June 9, 2020
Charlotte’s music scene has a long history of rewarding those who push the boundaries of genre. From punk to pop rock, this city’s music fans are loyal to those who can continue to change the face of their space. In the case of Emanuel Wynter, a young Charlotte singer-songwriter, he’s expanding the landscape of soul with the bow of his violin and a debut album that refuses to be overlooked.
Originally from New York City, Wynter has resided in Charlotte for the last 13 years. He’s played at venues in and around North Carolina as a solo artist, in addition to his tight schedule as a studio musician, a sphere of music where his violin talents are fiercely sought after. He also plays in several groups based in North Carolina, currently as a fixture in 9daytrip and Sticks & Stones, both of which he serves as the standout violinist.
His journey with his signature instrument began in first grade with classical lessons and, after years of training, he excelled to the professional level at the age of 19. However, it was well before then that Wynter had become rapt by the sounds of the South. It was during his transition over the Mason-Dixon line that allowed Wynter a first-hand exposure to the styles of Southern blues and folk– both of which have come to play leading roles in Wynter’s eclectic brand of neo-soul. For Wynter, that kind of recognition is something he’s working hard to ensure.
Back when Wynter was getting his start in gigging, it didn’t always come as naturally to him as it may now. He recounted his humble beginnings with a shy laugh. “I spent a lot of time just trying to gain confidence, and I eventually did. In 2019 I got a SoFar show, and I got a band together to play my originals with. It was really cool to have my first full band show at the Evening Muse, where I played ‘Cosmos’ for the first time,” he said.
After those first solo experiences, Wynter built on his ability and his body of work, leading us to February of this year when Wynter released his debut solo album, These Past Two Years, an eight-song reflection on time, one that endures reveries on where the young artist has been and the yearning for what lies ahead. Songs like the album opener, “Last Year’s Avenue,” beg for simpler times with lines that ring loud and true for any listener: “I just wish I could go back to those good ol’ days down last year’s avenue. But I can’t, ‘cause I ain’t there no more.” This kind of nostalgia is thematically rivaled by lyrics like the hook on the aptly titled “Anticipation”: “I just can’t seem to get there quick enough. I know you’re waiting for me; I know soon it will be the two of us. This anticipation’s got me in a rush.”
Throughout the record, we see Wynter lyrically struggle against time as it intercuts the other facets of his life: career, love, inspiration, and purpose. As the subject sways between anxiety and longing, the music generally remains defiantly up-tempo. Wynter’s expert handling of his violin, deftly intertwines classical accents with the album’s foundation of jazz and blues, and sometimes he even brings out a little bit of the deeper South with a fiddle riff or two.
Above all, Wynter’s voice, practically tailor-made for soul music is what ties this record together. It shines brightest on songs like “Cosmos” and “Get On” which also feature some of Wynter’s strongest violin playing on the album. Alternatively, songs like “Iced Coffee” allow Wynter’s voice to take a backseat to his songwriting ability, and listeners will be quick to find themselves humming the track’s jazzy guitar licks long after the needle comes off the record.
These Past Two Years and Emanuel Wynter stand as a change in the winds of Charlotte’s soul, jazz, and folk music scenes. Through his creative instrumentality and boundary-challenging songwriting, Wynter is a force to be reckoned with in this city. But, as is often the way of history, those who bring change may have to knock a little harder at the door. Those who have already hopped onto Wynter’s tune will be waiting with bated breath to see if others can catch on in time.
Watch Emanuel Wynter’s performance for Live From The Print Shop.