Singer/Songwriter/Music Director Nicolás Emden is Westwood's Rising Star and One to Watch (Updated)


Photo by @linek94, courtesy of Nicolás Emden. Westwood-based artist and songwriter Nicolás Emden will release his first U.S. album with the support of an Iguana Music Grant.

This April’s total solar eclipse is not the only celestial event of note this year – there’s a rising star in Westwood by way of Patagonia. His name is Nicolás Emden, and while he prepares to release his next single this spring, he enjoys recognition as the New England Music Award World Act of the Year for 2023 and as a recent recipient of an Iguana Music Grant that will fund his first U.S. album release. 

“It was an amazing surprise and an amazing push to my career,” he said about the New England Music Award. Spurred by that success, he was inspired to try for more.

“I heard about this grant from Passim, and since I have a bunch of songs that I’ve been performing this year that are not recorded and are not released yet, I really want to finish my album,” he said. “So I applied for this grant and got it."

Mr. Emden has been a songwriter for many years, and has put out an album with a band and solo, while in Chile. “Como los Pájaros” or “Like the Birds” was Mr. Emden’s first solo album, released in Chile in 2014. Following that project, he came to the United States to pursue studies in musical theater and conducting at the Berklee College of Music. But he says he has always been a songwriter at heart.

Image courtesy of Nicolás Emden. Instagram post of October 31, 2023. Westwood-based artist Nicolás Emden released the catchy single, Todo Volverá, in October 2023. Click photo for link to Instagram post.

At the age of six, he was given a guitar by his mother when he informed her that he was bored. “She was like, ‘No one can be six years old and be bored. Here’s a guitar. And these are three chords that I learned playing in church.’ And that was it,” he says of his musical beginnings. Music has always been part of his life. He joined a number of bands in middle school and high school in Chile, and studied music. He graduated, and his band won a national television contest that took them on a tour with famous bands in the country, which he calls an “amazing experience.”

The band put out two albums between 2007 to 2010, then parted ways. He published his first solo album in 2014. Then entered Berklee’s Artist’s Diploma program with a major in performance and a minor in conducting for musical theater.

By 2014, he was living in Westwood. His Westwood neighbors, who were a part of the Passim music community encouraged him to go with them to see shows and get to know people there.

“And I did it and I got invited to a couple of festivals there. . . . I found it an amazing artist community at Passim that I’m very, very grateful for,” he says. He applied for the Iguana Music Grant, and was one of the selected winners from a pool of over 140 applicants.

Photo by @linek94, courtesy of Nicolás Emden.

The Iguana Music Grant of $2,000 will help fund his first U.S. release. The U.S. release does not yet have a definitive name, but one song he says encapsulates the theme of the album. It is called, “Coraje” or “Courage,” and will most likely end up as the album title, he says.

“We are experiencing very unstable times in terms of politics around the world, which is also something that we’re not necessarily used to as a society. I grew up in a very stable time. I was born in the 1980s when the world was kind of getting away from big wars and big world conflicts. . . . It was a time of stability - at least at the end of the world [ ] where I grew up. It was a time for us in Chile getting out of a crazy dictatorship that we had since the 70s to the end of the 80s. So, it was a promising time. It was like a bright time,” he says.

In contrast, those past feelings of stability and promise are lacking at present. There is  frustration “everywhere” with politics, he says, and a falling off of faith in institutions. Life through the current lens of social media is also completely different from earlier days, he says.

In Patagonia, the community’s connection to the world was mainly through television, notes the artist. Now, it is almost too easy to immediately learn of stressful events throughout the world - wars and a planet collapsing through global warming.  Today’s world requires coraje, or courage. Courage refers to taking important steps in life, regardless of how life unfolds, says Mr. Emden.

In his own life, since 2014, the Chilean artist has made himself a home in the Boston metro area and in Westwood, started a new adventure at the Berklee College of Music’s Artist’s Diploma program, immersed himself in a new culture, started a family, and has lived through a pandemic. These events in Mr. Emden’s life have underscored fragility in life and not taking things for granted, he says.

Mr. Emden's genre of music is Latin American Folk Rock. It focuses on nature, Latin American culture, love, and “everyday philosophy.”

Photo by @linek94, courtesy of Nicolás Emden.

“I’m super-pumped for this coming year, because I have so many shows and I have an amazing band performing with me,” says Mr. Emden. This spring, he plans to release the third in a trio of singles produced as part of a project with old friends from Chile. They slept in a music studio for two days, recording songs which were not known in advance, all under the pressure of creating their best work in a compressed time. 

“It was an incredible project. I know them for years. I trust our musical energy, and synchrony and I knew that something good was going to happen,” he says.

Two of the three songs were released last year as singles. “Sin Ti,” or “Without You” refers to the immigration journey, and leaving a country willingly or under duress. The other song, "Todo Volverá,” or “Everything Will Come Back,” is about how everything returns to the way they once were, with a twist.

Passim in Cambridge will host the Iguana Music & Gecko Fund Showcase on May 13, 2024 at 7:00 p.m. to recognize award recipients. Over the past 16 years, Passim has awarded over $594,000 in grants to the artist community.

Thanks to Passim for sharing its news, and thanks to Nicolás Emden for speaking with Westwood Minute.

Updated 2/5/2024 at 2:50 p.m. 

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