Big Leg Emma
Hailing from western New York, American roots band Big Leg Emma infuses their original music with lively jams and a bluegrass feel. Although their music is based on traditional folk, bluegrass and country, BLE also has a psychedelic side. The eminently danceable style keeps the fans coming back for more, but it is their thought provoking songwriting and intricate harmonies that really stand out.
Started in 2001 in Jamestown, NY, outside of Buffalo, Big Leg Emma has had a long and winding road to achieve their current line-up. Longtime friends & musical partners Steve Johnson (acoustic guitar, vocals) and Charity Nuse (mandolin, vocals) started the band, with Kev Rowe joining the band as lead guitar. In 2012 they added Corey Kertzie on drums, and it is he and the band’s newest member, Miguel, on bass guitar who drive the new rhythm section.
The band is on tour this summer, with multiple festivals on their schedule, including recent appearances at Jam Along the Creek, Honesdale Roots And Rhythm Music And Arts Fest in Pennsylvania, a return to Sterling Stage in New York and their first appearance at the flagship festival of the upper Midwest, Summercamp. Upcoming festival appearances include Peach Fest in Pennsylvania, Under The Stars Music Fest in West Virginia, their hometown Great Blue Heron Music Festival in western NY, plus their first appearance at the North Branch Music Festival in Wisconsin, to name just a few. The band has shared the stage with Rusted Root, Donna the Buffalo, Little Feat ,Del McCoury 10,000 Maniacs, Max Creek, and Hot Tuna and has performed in over 25 states from NY to Colorado.
We had a chance to catch up with Steve, Charity, Kev, Corey and Miguel, and they were kind enough to answer a whole barrage of questions we had about their past, their present and their future. The road has been long for them, but their spirit is strong, and their desire to bring this music to fans all over the country has never waned.
Be sure to see below for upcoming tour dates!
LMNR: How has the evolution of the band from the original 2 to the current 5 members changed the direction of the music?
Big Leg Emma is a collaboration of influences. Each player brings a different flavor to the band. We feel like our music has matured. We’ve become better songwriters and music arrangers and stage performers.
LMNR: What has stayed constant?
The Americana Jam base of the band has stayed constant. And the live performance and energy of the band has remained the same. Our interaction as a BLE family and with our fan base the chemistry has stayed the same. We have that uplifting feel good vibe that has stayed constant generated by the message in our lyrics.
LMNR: Who do you aspire to be like?
We aspire to carve our own path using the models like the Grateful Dead, Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan. The community, the family, and making BLE an environment. We want to make people eat, sleep, and live Big Leg Emma.
LMNR: Who are your favorite bands on the scene today?
We like Cabinet, Avett Brothers, Donna the Buffalo, Lake Street Dive, Moe., Floodwood, Driftwood, Phish, Govt Mule, Tedeschi Trucks Band.
LMNR: I see you are playing Great Blue Heron again this summer, you seem to have played that event several times. What is it about that festival, aside from being very near to you?
It’s an amazingly beautiful environment and family vibe with great collective musical acts. It is by far our most favorite festival to play. That festival is what jump started our career.
LMNR: You’re from Jamestown NY. What about that town and living in that area has affected your music, and what do you want people to learn about western NY through Big Leg Emma?
Jamestown is a very musical city. There is a lot of talent here and people enjoy and respect music. Jamestown’s music has an edge to it. It is an economically depressed area and there is an attitude, generosity, and perseverance that comes through in the music.
LMNR: How is the tour going? You seem to have a lot of festivals coming up. How do you feel festivals compare to more conventional gigs?
Great. This tour is getting us fine tuned for the festival season. We’re having a blast playing. Festivals are more exposure and they feel great because we hang with artists who are similar to us like a travelling family. The fans are music lovers and artists in their own listening way.
LMNR: The song “Back to NY” seems to show your roots run deep. What is it about your hometown that influences you?
It’s the industrial type settings mixed with all the beautiful country and scenery along with family and heartache.
LMNR: What first attracted you to Americana roots rock?
Donna the Buffalo and the Great Blue Heron Music Festival. And Bob Dylan’s music.
LMNR: How has infusing Americana with country, jam, folk and bluegrass pushed your artistic limits?
It has expanded our horizons. Creating an environment for us to express ourselves by fusing different kinds of music genres.
LMNR: How much does having your fans dance influence your music?
When we see them moving we know we are doing our job.
LMNR: Harmonies permeate your style. How do they evolve in the songwriting process? Are they central?
Harmonies have always been a central point of Big Leg Emma. They evolve through practicing and the singers of BLE all know where they’re voices fit within the music. And that goes for instruments too.
LMNR: What makes you different/unique?
We have many different cultures amongst our members. It’s lyrical content mixed and mashed and blended with its musical attitude. And we have many strong creative minds and songwriters. And we keep the song alive in the jam band scene. And we have a female pyschadelic mandolin jammer.
LMNR: What makes you excited about what you do?
Reaching people and having a positive effect on people. Also the adventure of traveling and meeting new people. When we hit that sweet spot on stage there is nothing else like it in the world. It is our natural high.
LMNR: The name- where did the name come from?
An old Frank Zappa song titled Big Leg Emma.
LMNR: Where did the style come from? How did it evolve?
The diversity in our individual styles coming together. The maturity of us growing and changing of members is how it has evolved.
LMNR: How do you like to connect with fans?
Dancing with the fans. Trying to create personal relationships with them. Sharing stories with them.
LMNR: Why do you love what you do?
We have a voice that needs to be heard that is healing and infectious. Because it is a healthy release and therapeutic and we’re addicted to playing music.
LMNR: What is your passion?
Reaching people and children. Spreading the energy of musical vibrations. And finding new inspirations to keep our writing going.
LMNR: What are your strengths and weaknesses as a band?
The strengths are our 5 songwriters and our musical chemistry. Our resiliency and tenacity. Weaknesses are cupcakes and whole milk and green hot dogs at Flying J’s at 2:30 in the morning.
LMNR: What are your goals?
To reach a level of sustainable success with longevity. To branch out and tour other parts of the country and the world. To be an important factor in people’s lives and history.
LMNR: What do you want people to feel when they listen to your music?
To feel the happiness and pains of life.
LMNR: What do you want your music to do for your community?
To give people hope and inspiration their creative essence and to follow their dreams and passions.
LMNR: What is your vision for what you do?
To spread our music and to have a positive impact on people’s lives.
LMNR: What is the philosophy of the band?
There is something bigger than ourselves that channels through us and we are the muse for that energy.
Upcoming Big Leg Emma Shows: