The Mother Shipton Prophets’ Guild is the experimental folk project of New York-based composer and multi-instrumentalist Emma Steen. The Prophets’ Guild’s sound blends Steen’s love of folk revivalist material, protest songs, and madrigals with her progressive rock background, drawing influence from the melodic skill of Joni Mitchell and Neil Young and from the atmospheric virtuosity of Steven Wilson and Arc Iris. Steen’s work is also an ongoing experiment in extended guitar techniques and experimental production by way of custom-built amplifiers, an eclectic collection of pedals, and a rotating cast of collaborators, most notably producer and technician Andrew Breazna (Queen Cabbage, Dumpster). Steen and Breazna recently opened a label and booking agency. Mediaeval folklore, theatre, poetry, and a deep-seated love of psychology fuel Steen’s writing.
A NYC native, Steen was from an early age exposed to musical theatre, opera, and jazz, but her passion for music didn’t truly arise until she first heard the music of Welsh singer-songwriter Jem. During her highschool years, while pursuing a career in the Off-Broadway theatre scene, she quietly wrote hundreds of songs, teaching herself guitar, bass, and piano and meticulously documenting them in her notebooks. She eventually began taking music lessons at School of Rock NYC, with Kathy Sheppard (In Absentia, Drown in Five, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra) and Jef Brown (Gospel of Mars). In 2016, the summer before she left for college, she began recording her songs on GarageBand, self-releasing them under the name Mother Shipton, the name of a little-known mediaeval doomsday prophet. When she discovered that several others had also adopted that moniker, she re-christened her project The Mother Shipton Prophets’ Guild. While in college, she joined several bands, among them Pandafan, Prosody, Green Tongue Twist, Heart’s Story, One Man Vibe Machine, and zack, and began doing session work as a bassist for solo artists such as Sarah Gross, Rachel Chevat, and Elise Noelle. Altogether, Steen’s work appears on over 40 albums, EPs, and singles.
In late 2019, Steen played bass on a new song by Suzzy Roche (The Roches) engineered by Joe Ferry (The Big Ska Band, Huey Lewis and the News, The Roches). She has performed multiple times with NYC cover outfit Losers Lounge, and has toured New York, Washington DC, and Vermont with Pandafan. Her punk project, Prosody, opened for Michaele Graves (the Misfits) in 2018. Her 2018 song “Darren’s Happy Disco Fun Time” was featured on GeekBeat Radio, which she has also guest hosted several times. Steen’s theatre career has also been noteworthy. She’s stage managed, costume designed, child wrangled, and acted at such theatrical lodestones as Cherry Lane, HB Studios, and La Mama. She’s worked alongside Judd Hirsch (Independence Day, Ordinary People, A Beautiful Mind), Estelle Parsons (Roseanne, Bonnie and Clyde), Jack Hofsiss (The Elephant Man, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), and Ching Valdes-Aran (Across the Universe, Sex and the City).
The Prophets’ Guild’s latest album, Thieves Cannot be True to Another: Companion Music to Henry IV Part 1 is currently in the last stages of mastering before its Spring 2020 release. In addition to this, Steen recently collaborated with filmmaker Alexzander Karlin on his movie-musical, Rites of Passage, a Golden Age-inspired venture for which Steen is composing and arranging the score. Steen is also currently pursuing a degree in composition under such names as Silas Brown (Anne Akiko Meyers), Sloan Wainwright, and Peter Denenberg (The Spin Doctors). Steen is going into the studio again this spring to begin recording her next album.
She can often be found making mac ‘n’ cheese at odd hours of the night and crying when she sees really small dogs.