Remember N.B. country singer Emma Robbins? She's 80 now and just released a new album

Emma Robbins, a New Brunswick country music singer from the 1950s, is now living on Vancouver Island. Her album,
Emma Robbins, a New Brunswick country music singer from the 1950s, is now living on Vancouver Island. Her album,

Laughter, tears and thank yous — these are some reactions Emma Robbins has heard after releasing her latest album.

It's not just any album. It's her first solo album and first album in over 60 years.

Robbins made a name for herself in New Brunswick in the 1950s as an up-and-coming country music star. Now, at age 80, she's back.

"I am connecting with people through my songs, and I never, ever imagined that," Robbins said in response to the comments she's been getting about her music.

Her start in the music industry "kind of happened by accident." Capital Co-op Jamboree held a contest every week and the 10-year-old Robbins decided to give it a go one day.

She played guitar and sang and took home third prize, winning herself $5. She said that was a lot of money for a 10-year-old then.

Submitted by James Robbins
Submitted by James Robbins

She kept competing over the years, sometimes placing first, sometimes third, but one night, when she was 16, she got her big break.

"There were judges listening on the radio and they chose me as the best singer that night. And [Earl Mitton & The Valley Rhythm Boys] were looking for a female singer because they had just got a contract with CHSJ-TV," said Robbins. "So, I was the obvious choice, I guess, and that's how I got to sing with them."

She performed with Earl Mitton & The Valley Rhythm Boys from 1958 until 1960. She said the boys treated her like their little sister.

They performed every Saturday night on TV. While Robbins was recognizable in the Maritimes due to her regular on-screen performances, she said "nothing changed" except for maybe a few stares in the streets of Fredericton. She said that made her feel uncomfortable

"I would go and sing Saturday night and know that people watched. And Monday morning, I go back to school and everyone there would have probably watched the show, but nobody said anything," said Robbins.

"I didn't say anything. It was just another day at school. It was just a part of my life."

Submitted by James Robbins
Submitted by James Robbins

When Robbins got married and started a family, things changed. She got busy and her music started to fade away.

Robbins recalls that every time she let music slip away was during a dark period.

She became depressed after the birth of her first child. "Back then you just had to get over it," she said.

Submitted by James Robbins
Submitted by James Robbins

Music has surfaced for her once again. She lives on Vancouver Island now and 80 Where Late the Song Birds Sing came out a little over a week ago.

The nine-song album may not have happened if it wasn't for Robbins's son, James Robbins.

He said, in the interests of his mother's legacy, "it'd be a shame for her not to have songs recorded, especially in a digital format like we have today."

Robbins said James convinced her to record her songs and even showed her how to use the equipment.

She recorded the first one and, after sending it away for instrumentation, she decided to continue. Robbins said sometimes the lyrics would come in the middle of the night and she'd have to get up to write them down.

The album was recorded in a closet, said James.

James said his father doesn't like to spend much money. But he told him that they would need to buy some good equipment even though Robbins could do most of the production by herself.

Submitted by James Robbins
Submitted by James Robbins

"When he saw how happy it made her after she produced her first song … he just looked at me and he said, 'Spare no expense, get her whatever she needs,'" said James.

Robbins said she isn't sure what's next. She won't be performing her album as it's just for listening, but she is surprised by the interest in her music.

Her singing has always piqued interest in those around her, from her newest album to her time with Mitton's band to the competitions as a teenager — all the way back to 77 years ago outside her house on the back road of Fredericton Junction.

"My dad made a swing for me and I would sit there and sing by the hour and the neighbours said they loved hearing me sing," said Robbins. "That's where it all started."