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Duluth's Emma Jeanne wins Trampled By Turtles Palomino Grant

The $5,000 grant comes with the opportunity to open for Trampled By Turtles and Jenny Lewis at Bayfront Festival Park on July 9.

Two white men and a white woman, in casual clothing, pose for a photo against a black-painted brick wall.
Emma Rothwell, at right, with the bandmates she plays with as Emma Jeanne. At left is drummer Riley Kragness; at center is bassist Kilan Kragness.
Contributed / Keely Zynda
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DULUTH — Indie rocker Emma Jeanne has been selected as the winner of the Palomino Grant, a $5,000 award presented by the band Trampled By Turtles in association with the Duluth Homegrown Music Festival. The prize comes with a slot opening for Trampled By Turtles and Jenny Lewis at Bayfront Festival Park on July 9.

"She was a consistent top pick between all the guys in the band," Trampled By Turtles frontman Dave Simonett told the News Tribune. "I thought her songwriting was really great. Really smart, and kind of poignant."

"I am in complete shock," said Emma Rothwell, the Duluth singer-songwriter who performs as Emma Jeanne. Rothwell received the news on Saturday, between a "crazy busy" shift as an At Sara's Table server and an Emma Jeanne gig opening for AfroGeode & The Gemstones at Duluth Cider.

"Suddenly I look at my phone and I have a text from Dave Simonett," Rothwell said. "I was like, 'What?' It's been a very surreal week."

Trampled By Turtles and Duluth Homegrown announced the new grant in March, with the band saying they wanted to support the scene where they started out. Only artists based within 20 miles of Duluth or Superior were eligible for the grant.


Simonett said that "about 80" artists submitted applications, with the band members individually listening to the submissions before deciding, together, on a final winner. "I was kind of blown away," he said. "It was very hard to pick. There's a lot of really cool stuff."

Trampled by Turtles last performed at Bayfront Festival Park in 2019.
Ellen Schmidt / File / Duluth News Tribune

Rothwell grew up in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, then came north in 2017 to attend the University of Minnesota Duluth. She graduated in December 2021, by which point she was gaining traction as Emma Jeanne through live performances and four singles she recorded last year.

"I had my first show at Blush in September," Rothwell said. "Then after that they just kept booking me pretty much every week."

The timing of the Palomino Grant news is bittersweet for Rothwell, with Blush set to permanently close after a final event on Friday. The downtown Duluth venue and bar, which has been open since 2017 at 18 N. First Ave. W., was informed in February that its lease will not be renewed.

"Blush really opened up the door for me to start performing and getting comfortable," Rothwell said, "and also provided all these opportunities to make the connection with all these Twin Cities bands that were coming through."

Every weekend this summer, there's a festival or big show happening in the Twin Ports area.

Rothwell has now played at Twin Cities venues including the 7th St Entry and the Amsterdam Bar & Hall, as well as at Twin Ports venues including West Duluth's Gopher Restaurant & Lounge, where she performed last month as part of Homegrown. She's currently playing a residency at Superior's Cedar Lounge, where she's onstage every Wednesday in June.

The Bayfront gig, though, will be on another level. "I've been a Trampled By Turtles fan for a really long time," said Rothwell, who used to cover the group's songs with her high school band Cladogram. Having seen Trampled By Turtles play Bayfront before, Rothwell appreciates the scope of that stage, but noted she tends to be less nervous as a performer when playing for larger audiences. "I hope that holds true for this massive crowd."

"It's this great, rock and roll, visceral sound," said Simonett in praise of Emma Jeanne's music. "I told her ... 'I'm a new fan. I'm pumped to see you play, and we'll be there watching the show.'"


Young blonde white woman sits at a cash register resting her face on her hand, looking bored.
Emma Jeanne is the recipient of Trampled By Turtles' inaugural Palomino Grant.
Contributed / Keely Zynda

Melodic but muscular, Emma Jeanne's music reflects Rothwell's go-to listens: "a lot of contemporary female rock artists" including Adrianne Lenker, Phoebe Bridgers, Julia Jacklin and Courtney Barnett. "I'm such a big Jenny Lewis fan," said Rothwell about the acclaimed artist who will follow her on the Bayfront stage.

"I was super influenced by Early Eyes and Hippo Campus and all those younger Minneapolis bands," Rothwell added, "that really were making it happen in the Cities when I was growing up."

Simonett said the band "absolutely" plans to offer another grant in the future, with the ultimate goal of expanding the program to include additional contributors.

"Eventually, someday, I'd like to make this a foundation," Simonett said. "I think all of us (in Trampled By Turtles) agree that it felt like a real good, direct connection to the music scene."

Rothwell plans to use the grant money to recoup an investment in her five-song debut EP, which she recorded in March, and to create promotional materials including a music video. "I'm a graphic designer," she said, "so I'm going to try to make my own merch and hopefully have enough merch to sell at Bayfront."

She's also hoping to announce the EP's release date while onstage at Bayfront. Most of Emma Jeanne's Duluth shows have been solo, since Rothwell's band members live in the Twin Cities, but she said she'll have a full power trio onstage at Bayfront.

"Only when we really need the big guns do I call them and ask them to clear their schedule," she said. "I feel like this is an appropriate ask."

Arts and entertainment reporter Jay Gabler joined the Duluth News Tribune in February 2022. His previous experience includes eight years as a digital producer at The Current (Minnesota Public Radio), four years as theater critic at Minneapolis alt-weekly City Pages, and six years as arts editor at the Twin Cities Daily Planet. He's a co-founder of pop culture and creative writing blog The Tangential; and a member of the National Book Critics Circle. You can reach him at jgabler@duluthnews.com or 218-279-5536.
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