Arts & Entertainment

The Talented Emily Bear: Dancin’ into the World of Pop Music

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Emily Bear’s first EP of pop music, entitled Emotions, is now available. Learn how the Rockford native reached this impressive milestone, and what lies ahead for her.

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It’s been a treat for Rockford residents to watch Emily Bear grow up in the public eye. The singer/songwriter, pianist, composer and film scorer has appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show seven times, performed at high-profile venues (such as Carnegie Hall and The White House, to name only two) and traveled internationally to entertain thousands with her piano skills. She recently composed two songs for the Warner Brothers feature film Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase and performed on the score for Universal Pictures’s A Dog’s Journey.

But ask her what she’s most proud of, and you won’t hear about any of that. Her answer’s much more humble.

“I’ve learned a lot from each experience, and I have so many incredible memories. But I have to say, getting over my fear of singing was huge for me,” Bear says.

The 18-year-old released her first EP of pop music on Oct. 18, 2019, entitled Emotions. Reaching this milestone required courage on Bear’s part to embrace feeling uncomfortable. Because as relaxed as she is playing piano in front of 40,000 people, singing was a different experience.

“I was absolutely mortified to sing in front of people. I just felt so vulnerable,” Bear explains. “But now, I can’t imagine my life without it.”

Her voice has elements of pop and jazz, both rolled into one cohesive sound. Before long, music industry professionals started noticing that in addition to her precocious piano skills, Bear could really sing.

When a friend and music producer asked her to record a demo for a pop song, Bear discovered that singing by herself in a booth was much less intimidating than singing in front of others. There, she could gradually become more comfortable in her own skin.

“You know how after a breakup they say ‘Time heals everything?’ It was kind of like that,” Bear explains. “The more time that went by, and the more I put myself in uncomfortable situations, the more I grew comfortable. And now, here I am.”

As she transitioned into a confident singer, she also became more skilled as a songwriter. Emotions has six tracks, and Bear wrote, composed and played piano on all of them.

The main producer for the EP was Toby Gad, who produced and co-wrote All of Me for John Legend, If I Were a Boy for Beyoncé and Big Girls Don’t Cry for Fergie, in addition to other notable works. Bear also worked with producer Nicolas “Nico” Rebscher, who produced and co-wrote No Roots for Alice Merton.

Each song on the EP stems from Bear’s personal life experiences, and each addresses the theme of “emotions.” Take her single, entitled Dancin.

“The lyrics ‘Now I’m just dancin’ to the song that made me cry,’ – I feel so many people can relate to that,” Bear says. “It’s about being able to take something that’s brought you down, and being able to grow past it, and move on. You get to a place where you can dance to the songs that used to make you cry.”

The message transfers into the Dancin music video, which Bear recently filmed in New York.

“Do you remember when Lara Spencer [from Good Morning America] made that comment about boys taking ballet? And then 400 male dancers held a ballet class in Times Square? The idea for the video evolved from that,” Bear explains.

Her video features 80 dancers, including 35 students from New York University who are pursing master’s degrees in dance education. Sam Quinn, who organized the event in Times Square, also worked on Bear’s video, and Freeport native Alex Hartman helped with choreography. The Grammy Award-winning record producer Neff-U (Theron Feemster), who has worked with Justin Bieber and Michael Jackson, produced the song.

“It’s the idea that dance – and art in general – are for everyone and should be accessible for everyone,” Bear says. “Maybe you had someone who put you down and said you couldn’t do something. The song is about not listening to the poison words and succeeding in spite of them.”

Even though the music video hasn’t come out yet, dancers have taken notice of the song’s empowering message by creating response videos. Dancers in wheelchairs, dancers from competitive teams, even kids from Rockford Public Schools have responded to Bear’s music by posting routines to her song and tagging Bear with the hashtag #keepDancin.

“And the music video hasn’t even come out yet!” Bear exclaims. “All the proceeds of the video are going to charities that help people pursue their passion and love for dancing no matter if they have financial, mental or physical challenges. I really think it’s important to spread this idea.”

Bear’s title track Emotions has been another single off the EP.

“I honestly think emotion is at the basis of all the music I write,” she explains. “Music brings people together – it’s a communicator, bridge and connector – and emotions are what make music universal.”

The Emotions music video, which was filmed in a retro house in L.A., complements the vintage and record-scratching sounds of the song. “Everything in the video was retro and true to the time period – I thought it fit the vibe of the song perfectly,” Bear says.

Since “emotions” are universal, she feels her music targets everyone, no matter what their age.

“Of course, I want the music to appeal to people my age, but I also hope it gets across to every age group, especially since my fan base for my classical stuff is often people who aren’t in my generation,” Bear says. “It’s been honestly awesome seeing everyone’s support as I transform into this new pop world.”

Eager Emily Bear fans can expect the release of her Dancin music video sometime in the coming weeks. Until then, her EP is available on Spotify, Itunes, Apple Music, Amazon, Google Play and more. The remaining four songs are Fomo, No One to Love (i Got Me), Love Song and Weak.

And, Bear will have a concert in Rockford on Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at Prairie Street Brewhouse, where she’ll play all six songs from the Emotions EP in addition to other works. Tickets are available at eventbrite.com, and the concert will benefit the music programs at Rockford Public Schools.

Giving back to the community has always been important to Bear. Over the years, she’s helped raise millions of dollars for charities across the globe, and there’s never been a performance in Rockford where she hasn’t donated to Rockford Public Schools.

“I think giving back is integral,” she says. “I remember once, I was playing a show in Vienna [Austria], and Bill Clinton was speaking after I played. He actually started talking about me in his speech – it was for a charity – and he said ‘What if Emily had been born in an impoverished country with limited resources and no way to develop her musical gifts?’ And I always just think about that. The chances of me being born into a family that would support me and help me foster this musical ability – it’s all chance. And I feel that giving people chances should be a given.”

Plus, the opportunity to give back to her hometown is extra special.

“I feel if I grew up in L.A., or Chicago, or another big place, I would have turned out differently,” Bear says. “The people in Rockford are so genuine and I have the best memories here – high school football games, the apple orchard, going on dinosaur digs at the Burpee Museum. Watching my brother [Benjamin] row and my sister [Lauren] figure skate. I love Rockford, and just seeing how it’s bloomed in the past 10 years has been so cool to me.”

Watch Emily Bear’s Emotions video: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kGvmpZlBa0g

Listen to Emotions: https://emilybear.lnk.to/Emotions-EP

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