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Between the Buttons



Since moving to New York to try her hand as a singer-songwriter on those Northern stages, Richmond ex-pat Emily Easterly has supplemented her career by teaching music lessons and running an online button business, Smuttons, selling little buttons of campy images from old Playboy magazines.

The Collegiate graduate proves that juggling multiple jobs isn't impossible or all bad. A sultry-voiced redhead, Easterly has certainly shown a fiery musical ambition since leaving town to study classical guitar at the University of Miami in 2001.

There, she stood out as a female singer-songwriter in a city awash with salsa bands, models and neon lights. But today she resides in the artsy Williamsburg district of Brooklyn, where she's just self-released her fourth album, "Heart Comma Heart," a rocking indie pop record with no bass, but plenty of spunky attitude.

Although she sounds more like a cross between Sheryl Crow and Liz Phair, Easterly says the songwriting was different on this album largely because she was influenced by older artists such as Bob Dylan, Neil Young and The Kinks.

"During college, I only listened to indie rock," Easterly says. "Some of my new songs are rootsier. … It's very close to our live shows." There's even a pretty banjo number called "Neil Young Knows What I'm Talking About," just to drive the point home.

Easterly, 25, started playing guitar when she was 9 after being inspired by a strumming babysitter, and was soon learning every Beatles song she could. Although she plays piano on the new album, her classical background isn't apparent in the rock music she makes today. She says she studied classical guitar mostly to improve her technical skills.

Easterly says she initially missed the tight-knit Richmond music community; her boyfriend, local musician Jason Seger, still lives here. But she's been staying busy. She recently went to Los Angeles to have a college friend shoot two music videos for her new album (the video for "Shadows [Oh Honey]" is on YouTube).

One of her best gigs has been opening for Jesse Malin, who collaborates with Ryan Adams, at the Mercury Lounge in New York. But Easterly usually plays smaller clubs, like Pete's Candy Store and Rockwood Music Hall in the Lower East Side, her favorite venue. "[The name] sounds huge, but it's a small place. Jesse came to see me there and brought Jakob Dylan [Bob's son] once," she recalls. "He was nice."

For now her strategy is to keep playing out as much as possible. "I get inspired just being here and seeing other bands," she says. "There's a million shows every night." S

Emily Easterly plays with Chris Cubeta at Gallery5 Friday, Feb. 8, at 7 p.m. $5. 644-0005. She also performs an in-store show at Plan 9 Music Carytown Saturday, Feb. 9, at 2 p.m. 353-9996.

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