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These articles were excerpted from Tapestry, a weekly newsletter that examines the arts and entertainment world in Charlotte and North Carolina.

Emanuel Wynter on blending his violin with rock, soul and R&B

Emanuel Wynter
Trent Ryden
Emanuel Wynter's music blends rock, soul and chilled out R&B with his cool, confident vocals and swaggering electric violin.

Singer-songwriter Emanuel Wynter describes his music as somewhere between R&B and rock, but it’s also much more.

In his words, "It’s soulful. It’s gonna groove, it’s gonna grab you and take you on a ride, and it’s fun."

The Charlotte artist has cool confident vocals, hitting both notes and feels, as heard on his recent live album recorded last February at The Evening Muse.

In addition to singing, Wynter also takes up the electric violin in a style you’d never hear in a classical concert. He said he began learning violin in the first grade when he was growing up in New York City.

"At that time, my mom and I were looking at different instruments for me to play, because she grew up playing music in her childhood," he said. "She played piano, and she really appreciated what that did for her. So as a mother, she was like, 'OK, my child is going to play some instrument. It doesn't matter which one.'"

Initially, Wynter thought he might like the trumpet, but then felt more drawn to the violin.

He started with his school’s violin class, then took private lessons as he grew older. As he entered high school, and his family moved to Charlotte, he found himself listening to fewer classical composers and more rock and blues.

"I was like, man, I’m listening to B.B. King, and Gary Clark Jr., because he was kind of coming onto the scene at the time. I was like, 'Man, I want to do that with my violin.' I was kind of in my head, but I didn’t have an example for that," he said.

It wasn’t until high school that Wynter learned about jazz and blues violinists like Stéphane Grappelli, Regina Carter, Stuff Smith and Papa John Creach that he learned what was possible with his instrument.

It was at that time that he purchased his first electric violin.

Nick de la Canal: When you did start playing the electric violin, was it like — I don’t know, was it like a revelation, where you’re like, 'Oh, this — this I can work with.'

Emanuel Wynter: Yeah it was like that. It felt like I was opening up a whole new world of possibilities. It was very exciting.

De la Canal: Your music often has these moments when it feels like the band is taking off, and you included. And I’m thinking of one track in particular called "You Saved Me” from your live album, and this is a cover of a Gary Clark Jr. song. I had to listen to this several times because I couldn’t figure out if this solo was a violin or a guitar. But that is you on the violin.

Trent Ryden

De la Canal: What do you think are the main differences between playing an electric guitar versus a violin, and what’s the advantage of playing a violin over a guitar?

Wynter: I feel like for me, especially because I’ve been playing violin since I was in the first grade, I have an easier time kind of expressing the different sound palettes that I want with a bow. Jimi Hendrix is another artist I listened to a lot of and really admire, and if you listen to some of his stuff, he’ll hit a note and it will sustain, and then it will start to feedback. It sounds really wild and weird, and violins won’t do that. But if you release pressure with your left hand on the string, you can kinda mimic that sound.

De la Canal: You say you’re drawn to writing about nostalgia and love. You also have a few references to stars and astrology. Your first single was "Cosmos." Your last album is titled "From Orbit." In the title track, you sing about coming home from orbit, you’ll see your love soon.

What is it about those subjects that draw you to write about them?

Wynter: So when I was young, in addition to being into music, I was also into astronomy. Loved astronomy in school. I mean, as humans we’ve been looking up to the stars for as long as we’ve been around, and there’s a lot of really beautiful things up there, with as vast as it is, with as much of nothing that’s up there, there are a lot of things that you can pinpoint and look at and go, 'Oh wow, that’s really incredible.'

And I like to relate that to the lives that we live. I mean, we’re here, and I feel like with a lot of us, it’s easy to fall into the routine or fall into the regular go-around. But there are things that can happen in our lives that are captivating and alluring and that make you feel like life isn’t just so ordinary.

De la Canal: Looking back, how much are you today making the music that you the teenager, or you the kid, would have wanted to hear?

Wynter: Oh man, I truly think that me as a kid would be mind-blown, especially with the live album that I put out in October. From when I was that age, I would search for live recordings of the people I listened to. I was like, OK, I want to hear B.B. King live. I want to hear John Mayer live, Gary Clark Jr. live, and I would listen to all of those and be so wowed by the energy in the room that somehow makes its way through the recording that you can feel and hear, and I would always think, 'Wow, I would really want to do that someday.'

De la Canal: And now you have.

Wynter: And now I have. Yeah. I think high school me would be pretty impressed.

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Nick de la Canal is an on air host and reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal