Singer Emily West began with a career in country music that quickly went south. Her song "Rocks in Your Shoes" peaked at 39 on Billboard's country charts and she sang a duet with Keith Urban in 2010 that didn't take off the way things were predicted.
With the ninth season of the NBC show America's Got Talent ( AGT ), she started as someone frustrated with the music businessand then finished in second place. Since then, she signed a record deal with Sony, releasing a single titled "Bitter." Her full album All For You is set for release Aug. 18.
Recently, she wowed the crowd at Chicago club Davenport's with covers of Sia's "Chandelier" and a variety of originals. Windy City talked to her about it after the show.
Windy City Times: Where are you originally from?
Emily West: Waterloo, Iowa. I moved to Tennessee when I was 18 years old. I had no idea how to pay a bill. I just left. I graduated high school early with one gym credit and then I was out. I was rockin' it trying to write songs in Nashville.
WCT: How do you pick song choices for a show like this one at Davenport's?
EW: I'm working the record right now, so I am doing a lot of songs from that. Some songs from AGT because we have a lot of fans from the show. We do our own interpretation of a piano based track. Some are songs that I have written so a lot of my own stuff. We take a few show tunes and make them our own. We have a good time and just pick and choose.
WCT: The "Puppy Dog" song was really fun.
EW: I wrote that with my friend Kevin Rhoads back in Nashville. We wrote that song because I brought my dog over to his house. He was pissed off I brought my dog. He was playing his guitar and we wrote that.
WCT: "Bitter" is your new single. Are you a bitter person?
EW: Nomaybe I was once. No one I knew has written a song called "Bitter" so I wanted to write one. It was a bold move.
WCT: You mentioned on the microphone that there will be a remix that you will perform on a cruise ship with a gay crowd.
EW: I love it! When it was remixed this cruise was an opportunity, so I decided to do it.
WCT: Why the big fascination with Cyndi Lauper?
EW: I was a big huge of fan of hers when I was a little girl. She gave girls the right to wave their freak flag. I remember that was my first memory of her is that she didn't care and she is who she is. I wanted to be just like her. She was not a blonde perfect person. She dyed her hair and screamed out songs. That gave me freedom to be who I was and just not care.
Later on in life I met her on Celebrity Apprentice and she gave me her number. She kept in touch with me when I didn't have anything going on. She would check in on me. She was a friend to me.
I then got the opportunity to pick whomever I wanted to sing with on America's Got Talent. I picked Cyndi Lauper and it was a full-circle moment. She really is a wonderful human being.
WCT: Did you go see Kinky Boots?
EW: Yes! I loved it. In fact, when I was in New York I tried out for a part. I didn't get a chance to get tickets so she gave me front row seats.
Then I got her book and she had put me in her memoire. I had no idea. I had no money and I was cat sitting. The only money I had was to buy her book. I was on the train and reading it. I was just weeping sitting there!
WCT: Did you have a favorite judge on America's Got Talent?
EW: Howard Stern. I had a crush on him for a little while.
WCT: He's so tall, isn't he?
EW: He is, and very musical. That is why he got on radiohe loves rock music. I googled what Howard Stern's favorite songs were when I found out I would be on the show.
WCT: Have you ever heard from Sia about your version of her song "Chandelier?"
EW: My friend is friends with her. She said she has heard it and loves it. That's all you need!
WCT: Do you miss singing country music?
EW: I still love country music but the type of country music played on the radio is not something I can connect with. Tractors, tight jeans and beer are not things I connect with. It is not what my heart says. I am going to sing what I want. I am not going to cater to that kind of brand. I love old school country music. I will always love Patsy Cline.
WCT: I actually thought of Patsy when you were performing.
EW: I cut my teeth on her cassette tapes. She has heart and soul. Whatever moves me is what I am going to be making records with. As long as I am feeling alive then that is when I am going to sing a song.
WCT: You have sang in the past with [out] country singer Chely Wright.
EW: I have. I sang background on her Metropolitan Hotel a long time ago.
WCT: I enjoyed your song "When Do Lovers Leave."
EW: Thank you. That is Jay Leno's favorite, too.
WCT: Well, we have that in common. I'm so excited you are coming back to town so soon.
EW: I am so thankful and happy to be here. I have been traveling a lot so being in the Midwest feels like new air here. This is my home and it is good to be here. This is my promised land.
I am singing the national anthem at Madison Square Garden tomorrow.
WCT: Are you nervous about that?
EW: I am always nervous before singing it. My mom told me to make sure I start off low or I am screwed.
WCT: You are going to be back in town almost in time for gay Pride.
EW: I know, and we are going to be doing a lot with gay Pride. I will be in L,A, for it. My song "Battle" is about that with the last verse. I am all about freedom!
Follow West as she returns to Davenport's Piano Bar on June 18 and 25. Visit allforyou.emilywestofficial.com for more on her new music .