Emily Yates is an artist in many media, using writing, music and visual art to help her process her experience in life, the military and everything. Through her art, she expresses her many opinions and observations, casually brushing aside social stigma in the interest of breaking down communication barriers and shining light on the many ties that bind humans together.
After finishing six years in the U.S. Army, Emily Yates moved to Oakland, Calif., where she learned to play the ukulele and decided to use her training as a military journalist for a greater purpose. She started writing songs (such as “Try Not To Be A Dick,” a finalist in the 2012 International Songwriting Competition, and “Smoke Break,” a reflection on her deployments to Iraq) and playing them for unsuspecting strangers. She soon realized that writing these tunes and playing them would be the best way to get her many opinions across to the world, so she set to work writing dozens of songs, and by 2012 she had recorded her first album, I’ve Got Your Folk Songs Right Here, a fun romp through ideas ranging from human decency to foreign policy. She released her second album, Folk In Your Face, in May 2014, and has traveled all over the country with her songs and stories on Perpetual Eventual World Domination Tour.
“There’s no denying Yates’ piercing wit and unflinching commitment to telling the truth as she sees it,” writes Gary Peterson in the San Jose Mercury News. “From ‘I Don’t Want to Have a Baby,’ to ‘Shut Yer Face,’ to ‘Foreign Policy Folk Song,’ you don’t have to wonder what she’s thinking.”
In the few short years since those initial performances, Yates has already recorded two full-length albums and has one more currently in the works, entirely comprised of original songs for children. She’s supported and performed with members of Americana bands (including Hot Buttered Rum, Railroad Earth, Fruition, Leftover Salmon and others) and rock bands (New Monsoon, Grant Farm, Good Gravy, Scott Pemberton Trio), as well as with other singer-songwriters and stand-up comedians. She performs regularly in the Bay Area and on the west coast, making yearly pilgrimages across America and back as a way of getting to know her fans’ couches. Although she’s still in the beginning stages of Eventual Ukulele Superstardom, she is sure that soon she will be able to drop the “Eventual” and just move on to total world domination. Especially since she now also plays the tenor banjo – everyone knows how effective a communication tool banjos can be.
Ever since she learned to use a camera as an Army journalist, Emily has been addicted to semi-obsessively documenting all the interesting-looking people, places, things and events in her life. She’s shot a bunch of famous people and myriad events (including this thing called the Iraq War, which many people have forgotten about), but her favorite subjects are musicians, babies and nature. Her camera of choice is a Nikon D90 and she hates using a flash.
Emily loves to write and always has. For six years, she was an Army “journalist” – notated as such because military journalism is also called “public affairs” – and wrote lots of articles and editorials on varying topics having to do with the Army. Now she writes songs, essays, and a popular advice column called “Ask Someone Who Knows Stuff About Things.” She also has a sporadically-updated travel blog. Her poems “I Am The Savage” and “Yellow Ribbon” (which became a song) have been published in collections of writings from veterans of the Global War on Terror(ism). You can check out the books here.
Emily Yates served in the Army from 2002 to 2008, including two combat tours to Baghdad, Iraq – Jan. 2005 to Jan. 2006, and March 2007 to May 2008. About a year after receiving her honorable discharge from the military, she came across the organization Iraq Veterans Against the War (www.ivaw.org) and thought, “Hey! I am one of those.” So she joined, and continues to be as active within the Bay Area chapter as she is able. She is a supporter of IVAW’s Operation Recovery – the campaign to stop the deployment of traumatized troops, to which you can donate here. She is also an advocate of bringing back the draft in order to reconnect Americans with the consequences of war and U.S. foreign policy and intervention. She received her B.A. in Near Eastern Studies at U.C. Berkeley in May 2013, using her studies to better understand and process her own experience as a participant in the Iraq War. In 2012, she created a short documentary called “Islamophobia in the Military,” screened on September 11, 2012 at UC Berkeley. Her aim is to continue to create avenues for public discourse surrounding this and other issues relating to an increasingly militarized American society.
It is a goal of Emily’s to organize a group of Iraq veterans who are musicians to go back to Iraq and collaborate with Iraqi musicians on a music project. If you or anyone you know might be interested in participating or helping facilitate this project, email her at email@example.com.