Despite being friends for years, fourth year political science students Emily Naddaf and Jefferson Wood had no idea about each other’s musical talents, and only recently started to play together. Combining Naddaf’s vocals with Wood’s acoustic sounds, the duo performs covers as well as their own original music, most notably performing at Ale House on Tumbleweed Tuesday.
Coming from a musicial background, Wood can play anything “guitar-ish,” including banjo, mandolin, and bass guitar, though he wasn’t always as passionate about music as he is now. “I hated it for a long time,” Wood recalls of his childhood guitar lessons “But it eventually grew on me. It wasn’t enjoyable in the least for the first few years, though!”
Naddaf’s family is also musically inclined, her Mother in particular influencing her her interest in music while growing up. “I’ve always been interested in music, but my Mom has always encouraged me to pursue music,” says Naddaf. “She’s actually going to be there on Sunday! She hasn’t seen me play since high school.”
Wood and Naddaf’s appreciation for music has certainly resonated with them into adulthood, and they both agree on the emotional power that music has over both artists and audiences. “I think music is a really important creative element. It’s really cathartic, in the sense that I can get rid of a lot of emotions that I have,” says Naddaf on what music means to her. “It’s a different way of expressing myself.” For Wood, music’s power is found as much in the emotional discovery, as it is in the release. “I’m not really someone who is super in touch with their emotions, so I guess for me to play, its kind of a way to express what I wouldn’t otherwise be in touch with.”
Here’s what the two have to say about their musical upbringings, finding inspiration, and performing.
Their start in music:
Naddaf: From a young age I was able to memorize every single lyric to songs on the radio. I would just bust it out in the back seat of the car, dance routine and all. My mom then forced me into piano lessons, which I hated because that entailed practicing. Since singing came more naturally to me, I sort of just pursued that.
Wood: I come from a musical family, so I would say that I was kind of subconsciously influenced to be musically inclined just from exposure to it. I began by wanting to play the drums, but my parents said that I had to start on either piano or guitar. I chose guitar. It took almost five years for me to get over my hatred of playing the guitar, but eventually I got there. Now I couldn’t think of playing anything else.
Naddaf: For song writing I get a lot of my inspiration for lyrics from different experiences with people. My lyrics are very personal. Someone can probably tell when I’m singing about them, even if I try to consciously hide it!
Wood: I wouldn’t say that I play out of inspiration, but more out of the need for an emotional outlet. The reason I enjoy picking up the guitar is not so much having the ability to create, but instead the ability to express.
Preparing for a performance:
Naddaf: Listen to Beyoncé, drink wine, repeat.
Wood: Don’t think about it. Putting the performance out of my head until its time to play lets me get a handle on any nerves I might have
The feeling that comes along with performing:
Naddaf: At first, I always feel nervous. But when I realize I’m not going to puke, I’m just very excited. I love having people react positively to our performances because its something that I feel is such a special part of my life.
Wood: For a long time I struggled to play in front of people. I think that because I use the instrument as an expressive outlet, it introduces a level of vulnerability that I can’t say I’m completely comfortable with yet. That being said, when you’re doing something you love (in my case, playing the guitar), its hard not to smile while you do it
Putting their creative work out there:
Naddaf: Performing is all about a state of mind. Like most people, I get nervous in front of big crowds. But now that I have Jefferson to play with, that’s a lot less of an issue. It’s nice to have someone beside you that can laugh with if you mess up. But there is nothing more intimate than playing alone for one other person – that’s when I feel the most vulnerable. But that also can be really rewarding.
Wood: I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s courage that has made me capable of performing, but more the ability to contribute to someone else’s creativity. In the case of Emily and I, I get satisfaction out of being able to enhance her creative work by accompanying her.
Naddaf and Wood will be performing at the MUSE X McCafe Acoustic Session, playing covers of Vance Joy’s “Riptide, and Beyonce’s “Drunk in Love,” as well as one of their own songs.
Abi Conners, Online Editor
Photography: Emilie Nolan