Piano woman Emma Knights makes sweet music, creates community

Emma Knights is proudly South Australian. The Adelaide-based freelance musician and founder of Emma Knights Productions has been in business for nearly a decade during which she has established connections with several South Australian businesses to create immersive arts experiences. She has a jam-packed calendar of gigs this July and has taken some time to reflect on the recovery of the live performance sector.

Emma Knights | image credit: Adrian Barnes

Emma has written and performed her one-woman-cabaret concerts across Australia and the UK to rave reviews, and enjoys accompanying international artists, having toured professionally with Opera Queensland and the nostalgic ladies vocal ensemble Vintage Vendetta. “It’s more fun working with other people, I work a lot on my own. Being able to collaborate with other musicians and businesses is really great.”

When asked about how she feels about the South Australian Labor government’s recent announcement of the See it LIVE Music Package, she says she is “disappointed with how many SA artists had to be represented” to be eligible for funding, “25 per cent is very low compared to interstate offerings”.

Knights believes that the Labor government would have helped musicians more by “giving vouchers out to punters” who could then directly support their preferred artists. Many musicians are freelance and work as contractors; they generally aren’t employed by a venue. Knights says “it shows that [the government] don’t understand how the music industry works, [funding] is very venue-focused and sits around this mentality of music-by-pay-cheque. [Musicians] invest in the venues, [the government] neglected that.”

Despite adversity, and armed with the relationships Knights has built over the years in business, she is keen to be returning to live performance after the setbacks experienced during the last two years. “I’m excited for this month. [It’s] the first productive month similar to the way I worked pre-pandemic.”

Knights has a series of gigs on the calendar during Umbrella Festival starting with her one-woman cabaret The Piano Women. This show, where Knights pays homage to several historical music figures including Lady Gaga, Carole King, Delta Goodrem, Kate Bush, and Alicia Keys among others, was scheduled for a season at the Sydney Opera House in late 2020 but was cancelled due to the pandemic. “I’ve always wanted to bring it back, Gawler Town Hall approached me to perform it, and I said yes! You would never see all of these pieces together in a single program.”

Emma Knights | image credit: Adrian Barnes

In keeping with her loyalty to South Australian business, she has teamed up with other brands such as Red Cacao in the Adelaide Hills to create the show Chocolate for Piano Lovers, and a Brunch of Original Songs held over three sessions at The Jade and Hubba Hubba Hummus. She is also involved a fundraiser for CareSumatra through an event called A Grand Day at Urrbrae. Her July season is rounded off by SconeFest is association with Beerenberg jams and the South Australian Country Women’s Association (Adelaide Branch). “We always undersell what we have here, working with other local businesses to promote and create things that are uniquely South Australian, that’s always been something that’s important to me.”

You can view Knights’ gig guide here. The Umbrella Festival will be running between Friday 1 July and Sunday 31 July in various venues across South Australia. You can check out the full program here.

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