By KATHIE RALEIGH
Special to The Call
Emily Luther has appeared on television before a national audience, but this week her gig is closer to home.
The vocalist, a Rhode Island native with ties to Woonsocket and Coventry, performs Friday in the Theatre By The Sea’s summer concert series. Accompanied by a five-piece band, she presents a mix of pop, jazz and R&B in a show that gives her the opportunity to interact with her audience.
Luther has been singing for audiences ever since she played a mouse in “Cinderella” at the Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket when she was 9 years old. Two years later she had her first professional job with Kaleidoscope Theater, the Cranston-based children’s theater company.
She studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston until her cover of Adele’s “Someone Like You,” recorded with Berklee alum Charlie Puth, turned into a viral sensation, setting off a whirlwind of activity for the young artist.
First came an invitation from Ellen DeGeneres to perform on her syndicated show in 2011 and contracts not only with DeGeneres’ eleveneleven label but also with Universal Music Publishing Group. She moved to Los Angeles, but after three years, she saw an increasing mismatch between the role people in the music industry chose for her and her personal goal of being a solo artist.
“The (music) industry is a crazy place, and I was really young,” she acknowledges. “I had to regroup and find out my priorities.”
She returned to Rhode Island, but then came the call from “The Voice,” the NBC singing competition that tabulates audience votes to crown a winner.
She made it into the Top 20 on Season 13 in 2017.
The show uses celebrity coaches who choose contestants to be on their “team,” and then advise their singers to lay claim to the title of winning coach.
Luther’s first song, “Summertime,” garnered attention from three of the celebrities, but she chose to be on Team Adam, with vocalist Adam Levine of the group Maroon 5. She also was mentored by superstar Kelly Clarkson who, arguably, kicked off the TV-singing-competition genre with her win on the first season of “American Idol.”
“That was one of the highlights,” Luther says of her “Voice” experience, which overall was “amazing. I enjoyed being there. There was definitely enough time to prepare, to rehearse. They never set us up to fail.
“If I had won, that would have been cool,” she adds. “But this was not ‘it’ for me. It was great exposure, and opportunity to perform with other people, a stepping stone for something else.”
That stepping stone helped her refine a sense of “who I am as an artist. It’s all about finding songs that showcase my voice, and about connecting with the song.”
It also led to opportunities, like performing the National Anthem at the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2018 NBA Playoffs, and appearances with other contestants including the concert in February 2020 at Mount St. Charles Academy in Woonsocket featuring Jackie Foster from “The Voice” and Brandon Diaz from “American Idol.”
Then came the COVID lockdown, and while performing dried up, Luther focused on her work as creative arts director at Mount, teaching drama and chorus. She’s now in her third year and also is running a summer drama camp at the school.
She still is passionate about performing, however, and works with a Boston-based agency and musicians doing more than 40 shows a year, including at private and corporate events.
Her regular pianist, drummer, bassist, keyboardist and sax player from Boston join her at the Theatre By The Sea for a roughly 75-minute show, with one intermission, that the theater bills as “a unique combination of high-powered musicianship, warmth.”
Luther says she plans to sing “all the big songs from ‘The Voice,’” including “Summertime” and “Glitter in the Air” plus an eclectic selection that includes hits by Sara Bareilles, Chaka Khan and Annie Lennox, among others. Familiarity among the musicians means, “We call songs as we go,” she says.
Emily Luther in Concert is Friday, July 23, at 8 p.m. at Theatre By The Sea, 364 Cards Pond Road, Wakefield. Tickets are $29 - $52 (additional fees may apply). Discount rates are available for groups of 10 or more by calling (401) 782-3800 x112. Tickets are available online 24-hours-a-day at www.theatrebythesea.com and via telephone from 11a.m. --5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays by calling (401) 782-TKTS (8587). Visit the website for information on future concerts and an August production of “Mamma Mia!”