It’s the End of the World and I feel…Fine?

Here we are, Folks! We made it! It’s the new world order exactly as we imagined it!

Were we right? Did we win?

OY. I’ve been sequestered in place for the past week and a half, working from home and trying to understand the best way to be human while moving forward through this very confusing time.

I haven’t been writing. I haven’t really been playing. It makes me worried sometimes. Other times I feel relieved and sip another martini.

I’m one of the lucky ones. Privileged and secure with my ongoing responsibilities of a day job that hasn’t been closed or canceled. But only 3 months ago, I wasn’t.

Up until February I was a musician struggling to get by in a local gig economy that was already stacked against us. San Francisco is a hard place to make a musical living. I guess anywhere is. With the recent passing and ensuing panic around AB5, coupled with the closing of local venues that had been around for years, musicians and independent artists started leaving the state of California in droves. Nashville, New Orleans, Austin…anywhere people still left their houses to see live shows had more hope than home did.

I wasn’t ready to say goodbye yet, though I had been planning to for years. There was still something here for me. Community, collaboration, friends, family. My partner. The Redwoods. The ocean.

But I was losing money and living in my parents spare room and I was 39. I was too old for this shit. Still, I was privileged to have what I had.

So I seized an opportunity to jump back into a day job at a company I am proud to be a part of. It does its best to do the right thing by everyone, and that is the best I can hope for. Just like Gillian Welch sings “Never minded working hard, it was who I’m workin’ for.”

I was also privileged to have had that opportunity offered to me at just the right time. Skin-of-my-teeth time.

As lucky as I am, I can’t help feeling a bit like a defector. I couldn’t hack it in music. I just couldn’t hang. And still, my privilege sways in my face every day and all I can do is accept it and support my people as best I can.

If I was disheartened by the way our artistic communities were treated then, I am only held afloat by the remarkable resilience they have shown in the face of all of it. They keep fighting with technology and community and optimism and lean upon the online awareness they have built and maintain and it is breathtaking. I’m so proud to know them.

The service industry is another sore sight for me. The bars, restaurants, mom and pop shops that are unique to the Bay Area have shut and those who relied on what little they were making in that sector are out of jobs. A lot of them. Thousands. And there is so little available to them in the meantime.

My plan for now is to sit quietly, do my job, not force the creative energy when it’s not here, send my dollars to those churning out their souls on Facebook live, Zoom, Bandcamp (100% goes to music makers so go buy music!), and whatever other social media magic is going to come out of this.

Thank you for all of your support. There will be more music from me so stay tuned. Until then, stay safe, stay sane, wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and keep 6 feet away from anyone you pass on your daily excursions. Here’s a sweet snip from two of my local favorite creators.

EZ & Bobby Jo Valentine up close and personal

My birthday is this Sunday, December 15 And I’m spending it the best way I can: Performing with an amazing human in a cozy house concert.

If you haven’t heard of Bobby Jo Valentine, I strongly suggest checking out the amazing work he’s doing in the community by simply being his beautiful self and sharing his stories.

It’s an early-ish gig, so you can grab yourself an early night if that’s your jam.
click here for info!

Just want tickets? Cool! Go here

If you are a fan of live performances and have never been to a house concert, you’re in for a treat! They are one of the best ways to experience performers and will leave you feeling a healthy sense of connection.

If you already know, well then, I don’t have to tell you.
Snag a spot and see you there!


Giving Tuesday! (But really, you can give any time)

I’m a bit conflicted about this post because, on one hand, I wish it didn’t need to be done. But, on the other hand, I’m honored to have been included at this time when it needs to be done.

I wrote my song Bottle & Bowl in 2010 after Arizona proposed Arizona Senate Bill 1070.  The Bill was signed into law in April of that year. The Federal Government ruled to uphold the bill but struck down three of the provisions as they were deemed in violation of the Supremacy Clause and the Constitution of the United States.   The resulting “minor” civil unrest compelled me to highlight some perspective from the other side of the border.

This was back in 2010, almost a decade ago. I was HOPING that by this time, my little song would have lived its purpose and gone to rest peacefully, knowing it had served its full purpose as a small light in a dark corner.

But here we are, and the song has more work to do.

Bottle & Bowl is now one of a number of songs written about and for families being separated at our borders as they travel to the threshold of our country seeking asylum from a life that is unbearable.

