Eighty-year-old Emma Robbins just released her first-ever album aptly titled 80 Where Late the Song Birds Sing and packed with nine original songs, many sharing personal stories close to her heart.
“When the road of life gets tougher, and the sea of life grows rougher, through the raging storm, I will keep you warm, as we go on together,” sings Robbins on track four, The Road of Love — a tune recalling tough memories for her and her family.
“My husband had just come home from the hospital [in 2015] after a major stroke. He was in the hospital for six weeks, and when he came home, that song just came to me,” Robbins told CHEK News in an interview.
Track nine, Leave the Moon Alone!, ushers in a flood of childhood memories for the singer, who was born and raised on Canada’s east coast in New Brunswick.
“It’s bothered me for a long time that they’re sending rockets to the moon because, as a child, I loved the moon,” Robbins said.
“I thought there was a man in the moon when I was really young. I’ve always loved the moon and the night sky, and as I say, just leave it alone.”
Robbins used to sing on the swing outside her childhood home near Fredericton Junction, where neighbours would compliment her voice and ultimately help ignite her passion for the craft.
“At the age of 10, I competed in the Capital Co-op Jamboree and I won third prize, which was $5. That was a lot of a 10-year-old,” she recalled.
“[When] I was 16, I competed in the finales and won first prize. And Earl Mitten was looking for a female vocalist, so I was the obvious choice. So I ended up singing with Earl Mitten and his Valley Rhythm Boys on CHSJ TV every Saturday night out of Saint John.”
Not long after, Robbins gave it all up.
“I got married in 1960 and I got pregnant, and, of course, you couldn’t be on TV if you were pregnant then. So I had to leave the show, which was very sad for me,” she said.
“Throughout the years, I have sung, and when we lived in Alberta on a ranch, we used to get together with the neighbours and sing and play all night. It’s always been there for me.”
“This was recorded in my walk-in closet,” Robbins said with a laugh.
“I had all these songs I had written and when my son was here a year ago, he said, ‘Why don’t you make an album?’ And I said, ‘That would be great if I knew how,’” she added.
“So he helped me buy the equipment and he showed me how to use it, and I recorded my songs and sent them to a technician in Australia. I played the guitar when I recorded, but the other instruments were put in by the technician.”
While Robbins is happy the album is complete, what brings her the most joy is the message it relays to others and the positive feedback she gets in return, especially from her four children, James, Jeffrey, Jennifer, and Heather.
“I want people to know that they don’t need to quit. They can always do something, no matter how old you are,” she said.
“Whatever your passion is, just do it.”