a 16-year-old to be writing, especially.”
Even after only talking to Dillard for only a few minutes, due to her very bubbly personality, you’d never be able to tell that she lost both of her parents at such a young age. Her smile is disarming and infectious – quite like her music.
emospacebird.’s most recent self-titled project was released in July of 2020. The twelve-song album features, electric ukulele, drums, keys, and vocal stylings all by Dilliard. She is very much a one-woman band. Songs Like “T Angelo” feature hazy string riffs that emote Southern California vibes. This mostly-instrumental song, in particular, feels like drinking a cold beer during a beautiful sunset after a day filled with love and laughs. Somewhere around the 2:27 mark, Dillard’s dreamy vocals slide in with feather-weight oh’s and ah’s.
On “Rather Be Alone” Dillard croons, “I am going to get away from all this worthless pain…. I don’t know where I’m going, I’ve just got to get away from you.” After leaving Missouri for Philadelphia in 2018, Dillard found herself looking for healthier places and people. In songs like “Rather Be Alone” and the jovial 1-minute “Mario Kart”, she references her desire to break free and find something new.
“At the time I was not in a great situation emotionally, I was in a weird living situation, feeling kind of lonely, and not feeling fulfilled with how my music career was going,” says Dillard. “I honestly, I have nothing to lose.”
According to Dillard, a lot of her songs sound like love songs. While some of them, like “Waiting On The Line” could be interpreted as a love song, “it’s more so about, working in the capitalist industry and working in foodservice and kind of being a corporate slave.”
Shortly after making it to the City of Brotherly Love, she ended up being booked for West Philly’s Porchfest where she performed on not just one porch, but also someone’s roof. For Dillard, that experience opened her up more to playing shows in the city.
“What I like about Porchfest is that it doesn’t matter who you are, how many fans you have, or how many shows you’ve sold out,” says Dillard. “If you sound good, people want to hear you. They just want to support. It gives people a chance to find new music that they wouldn’t necessarily give a chance maybe in a different circumstance.”
Between Porchfest 2019 and the pandemic, Dillard found herself performing her original music at least twice a month around town. In addition to carving a lane out for herself, she had the opportunity to hone her skills at Center City piano bar, Howl At The Moon. While there, she played alongside professionally trained musicians, which was a contrast from her more casual way of learning which consisted of a few piano classes while in college. The musical skills and instruments that she learned here can be heard throughout the album.
“I like it a lot,” says Dillard. “It’s scary, It’s daunting, but it’s worth it. I’ve become a better musician because of it. I definitely would not have learned bass or how to play the drums, nor would I had the opportunity to do so.”
According to emospacebird., the self-titled album would have not come out when it did if it wasn’t for the pandemic. The shutdown caused her to sit down and piece everything together just the way she wanted. After not being entirely pleased with the mixes, she asked for the stems, purchased a drum kit, and got to work on the project
“I realized that the world was going through this crazy weird time and it still is, but I didn’t want to be like, ‘that’s it, it’s all over.’ I might as well use this time to do something that I love and see if I can get this project done,” says Dillard. “I think it turned out pretty good. It’s not like studio quality obviously, but I’m pretty proud of the work that I put in.”
The music of emospacebird. is a full spectrum of emotion and unrelenting joy. She is an extremely honest songwriter who does not shy away from the hard stuff. Dillard does an excellent job of making the hardest of topics shine brighter than any diamond. Her approach to music is free and playful and it’s clear that Dillard is enjoying every moment of it.
Listen to emospacebird.’s self-titled 2020 album below, and explore her back-catalog on Bandcamp.