For retro jazz singer Emmaline, the time is now

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Vocalist Emmaline
Emmaline will return to Indiana for a March 24 performance at the Jazz Kitchen, 5377 N. College Ave. (Photo provided by CurlyCue! Records)

The latest single by jazz singer and Anderson native Emmaline is titled “Retro Kind of Love,” and the lyrics find the 24-year-old speculating about life before texting, WhatsApp, TikTok and Snapchat.

Known for a vocal style often compared to the work of Billie Holiday, Emmaline said she’s accustomed to being called an “old soul” and hearing she may have been born in the wrong generation.

Set to portray a 1950s jazz singer in a movie based on the life of Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, one of the first Black players in the NBA, Emmaline said she let her mind wander for the imaginative exercise of writing “Retro Kind of Love.”

“I started thinking about, ‘Well, how would it feel to be in a different generation and how would it feel to be in love? How did that impact how we connected with each other before social media and smartphones?’” she said.

Emmaline, the daughter of jazz pianist Russ Campbell, said it was freeing to imagine an era before “all of the distraction we now have in our back pocket.”

“Retro Kind of Love” serves as the title track for Emmaline’s third EP. The four-song recording includes a cover of Bobby Hebb standard “Sunny” and two other originals: “First Time” and “These Are the Memories.”

The EP’s release date is March 24, which coincides with two Emmaline performances at the Jazz Kitchen, 5377 N. College Ave.

Currently a resident of Nashville, Tennessee, Emmaline said the throwback shows will feature her efforts on vocals and violin. Ryan Mondak, Emmaline’s songwriting partner, plays guitar in the band, while Isaiah Cook plays drums and Alex Hodge plays upright bass.

Emmaline, whose name rhymes with “Clementine,” and Mondak have posted online videos of their musical collaborations for the past five years, building a fan base that includes 186,000 Facebook followers, 170,000 Instagram followers and more than 40,000 YouTube subscribers. Emmaline’s Spotify profile boasts more than 100,000 monthly listeners.

After growing up in rural Madison County, Emmaline studied violin and voice at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music.

The “Retro Kind of Love” EP features more of her violin playing than past recordings. Emmaline said she wanted to establish herself as something other than “the violin girl.”

“Then I think I reached a point where I thought, ‘Wait, this is a huge part of me,’ ” she said. “Violin is such a huge tool of mine. Why am I not using it? So this was the first record that I decided to take that step and incorporate my violin and my voice almost equally. And it feels really good. It felt like the right thing to do and it was the right time.”

Regarding the “Sweetwater” film, which is scheduled for release on April 14, Emmaline said she fronts a fictional ensemble that includes four-time Grammy Award winner Gary Clark Jr. on guitar.

“The entire performance we did with Gary Clark is live,” she said. “It’s going to be a live performance in the film, which is really cool.”

Everett Osborne portrays “Sweetwater” Clifton, who entered the NBA in 1950 with two other Black players, Earl Lloyd and Chuck Cooper.

The independent movie’s cast includes Richard Dreyfuss, Cary Elwes, Jeremy Piven, Kevin Pollak and Eric Roberts.

Emmaline’s character, named Jeanne Staples, does more than sing in the movie, Emmaline said.

“My character has quite a few lines,” said Emmaline, who auditioned through a “self tape” after being invited to try out by director Martin Guigui. “I was really acting. I was acting more than I thought I would in my entire life.”

Emmaline

  • When: 7 and 9:30 p.m. March 24.
  • Where: The Jazz Kitchen, 5377 N. College Ave.
  • Tickets: $30 to $45.
  • Info: Visit thejazzkitchen.com.

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