IT has been a while since I have included Emmi...
on my site but it is always a great experience! She has achieved a lot since I last featured her so I was keen to ask about her recent E.P., Lovers, and the music that will follow; what life is like now she is based in New York and whether she has any particular albums that mean a lot to her.
Emmi discusses her plans going forward and how she would sum up last year; whether there is a routine regarding her songwriting and which rising artists we need to get behind – she ends with a recent song that is new to my ears.
Hi, Emmi. How are you? How has your week been?
Hey, Sam! My week has been grand, thanks. Just got back to New York from a little time with my family in Oz. Did my taxes. Bought a new keyboard. Life is good.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Sure! My name is Emmi. I make music. I used to only do that for other people until a few years ago when a (wine-infused) conversation with my mum woke me up to the realisation that I had an itch to be an artist in my own right. Once I was aware of the itch, I realised it wouldn’t go away until I, well…scratched it. So, I started releasing tunes from my bedroom.
And, because the Internet is a brilliant surprising beast, great stuff happened: a tweet from Taylor Swift; a role in a movie; features in Europe. So much cool stuff. So, I figured I maybe had a place at the table of music and went away a while to come up with a big plan and get a team. And now I’m back…with said plan.
I understand you have recently moved to New York. What prompted that decision and how is life there at the moment?!
It was half a personal circumstance and half a career choice. I really connect with music makers in the U.S. And I realised I was spending months in London gathering inspiration (it’s genuinely my favourite city in the world) only to return to L.A. like a coiled spring and write a hundred songs at once. And I’ve always wondered what kind of damage I could do if I spent some actual time in the U.S. – and I didn’t have to leave every time things got exciting.
So, here I am. But, living in New York and commuting to L.A. makes more sense of my character. I’m a story teller. And perhaps it’s a form of masochism but I need the cold streets and the rude people; mad people, lovely people and the full complement of human beings and all the struggles and victories that go along with that to draw on.
I want to feel I’m living on the ground, if that makes sense. You get that in London. And you get that in New York. It’s fuel to me. But, I find after six weeks in L.A., the quinoa and palm trees and perpetual sun and air-punching and “You go girl!”s start homogenising my style. So, I got to get back to reality and get some frost back in my bones, you know?
Lovers is your latest E.P. I like the fact the songs seem to tell a story. Did a particular relationship inspire the songs or was it something you had been planning a while?
Not any one relationship, no. (Sorry not to be saucy and give you gossip). It tells the story of a relationship from start to finish, but the fictional story it tells is made up of my experiences across a couple of relationships in my past so it’s totally honest in that sense. And specifically those moments in relationships I went through that felt confusing or scary to me at the time, but that are pockets of relationships and love I don’t think get enough air time in Pop music. The awkward meeting (instead of the ‘I’m hot, you’re hot: let’s get together’ script we are so often sold in Pop culture)…
The ‘making it official’ conversation. The fear of allowing yourself to love again or, God forbid, be happy after you’ve been hurt. The question of monogamy and the boredom of long-term relationships. All of it. I always run on the belief that, if I’ve felt it, I’m more than likely not the only one. So just write it.
Do you have a personal favourite song from Lovers that strikes you hardest?
I think the most honest ones for me were Scared Stupid and The Way We Used To…
Scared Stupid is the closest to talking about my anxiety I have ever come. About my inability to fully enjoy any pleasure or joy in my life because of how quickly I play out the worst possible scenario in my head and talk myself out of the present. So, although that tune is a bit tongue in cheek and melodramatic, it’s a fairly honest monologue.
The Way We Used To was a song I’d been trying to write for a while. We don’t talk about long-term relationships in Pop. (Perhaps because it’s not sexy?). But I wanted to change that given I would say half of the world’s population are in one. It’s about the war between loving someone deeply with a long history but simultaneously wishing to be ‘new’ to someone. It’s human nature to want to be exciting. To want that rush. That’s why people throw themselves out of planes or go on rollercoasters. To feel ‘alive’. And being faithful to someone is the decision to fight that desire with the wisdom that all that sh*t is fleeting and love doesn’t get a second chance. I wanted to write a love song from the perspective of someone who has those instincts but doesn’t act on them. Making it a little sadder, when the lover she is singing to perhaps does act on their own similar instincts later in the story.
But, honestly, Stay Awake the last track on the album is like a child to me. I wrote it six years ago. On the floor of a studio in Hamburg. I can’t explain it. But, it’s special. So special. Live, you really feel that. We wrote it about two stories at once. One: A young couple, newly in love, not wanting to say goodnight because they just want to spend every waking minute with each other. Two: An old couple at the end of their lives together, not wanting to say goodbye. I guess the point is, when it comes to love goodbye, will always be too soon. That one felt it dropped out the sky and wasn’t from me at all. The best ones always do. And I’m just so glad it’s out.
Might we see any more similar playlists/E.P.s? What can we expect in 2019?
Yes, sir! I announced a trilogy in September: Lovers. Players. Dreamers. One/three, Lovers, is out now – so, you got two more coming! And they all have a different concept. A different visual world. Different characters, almost. (Perhaps a throwback to my past as an actress). I don’t like to make promises, but I’d say you can expect playlist-two, Players, this year, if not three. And you can expect a full-length album this time. Each playlist gets bigger and bigger. Both in size and grandeur of concept and overall ambition. So, sit tight…
Last year was a busy one for you! How do you feel about 2018 looking back?
