PLUCKED from high school at just 16 to play alongside trumpet great James Morrison, bubbly Sydneysider Emma Pask has enjoyed a colourful career in the world of jazz.
Morrison heard the then-youngster sing when he visited the campus. Admiring her voice and attitude – shirt untucked and tie skew-whiff – he asked her to join his band.
“It was one of those really weird, being in the right place at the right time, scenarios but then James and I often like to think, since the years have passed, that it was fate because we’re such good buddies,” Pask said.
Luckily Pask’s principal was a huge James Morrison fan and was happy to work around her touring schedule.
“Mum had no idea that that was going to be my career; she was expecting me to go to business school and had a little plan in mind of what I would do but it was completely shot out of the water and then music was it from then on,” Pask said.
“I was by James’s side for 20 years and for 20 years it was my everything. It was the start of my career and then a huge part of it and towards the end I got my own band and other things came up and I grew and expanded.
“Then about four years ago I decided to go on The Voice (Season 2) which was me reaching a period and thinking: ‘Wow, this career with James is incredible; it’s incredible how long it has lasted, but surely I’m not going to be able to do this for another 20 years’.
“I thought I should be able to stand on my own two feet and take my own music out there, so I did that and the show was my opportunity to reach out to a broader audience.”
The singer, recently nominated for an ARIA award for Best Jazz Album, grew up listening to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and her mum’s favourite, Frank Sinatra.
“You get attracted to what your heart is drawn to and what makes you feel good and for me it was certainly the big band and those classic singers, so when the chance came to sing with the big band at school I thought: ‘Oh I know this music, I love this’,” she said.
“If you heard me at 16 you probably wouldn’t want to listen much – I don’t know what it was that James heard, I think it was potential – but the difference from then to now (I’m 40 this year) has changed a lot, obviously just through growth and experience.”
Pask performs with her band during the Perth International Jazz Festival at 6pm, Saturday, May 27, at The Palace, 108 St Georges Terrace, Perth.
What: Perth International Jazz Festival
When: May 26-28
Where: across Perth and York