The Song Flows Through Her
Emily Scott Robinson ’09 is making all the right lists.
By Ron Wagner ’93
Thanks to her critically acclaimed 2019 album “Traveling Mercies,” the Emily Scott Robinson ’09 has made a name for herself in the music world. So does that mean it’s time for the 2009 Furman graduate to add a high school band throwback to her repertoire?
Maybe not quite yet.
“My friends were like, ‘Now that Lizzo has gotten really popular playing the flute, you should play the clarinet,’” Robinson says of the hip-hop star with a laugh. “I don’t know if it would be as cool.”
As Lizzo’s fame grew, she began incorporating the instrument she learned as a child into her shows. Robinson’s clarinet prowess earned a scholarship from Furman and was on display for four years in the Furman Wind Ensemble. But don’t expect any tinkering with the recipe of gentle guitar, beautiful voice and heartfelt lyrics that prompted Rolling Stone to include “Traveling Mercies” in its list of Top 40 Country and Americana Albums of 2019 and Stereogum to laud it as one of The 10 Best Country Albums of 2019.
“Since I was really young, I was drawn to women who were singer-songwriters who could just get on the stage with the guitar and fill a room and captivate an audience,” says Robinson, a native of Greensboro, North Carolina.
Rolling Stone raved that Robinson is “a writer who could evoke the empathy of Patty Griffin” and included “The Dress,” the eighth track on “Traveling Mercies,” among the 25 Best Country and Americana Songs of 2019. The Furman community got a taste of what all the fuss was about when Robinson performed a live-stream concert on May 9 as part of the university’s graduation celebration, marking an unexpected full circle for someone who was sure her future wouldn’t include music in any significant way after her own graduation.
“I thought I’d be a social worker or working in the nonprofit world,” says Robinson, who double-majored in history and Spanish. To that end, she signed up for AmeriCorps and traveled around Central America before moving to Colorado to work with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
The job was emotionally draining, however, and looking for a way to recharge she decided “on a whim” to sign up for a songwriting camp at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons, Colorado. The experience changed everything.
“I had written one or two songs, but writing was hard. And I thought because it was hard that I wasn’t good at it,” Robinson says. “I had this idea that when Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell wrote, it came out perfect, which seems so ridiculous now … I got into this environment where there were a bunch of aspiring musicians and musicians who are actually doing it, and I saw that it was possible to actually do this for a living.”
In 2016, Robinson recorded her first full-length album, “Magnolia Queen,” and she and her husband, Rouslan Haracherev, have never looked back. It became much more difficult to do it for a living, however, when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled a big chunk of what was supposed to be a world tour. But she made ends meet by embracing live-stream shows.
Robinson also used the extra time at her home in Flagstaff, Arizona, to work on a new album, often finding herself as surprised as anyone by what she creates.
“Literally all the time I go, ‘How did that come out of my head?’” Robinson says. “I think the answer to that is it’s not coming out of me so much as it’s coming through me … And if I make myself cry when I’m singing, I know there’s something deep and true about that song.”