This compilation is the result of a ton of love and work spearheaded by songwriter Annie Bacon, in partnership with WhistlePig Records, and including a number of amazing artists like Jimbo Scott of Poor Man’s Whiskey and Pete Donnelly of the Figs.

The compilation has even been mentioned in Billboard Magazine to inspire folks to donate this season.

Please consider purchasing either the album or a song or two. All proceeds go directly to Immigrant Families Together, meaning there are no middlemen scraping fees off of the top or sides.

Click on the link under the image to donate an amount of your choice.

Thank you for your support and I wish you a warm and loving Family Season.

-Emily Zisman

Check out my interview on KPOO Radio!

On September 8th my band and I spent a beautiful noontime in Jane Werner Plaza. We had SO much fun and the crowd was remarkable and generous. Our tip jar over…flew..eth?

Anyhoo! One particular passer-by happened to be Marilynn Fowler from KPOO FM. She slipped an invitation, written on a piece of notepaper, to join her on her show into our tip jar and so I did. I had a ball chatting with her about my smol bubble of the music world and she was such a gracious host.

ALSO! I was so excited to be inside of this amazing San Francisco Institution. I was pretty much geeking out the entire time.

EEEEEEE!!!!!!! 😀

Have a listen to the archived interview HERE. Click on the show from October 21st and enjoy! If you want to skip ahead, my interview starts at 21:36.

Reclaiming Lyrical Mythologies: Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright by Bob Dylan

I remember my first two thoughts when I heard this song for the first time as a very little girl.

  1. “Man, he doesn’t like her very much. Does he?”
  2. “He’s kinda mean.”

There’s a reason why Dylan is Dylan. I’ve found myself in countless discussions with disciples and defectors about his music, his writing, and his uniquely inherent mystique. In fact, “What are your thoughts on Bob Dylan?” is sometimes a question I throw out there just to get to know a person. (Pro tip: Anyone who answers that question with an “Eh, I can take him or leave him” is telling me that they are not a familiar. Dylan is either polarizing or you are not paying attention.)

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep reiterating that lyrics have always been my focus for any song I am listening to or writing. They literally tell the story. Music certainly paints a picture and sets a mood, but there is nothing quite like an expertly crafted lyrical narrative. There is a special pull and bend when lyrics are married with a melody and meter. It’s like gravity.

I can be sucked into the orbit any well-written song faster than a satellite and linger there longer than a moon. I think that’s why I’ve tasked myself with this project. In a way, I’m sitting down with that little girl as we study these stories together so that we can step back from them and enjoy them objectively. They are no longer a part of the internalized network of narratives that shaped us the way they did when we first heard them.

Which is why those two thoughts I had when I first heard Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright stuck with me for so many years.

It is so recognized and revered in our cultural canon of songs that people sing along, it’s still covered and performed by countless artists of various generations, it connects with something in people on a visceral level and evokes a nostalgia that one can only hope is borne from anything they create. Plus, surly and straightforward is Bob Dylan’s brand. It’s what makes his storytelling so recognizable. And all of those things are powerful.

Why, then does this song in particular still sour me?

Let’s break it down

Well it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe Why not? Great discussions sometimes start with GREAT questions.
Ifin’ you don’t know by now Are you mad cause she couldn’t read your mind?
An’ it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe You said that already
It’ll never do some how Lazy

When your rooster crows at the break a dawn That’s early AF
Look out your window and I’ll be gone Ghosting is a coward’s move
You’re the reason I’m trav’lin’ on YOU are the traveler. YOU are the reason.
Don’t think twice, it’s all right You’re forgiving her for your cowardly move. Good job bruh, she doesn’t need your forgiveness.

And it ain’t no use in a-turnin’ on your light, babe Are you accusing her of trying to charm?…I don’t know what this means.
The light I never knowed I doubt this. You fell in love for a reason. It just sounds like you’re getting bored but you don’t want to do any work to fix it.
An’ it ain’t no use in turnin’ on your light, babe
I’m on the dark side of the road You know, you can change that by walking across the street.

But I wish there was somethin’ you would do or say Why don’t YOU say it?!
To try and make me change my mind and stay What can she possibly say or do to change things if you won’t tell her why you’re upset?!
We never did too much talkin’ anyway …What DID you do?
But don’t think twice, it’s all right Again, what is she supposed to apologize for?

