By Crystal Harrell

The Coachella Valley music scene is a hub of boundless talent—fostering a supportive community of individuals seeking collaborative opportunities for the sake of their artistic craft—while creating wonderful moments of audience connection.

Local musicians Mark Wadlund and Emmelle Leyla comprise eMMELLEduo, a project they started over a year ago, with Emmelle performing vocals and Mark accompanying her on acoustic guitar.

The two met each other at a bar Emelle worked at—bonding over their interest in music, with Mark having made his name in the desert with the thrash metal band Instigator and other musical projects. Emmelle was performing with another guitarist at the time, but reached out to Mark on Instagram one day to let him know her former guitarist backed out and asked if he could play a show with her instead.


“When we played this gig, we got such positive feedback from everybody that Mark was really talented, and I was really talented, and we played really well together. We had chemistry. So after that, we kind of just decided to try to get more gigs booked. And ever since we decided that, we’ve just been pretty busy, and we’ve played all over the desert,” shared Emmelle.

“There’s a lot of places I’ve been able to play with Emmelle that I could have never actually really imagined ever playing, especially with Instigator, but it’s just been a really fun and interesting journey,” added Mark.

Emmelle immigrated from Australia when she was two and a half and has lived in the desert ever since. From a young age, she recognized the talent she had for singing, but insecurity prevented her from pursuing it. It wasn’t until March of 2022, after a traumatic relationship, that Emmelle started to get into music again.

“I had to go into a program to get help and I started singing in a choir. I just got a lot of positive feedback from people, telling me, ‘you’re really talented. You need to take this further. If you don’t pursue this, you’re gonna regret this when you’re older.’ And I pursued it, and I got with Mark, and we’ve had a lot of success since I made that choice,” explained Emmelle.

eMMELLEduo has performed at valley venues and events like Indio’s Second Saturdays, the Desert Fox, the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort, Jackalope Ranch, Rock the River in Rancho Mirage, as well as The District in Redlands.

The duo typically takes a break during the summertime after a busy season of performing to give them more time to learn music and tighten up their set with a goal to perform at venues with new music every time they play.

“We’re not just performing the same stuff and getting boring. To this day, it’s all been covers. We thought about doing some originals, and we’ve worked on some things, but we haven’t released anything yet. To be honest, most places don’t want to hire people for original music, like at hotels and bars and restaurants. For the most part, they want to hear covers. And it’s a big conversation in the valley, especially with Coachella Fest and how we have a lot of high-end music, but need to support our local performers as well,” said Mark.

“Probably some of the best times that we have had as musicians and playing shows is in the really intimate bars and the really small bars like Desert Fox, because the place gets filled up really easily and it becomes really intimate and we have the whole bar engaged, singing along with us. It’s really cool to be able to reach that many people with just a guitar and just a voice. Typically, to get that kind of reaction, you have to have a rocking drummer and a rocking guitar player. And the fact that we can draw that in with just the two of us is pretty surreal, honestly,” added Emmelle.

eMMELLEduo is currently working on recruiting a full band to play in shows, and has their next show booked for Saturday, June 1, at Three Stags Irish Pub and Restaurant in Downtown Redlands. The duo will also be performing at a local acoustic night at Flat Black Shop on July 26. Although both Mark and Emmelle are partial to the rock music genre, they play a wide variety of covers ranging from blues, jazz, pop, and country.

“We try to keep it really diverse with the genres of music that we play, but I hope to inspire the fact that there’s potential for more. This is another step for growth. The idea is to inspire not only ourselves to go further, but for other people to just get involved as performers and musicians. This is another route, so it’s been reaching more people and for both of us, it’s an experience learning about ourselves in the process,” said Mark.

“Music has really boosted my confidence and just really helped me tap into my purpose with what I’m supposed to do. When I was younger, I spent a lot of my twenties going to school and getting certifications and trying to figure out what I wanted to do. But I feel like singing, and doing this with Mark, we have this full band and being in the music scene is exactly where I’m supposed to be, and it just feels good to finally be in a place where I can do that. One thing that makes me so happy is when we have kids coming up to us and saying, ‘oh, my gosh, that’s so cool.’ It feels really good to be an inspiration for younger people and being able to showcase the kind of talent that we really do have to offer in this valley. There is talent in this desert, and people need to see it,” stated Emmelle.

Follow eMMELLEduo on Instagram @emmelleduo to keep up-to-date with music and shows. Listeners can also follow Mark Wadlund and Emmelle Leyla on Instagram at @markk_roman and @emmelleleyla respectively.