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Emma Donovan

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Acclaimed Indigenous vocalist Emma Donovan and Melbourne rhythm combo The Putbacks burst on to the Australian scene with their album Dawn in 2014, announcing a new voice in Australian soul music. Emma’s songwriting is optimistic, impassioned, and bruisingly honest, The Putbacks’ music is fluid, live and raw, and the collaboration has won friends and admirers all over the world. The project was born of Emma and the band’s shared love for classic US soul and the protest music of Indigenous Australia. Shades of every soul record you ever liked sneak through: Al Green’s Hi Records era? Check. Aretha’s Classic Atlantic recordings? Check. Stacks of Stax? Check. It’s all there, but there’s also a whole lot of Coloured Stone and Warumpi Band influences giving this project a uniquely Australian slant. Emma grew up singing church songs with her grandparents on the North coast of New South Wales and her first secular gigs were singing in the family band, The Donovans, with her mother and five uncles. Throughout her career, she has toured and recorded with many of the mainstays of Australian music industry including Archie Roach, The Teskey Brothers and Paul Kelly and was a part of the Black Arm Band project. It was in The Black Arm Band that Emma met members of The Putbacks and their journey together began. The Putbacks are stone cold pros, grizzled veterans of all the tours and all the studios. As individuals, they’re the players behind so many bands it’s difficult to list, but let’s start with Hiatus Kaiyote, The Bombay Royale, D.D Dumbo, Swooping Duck and The Meltdown. When they come together, they’re one of the tightest, sharpest, most dynamic musical units ever to exist. Their collaboration with Emma elevates their music and Emma’s songs to another level. Emma Donovan & The Putbacks have together released three studio albums: Dawn (2014), Crossover (2020) and Under These Streets (2021).


Emma Donovan and The Putbacks
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Sharing traditional Indigenous language and storytelling is important to Emma Donovan & The Putbacks. In their The “Crossover” Tour, the band performs music from their critically acclaimed 2020 album, an album that unveils new ways to tell these stories as a way for audiences to learn and discover a part of Australia’s history. On Stage, Emma tells her stories, explaining the lyrics of songs sung in traditional Indigenous Australian language. Throughout their U.S. Tour, Emma Donovan and The Putbacks work to expand the discussion around the history of Australia and how it will be defined for the future.

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