No it ain’t no use in callin’ out my name, gal Did you want her to?
Like you never done before Maybe that’s not her thing?
And it ain’t no use in callin’ out my name, gal Maybe if you didn’t disappear, she wouldn’t have to.
I can’t hear ya any more Sounds to me like you were never really paying attention to begin with.

I’m a-thinkin’ and a-wond’rin’ wallkin’ way down the road
I once loved a woman, a child I am told How charmingly condescending of you. OR pedophilic. You know, your choice.
I give her my heart but she wanted my soul UGH. FIRST of all, these are lazy-ass metaphors. If she wanted more and you couldn’t provide, that says more about your inadequacies than it does about her desires. Women want things. Get over it.
But don’t think twice, it’s all right Whatever, dude.

So long honey babe Gross.
Where I’m bound, I can’t tell Good. Get lost.
Goodbye is too good a word, babe You mad bro?
So I just say fare thee well So. Unnecessary.

I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind Great, so we agree she did nothing wrong. She just couldn’t hold your holy attention.
You could have done better but I don’t mind YOU could have done better at communicating. But it’s aight.
You just kinda wasted my precious time What. Did. You. Want. Motherfucker?
But don’t think twice, it’s all right Bye Felicia.

I think what severely irks me about these lyrics is that he’s SO. Bloody. Passive AND he blames her for the heartbreak he’s about to cause her. And for WHAT? He never once, during the entire song, mentions what the actual fuck is the matter. He even says something tantamount to “you didn’t really do anything wrong but you could have done better”, which is about as helpful as a fork in a bowl of broth.

Someone who is NOT a narcissist would feel badly that they have to do this thing where they leave someone and they know it will cause them pain. That is not happening here. He is enjoying his nebulous cruelty.

Here is what is dangerous about this: I grew up with an innate understanding that men leave and that it’s always a woman’s fault. She won’t know why and she may never see or feel it coming, but that’s just the nature of it. Before you ask me if my parents are still married, my parents are still married.

This song isn’t the ONLY reason I believed this. It was reinforced ad nauseam in the media, in movies, magazines, in personal exchanges with friends over heartbreak. Even in my Facebook feed, I see “suggested articles” with headlines that read “The 5 things that are driving him away,” “What NOT to do if you want him to pop the question,” “How to tell you’re his ‘Ms. Right Now and NOT his Ms. Right.” It’s like having an encryption manual to a computer saying “A problem of type 19321 occurred and here are the top 5009876 ways to diagnose.” “Yes! But WHAT PAGE?!”

I had SO many tearful talks with girlfriends wherein we were forensically figuring out the WHY of the thing when their partners left. It almost always came down to something she had or had not done. “I had gained too much weight.” “I had taken him for granted.” “I wasn’t smart enough, tall enough, funny enough, I was too loud or I was depressed or I said this one thing that one time that must have scared him off.”

This song OWNs that attitude from the male perspective with a particularly sinister cool that just makes me want to chase him down and shove that goddamn rooster down is stupid throat so that every time he opens his mouth he sounds like the obnoxious cock that he is.

The only redemption for this song, in my opinion, is for women to sing it. I want women to embody that same aloofness about ending a relationship that isn’t working for her, without needing to explain herself. I want women to be able to sing this song with the same unencumbered freedom that a man can. Without fear of retaliation, without wondering if he will snap. Because, if a WOMAN owns this kind of attitude, she can be in very real danger.

Until then, at least I have liberated that little girl from another lifetime of believing that every failed relationship was ever her fault. So, there’s that.

Have a song you’d like me to de-mythstify? Let me know in the comments below!

Reclaiming Lyrical Mythologies: Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd

  • Special thanks to my friend Bob Duskis for the idea.

Sigh………..Where were we?

Oh. Right. 1973.

So, Alabama’s governor Kay Ivey recently signed a bill that essentially makes it a felony to provide abortion services to anyone UNLESS the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother. Rape/Incest not being one of these things, it don’t matter. 99 years in prison for you! Thanks white woman. You’re so omnipotent, supreme, and wise. Except for that last word with the W. I believe I meant wicked. As in evil. AND stupid, as in wicked stupid. (I call secret angler fish!)