I see it as a little more of a personal development year than anything. There was a lot of me running around London in a super hero cape with mates and a handy-cam acting a dork. It was an indie, fun and exploratory kind of year. Perhaps that doesn’t sound like personal discovery to most…but it was a part of a new era I’m entering that I like to call the ‘fu*k it’ era. To be totally unashamedly myself and just create music; get it out and stop taking myself so damn seriously. We did it with practically zero budget and this release was almost a dialogue between me and my fans. No grand push or promo. Just a quiet release, like…’Hey I’m back. Thank you for being here! Here’s some music. And a promise I’m not going anywhere’.
And it’s been really fun getting to know them all personally; overcoming my fear of the Internet and myself and just generally getting this thing started. Good to be back. 2019 will be the year things grow…
Every songwriter is different. How do songs come to you? Do you set time aside to write?
I tend to write in sessions, which normally means a song in a day (fully produced etc.). Such is the world of Pop! But it’s good for me. I can agonise on a piano for months on my own. I’m terrible at making decisions. But, perhaps it’s because I’m such a social creature or perhaps it’s the pressure of the moment: songs just come easier to me in the studio. And they generally come from the music. I carry a notepad around with me…and I write little thoughts and words down all the time. So, when I walk into a session I normally have a phrase or a story to tell on those pages. (Or several).
And it’s about gauging my mood and the mood of the room to see what the right direction is. Talking it through will often give the producer the heartbeat of what we are about to create before we begin. The emotional colour, perhaps. But, sometimes, I walk in with an empty notebook and I say…“I have nothing! Zilch!” And they can pull up a sound or a beat or just be noodling on the guitar while we catch up and there it is! A story hidden in the space between the notes of a piano…or in a word someone says. No one day is the same…
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?
I have a song with Norwegian D.J. Sonny Alven called Our Youth. I wrote it in about half an hour over Skype once; recorded it, sent it off…and didn’t give it another thought. Suddenly it was going out with my voice on it, which was great! And I was aware it was going well over there…but didn’t truly understand what that meant until I actually flew out to Norway to perform it live. That was really special. I was at a music festival and people were lining up outside to get into our tent. I had to do a line check before we started and I sang the first line of the song and gave a thumbs up to the sound engineer and started to leave the stage.
But, as I walked off the stage, I heard singing. So, I took out my in-ears and the crowd there (thousands of them) were singing the rest of the song back to me! Word for word! And, I was like…Oh my God. These are my words. They are singing my tune and my words. That’s the first time that had ever happened to me. That was special. We did the song on T.V. in front of 60,000 people too. That was a trip!
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
Too many to count but, if you twist my arm…
Alicia Keys - Songs in A Minor
This was the first album I was bought that was ‘Pop’. I was obsessed with The Beach Boys and Jazz music - and music of my own generation just wasn’t of interest to me. But Mum bought me Alicia in an attempt to get me down with the kids and it was my awakening. I learnt the entire album by ear that summer. And suddenly Pop wasn’t such a dirty word anymore: it was a joyful umbrella that could mean whatever you wanted it to. The next album I bought was Craig David’s Born to Do It, so I’d say that was a drastic about-turn.
Tapestry - Carole King
This one requires no explanation: superb songs, sung honestly.
The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
A little after I obsessed myself with Jazz, I discovered The Beach Boys. And it was a world of all American vibes that had nothing to do with my existence but I wanted to be a part of. The harmonies I’m sure play a lot into how I make music now. (These guys, The Seekers; ABBA, the Bee Gees and The Supremes). They were my summer obsession for five months when I was about thirteen.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
Oh, my goodness. Tough call. I love Bruno Mars. I’d love to support him. And my rider would be to be allowed to watch side of stage every night. I aspire to that kind of performance level and mastery. P!nk. For similar reasons. Alicia. Obviously. Ellie Goulding. I love her...
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Get a great lawyer. Learn to say ‘no’. Don’t try to please people. Figure out your WHY as an artist and reference it in EVERYTHING you do. Expect nothing. Entitlement will ruin you. Just make you happy. And write your legacy. My manager once told me to plan “how I’d like to fail” and I think that’s the soundest advice I ever got. Failure will happen. Even if you win. But, ask yourself: Would you like to fail as you or as someone else? What could you make your peace with easier when all is said and done? Authenticity is very difficult to regret.
Do you have tour dates coming up? Where can we catch you play?
I’m hoping to announce some U.K./U.S. dates soon. But nothing in stone yet.
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
I’m a big new fan of Hobo Johnson. A Rap artist with a mind that I can’t get enough of. College-style band just got slick! Also, check out Radiant Children. Caught their show in L.A. recently and they are fire. Loving new Bhad Bhabie. Billie Eilish. King Princess. Lots of great stuff coming through right now…
It’s an exciting time for music.
IN THIS PHOTO: Bhad Bhabie
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I love going to Jazz nights. I swing by little bars or Birdland here in N.Y.C. whenever I can because that escape does my soul wonders. I draw. I watch old movies. Also I love video games. So, I try to game wherever I can. But I can’t own an Xbox of my own, because literally I’d get nothing done…then there’s whiskey.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Thanks for your time, Sam! This is new and gorgeous…
Let Me Down Slowly - Alec Benjamin (ft. Alessia Cara)