After a period of disillusionment with her musical world and a tightrope walk over pits of self-doubt, Emilia Donovan set out to recapture her creative spark in 2020. When, by March, she found herself in isolation at home in Los Angeles with too much time to think, faced with the harsh reality of the coronavirus pandemic and a world in disarray, she escaped into songwriting. Unable to visit her home state of New Jersey or experience the adventure of a traditional summer vacation, she imagined up an idealized version of her childhood in rural-suburbia and at the Jersey shore, and used it as the setting for her stories. The resulting EP Postcards can be heard as a series of vignettes, like letters or diary entries written over the course of a character’s life, depicting the magic of summertime and reunions and separations that come with the season, mixed up with the bittersweet realizations that come with growing older. Even musically steeped in nostalgia, the historic influence of the Jersey soul-rock sound blending with nearby New York City’s Brill Building wall-of-sound pop, is evident on the EP, and is met by the musical heritage of Emilia’s adopted home of Los Angeles, from which she pulls vintage California doo-wop vocals and the energetic presence of 1960s youth culture.
Though Donovan maintains that the stories being told are fictional, Postcards also became a tool for tapping into memories and opening up about her deepest vulnerabilities, subtly interwoven in the songs as confessions of body dysmorphia and anxiety: Used to Be Enough’s, “I used to wish for skinny hips … that used to be enough,” and in the closing track Off the Deep End’s opening lines: “My cheeks burn red over things I said … I keep pressing rewind all in my mind, it’s a habit I hope to outgrow.” Her hope is that by acknowledging her personal journey by way of these stories, listeners going through their own struggles can both feel less alone while still having space left to see and hear themselves in her songs and characters. Also written and recorded entirely on her own, Postcards came about as a homespun musical craft project created with the same naivete and self-awareness apparent in its lyrical content. The many lessons learned in the process have Emilia Donovan so excited to keep creating and continue giving music to her loved ones and listeners.