Since then, Georgia proposed House Bill 481 or the “Heartbeat” law, THANKFULLY Kentucky’s abortion law was struck down by the federal court, BUT Ohio signed its OWN “Heartbeat” abortion ban, and the Tennessee General Assembly approved a measure that could trigger an abortion ban in the state provided the Supreme Court awards states the authority to regulate abortion services. Florida’s state rep claims that God told him to introduce an abortion ban…..and the lunatics attempt to take over the asylum.

While these measures on their own don’t completely prevent abortion access to women who want one [I say “want” because I believe it should be as accessible as a Magnum Ice Cream popsicle as far as I’m fucking concerned. (droooool)], the point is to bring the issue all the way up to the Supreme Court so that we allllll have to follow Gramps back to 1973 when state regulated abortion restrictions were voted unconstitutional by the US Government at the subject was put to rest. I mean… justice was duly served, right? Women have a constitutional right to privacy and bodily autonomy, right? RIGHT?!?!?!

WHYYYYYY are we back here again? This makes me so upset for SO many reasons. ONE of the less important reasons is because I can’t peaceably ignore Sweet Home Alabama anymore. I know it was from another era (the racist one. Ok, OK, I realize we’re still IN a racist era but, for the sake of my poor boiling blood, one civil rights travesty at a time please?), but people drunkenly scream-sing it in bars NOW.

I mean….I can fix that. I can try to bring this song back in a way that freshens it up and makes it applicable to the current state of affairs. Maybe it can enjoy a resurgence in popularity? Not that I’m anywhere NEAR the level of recognition and viral possibility of Lynyrd Skynyrd, but….HEY! It could happen!

That racist-ass song is in desperate need of a reboot anyway.

Let’s break it down

Same ol wheels keep on turning. It’s made a home under my skin. Making laws straight out of the old land. They’re trying to control us once again and I think it’s a sin.

Well I heard Mister Young sing about her. Well I heard ol’ Neil take her to town. Well, I know Neil Young remembers, the weight on your shoulders that’s breaking your back is bringing you down.

Fuck You Alabama! Where the lies are so true. Fuck You Alabama. Lord, I’m so damn done with you!

In Birmingham they love the Gov’nor, Boo-Hoo-Hoo! We’re gonna do all we can do. Kay Ivey, what the fuck you doing, girl!? Does your conscience bother you? Now tell the truth!

Fuck You Alabama! Where the lies are so true. Fuck You Alabama. Lord, I’m so damn done with you!

The Supreme Court has Roe V Wade now. And they’ve been known to pick the side of truth (yes they do). Lord, I hope they get this right now. Let history do what history do!

Fuck You Alabama! Where the lies are so true. Fuck You Alabama. Lord, I’m so damn done with you!

Fuck You Alabama! Where the lies are so true, (and the Gov’nor’s through!) Fuck You Alabama. Lord, I’m so damn done with you!


Have a song you’d like me to de-mythstify? Let me know in the comments below!

New Music Video!

How To Leave California is less of an escapist anthem and more of a lyrical acknowledgement of the fact that my home isn’t what it once was, nor is it what it claims to be. The wealth disparity is real and evident in a region of California which claims to be progressive while, at the same time, making little to no policy changes that address the issues on a humane level. It’s up to us as individuals to care for and support one another as a community. Please watch to the end and consider volunteering your time at any of the organizations mentioned. Links provided at the end of the video.

Please share with anyone you think would enjoy or is looking for a way to contribute.

Download the audio track for road-trips HERE!

Thank you for watching!

Click Here!

Vocals and Acoustic Guitar: Emily Zisman

Vocals: Tia Carroll and Barbara Murphy

Violin: Ryan Avery

Bass: Joe Shaughnessy

Electric Guitar: Andrew Balmat

Drums: Mike Bond

Recorded at Tiny Telephone in Oakland Ca

Mixed by Aaron Ballard at ReSynth Audio

Mastered at Neato Mastering

Video Edited by Christian E. Ovando (

Deconstructing Lyrical Mythologies: Kiss, by Prince

Prince was and continues to be sonic sex. Confidence, bottomless talent, attitude, bad-boy charisma balanced with a charming poise that almost teeters on humility.

…almost. Dat side-eyed smirk…. (ugh).

He teased gender norms to a place where this straight-as-an-arrow lady would have gone down on him even if he had the same bits. (Kudos to all you that do, cunnilingus-lovers. You are gems, all of you. GEMS!)

STILL! I don’t know how to digest his directorial disposition in this song… I get there’s a bit of BDSM in there, so the dom-sub dynamic is evident and understood. I KIND of find it sexy, but I also KIND of find it imposing and, quite frankly.. a bit presumptuous.

I think I’m picking up on this because he seems to be addressing a potential lover as opposed to initiating some sexytime in an already established relationship. It feels as if he is making assumptions about her sexuality that maybe she hasn’t expressed yet? Or, maybe she’s totally into it because she’s a virgin, completely inexperienced and/or passive THAT’s what HE’s into. In which case, gross….

As much as I wiggle my booty to and push up the fade on this tune whenever I hear it, there is always that residual feeling of…..dissatisfaction? Something being left unsaid or undone? Eh……

Let’s break it down

Uh! HOTTTTT. Just LISTEN to the way he sings this one. word.

You don’t have to be beautiful WHAT!? But….. I need to FEEL beautiful to fuck YOU.

To turn me on You’d still fuck me? Ain’t that JUST like a dude?

I just need your body baby
From dusk till dawn Just a body? Cool, I’ve got one in the basement. It’s still technically MINE because it’s in MY basement.

You don’t need experience
To turn me out Wait…..Who’s turning WHO out, in this scenario?

You just leave it all up to me
I’m gonna show you what it’s all about The LAST time (Ok ALL times) I just “left it all up to” a man, I did NOT have an orgasm. Just sayin’

You don’t have to be rich
To be my girl Sweet, because
78% to 82% of your salary. So, glad you’re savvy!

You don’t have to be cool
To rule my world GREAT, I’ve NEVER been cool, so this works for me. Plus, I hear derpy is the new Kate Moss.

Ain’t no particular sign I’m more compatible with
I just want your extra time and your

[Muah muah muah muah muah]

Kiss Quality time and physical touch are my top two love languages! According to Hinge, we may have a match!

You got to not talk dirty, baby
If you wanna impress me But…… I LIKE talking dirty. It turns ME on.

You can’t be too flirty, mama Sooo, I’ll just sit here….

I know how to undress me (Yeah) But I WAAANNNA 🙁

I want to be your fantasy Great! just let me do all the things you told me not to and that’s a total possibility

Maybe you could be mine Playing dead is NOT my hottest role-play fantasy.

You just leave it all up to me
We could have a good time Again with the…. no orgasm…thing..

You don’t have to be rich
To be my girl Gender pay-gap, bitches!!!

You don’t have to be cool
To rule my world I’m starting to get the impression that I’M not the subject of this encounter (Should I just leave a mirror here and go get a sammich?)

Ain’t no particular sign I’m more compatible with
I just want your extra time and your

[Muah muah muah muah]

Kiss Uhm…..K.

I think I wanna dance
Gotta, Gotta
Little girl Wendy’s parade :-/
Gotta, gotta, gotta

Women not girls rule my world
I said they rule my world But “women” know what they want and how to voice it.

Act your age, mama (Not your shoe size)
Not your shoe size Clever. And DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO

Maybe we could do the twirl wh…what the fuck is the Twirl?

You don’t have to watch Dynasty
To have an attitude Bitch, I’ve HAD this attitude since 1980.

You just leave it all up to me
My love will be your food
Yeah So, about that sammich?

You don’t have to be rich
To be my girl
You don’t have to be cool
To rule my world
Ain’t no particular sign I’m more compatible with
I just want your extra time and your


To all of my fellow Prince lovers, I’m open to any and all rotten eggs, veggies, pish-poshes, and spankings. I just thought I’d air this one out a bit.

Too soon?

Have a song you’d like me to de-mythstify? Let me know in the comments below!

Tia Carroll and Emily Z cover Tennessee Whiskey

Please enjoy this stripped down cover of Tennessee Whiskey performed by my good friend Tia Carroll and I at Tiny Telephone Recording Studio in Oakland. Andrew Balmat is in there on vocal harmonies as well.

There are a bunch of other songs on the way, but this one needed to be shared right away.

I am fortunate to have so many talented and generous musician friends in my life. I couldn’t be happier with how this one turned out. Hope you like it! Please share it far an wide if you do! Check out Tia Carroll and all that she does at

Recorded at Tiny Telephone in Oakland. Mixed and Mastered by Aaron Ballard at ReSynth Audio. Curtesy of Bobby Fay at Donnie’s Records.