An Interview With The Scottish Singer-Songwriter EMAE About Getting Into The Music, Biz, Favorite Artists and More
Posted On 27 Apr 2017
Independent Scottish singer-songwriter emaé (pronounced em-may) is a feel good mix of soul-pop, with gospel undertones. Her debut single ‘Something Beautiful’ was released in 2015 and received critical acclaim all over the world. MTV The Wrap Up praised the record that ‘oozes confidence, honesty and a relatability that is rare for newcomers’; Soulbounce USA noting its ‘luscious vocals and sweet harmonies’. To accompany the track, emaé decided to release a cinematic music video, directed by Lee Jones (Jessie J, Tinie Tempah, Rita Ora) and shot by Sam Pearce (Kate Nash, Rizzle Kicks) which was featured on VEVO’s front page.
The following year, London-based artist emaé unveiled her acoustic EP ‘Imperfect Words’ (premiered by Afropunk) and a second single ‘Know You’. These two releases allowed her to keep the momentum going with support from BBC 6 Music and an opportunity to open for US artist Adia Victoria in the UK. Last year, emaé was nominated by Gospel Touch Music for the Critics Choice Awards. She also wrote and performed the soundtrack for motion picture ‘The Sunrise StoryTeller’ created by 18 year old, Canadian filmaker Kasha Slavner, to be premiered at the United Nations in March 2017.
2017 started on a high note for emaé as she has been hand picked as ‘One To Watch in 2017’ by MOBO Awards. emaé is excited to share ‘Better’ the first single off her highly anticipated debut album set to release later this year. Written and composed by emaé, ‘Better’ is a very personal song which showcases her honest, life-weathered songwriting. The raw emotion captured in her vocal performance showing us just one side of the artistry to be expected in her upcoming album. She explains “Better is the song for right now, it 100% reflects where I’ve been the last year and also where I’m going. It’s a song of resilience, confidence and certainty. It’s a song I’m extremely proud of.”
The soulful singer-songwriter teamed up with audio and mastering engineers Mark Allaway (Newton Faulkner, Jess Glynn) and Alex Balzama for the making of this song. The video was shot and edited by Joe Almond (Sofar Sounds). Better is now available on all digital and streaming platforms.
Learn more about emae in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! What are some words you would use to describe 2016 for you and your music? How is 2017 treating you so far?
Thank you for yours! Very happy to be interviewed by Music All Access, thank you for having me. 2016… Ok, I feel like there are 2 answers to that. Musically, I’d say persistence, development and growth.
Personally, I’d say 2016 was … sucky, disappointing and generally challenging. And rubbish.
2017 has been amazing so far! We’re a quarter of the way through now, I feel like so much has been accomplished. And God willing, the rest of the year will only get better. Also a lot of the waiting and silent graft of 2016 is coming to bear now so I think I’m enjoying a time of both random wins but also the fruits of the hard work we put in last year.
Where does this interview find you today? Is there music playing in the background? If so, what is it?
You have found me at home, Bon Iver’s (amazing) album “22, A Million” is currently on repeat. Justin Vernon is the truth.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Has your family always been supportive of this dream? Can you recall your earliest musical memory? Could you see yourself doing anything else today?
My family does and will support me 100% but I do think that it’s been easier to do that, especially for my dad, because I have a degree and I’m not a ‘starving artist.’ He grew up in very difficult times, and now has a sense of survival that makes it impossible to accept anything less than total stability. Music tends offer the opposite, for every 1 success story there’s 100,000 people who were just as talented but never made it and I think that scares him… It doesn’t scare me though, but then again it’s my dream, and no one will understand your own dream like you do.
I was actually really late to the party. Looking back I can see now I was a very musical child. I had a stint learning piano, violin, drums and think I knew I could sing because I was PAINFULLY shy and would be careful not to sing too loud in music class. But I didn’t connect the dots back then. It was only when I was around 18, applying for university places that I realized I didn’t have a passion for anything the way I do for music.
I’m not sure if it’s my earliest memory… but I had a cassette tape of music recorded off the radio. Whitney, Mariah, Celine were all there. And I remember lying on my bed probably 8 or 9 years old listening to Whitney doing some crazy riffing. Then I would stop and rewind the tape to try and copy her.
I can’t see myself doing anything else in the world. As hard as the journey can be sometimes, I’m using my talent and when I look back in life I won’t have any regrets that I didn’t try. That’s important to me.
Let’s talk about your newest single, “Better.” Where did the inspiration for it come from? I’ve read that it’s a very personal song so I’m curious to know what it’s like putting something so personal out into the world?
Better! Yes, lets talk about it! It is super personal. So much so that I find it strange talking about the ‘inspiration’ for it because I don’t feel like there was any inspiration. I wrote that song out of necessity. It was my natural reaction to a difficult year of compounding issues. I was actually sitting in a music business class close to tears and just started writing the lyrics on my notepad to distract myself from breaking down. That’s funny to me in hindsight. So far removed from now that I almost can’t relate.
I didn’t want to release it. The day before the campaign went live, I was really apprehensive and for a moment I regretted not choosing a different song off the album. I’ve released songs before and this is definitely different. I felt like I was exposing myself. Opening up my intimate experiences for the sake of art, in a way that I’ve never done before. It’s scary letting the whole world know that you’ve been hurt.
How creatively involved were you with the making of the music video for “Better”? What was that shoot like for you?
I was about to say that I make all the creative decisions but a good team actually can’t operate that way, and I don’t. I am involved in everything, and I obsess over every detail, but I love my team, they’re super talented so I try to step back sometimes to give them the space to create as well.
The “Better” shoot was easy, the song dictated the video in a lot of ways so I had a very strong vision. Typically I’d probably avoid being the main focus of a video but it didn’t feel right any other way. Joe Almond shot and directed the visuals. He was a joy to work with and has a very creative eye so I was happy to relax in front of the camera because everything just looked good.
How do you think you have grown as an artist since your 2015 single, “Something Beautiful”? How have you remained the same?
My resolve is the same, stronger even. It’s galvanized over the years.
I’d like to think I’m smarter and more confident and that I’ve matured vocally but there will always be more to learn. And this is still just the beginning.
MOBO Awards hand-picked you as “One To Watch in 2017.” What did that feel like?
It was unexpected, and that made it really encouraging. It’s one thing to ask for support and to get it but it’s another thing altogether to receive it freely. The fact that they could have chosen anyone but chose me was like a pat on the back, like I’m doing something right. And that’s always nice because not everyone will support you on this journey; there are lots of silent spectators in music and it can be very isolating.
Who are some of your very favorite artists? What musicians would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
Janelle Monaé is a queen. Eska, Kwabs, Bon Iver, Laura Mvula. I could go on and on. There are so many artists out here right now, in the truest sense of the word. I hope one day soon my talent will take me to places where I can collaborate on those levels.
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people take away from your songs?
I hope my writing connects with people in a real and tangible way. I don’t have a singular message really, I just to talk to people through my music about this life we live. My idea of success would be if my song was playing in the background of a holiday video, or if it reminded someone of their backpacking trip or first concert. For me the biggest privilege is when my music finds a meaningful place in real lives.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
Yes, the album is coming (!) I’ve been so excited by the response to ‘Better‘ because I feel the same way about it as I do the whole record. I like to follow my instincts and every song sounds the way I feel it should, so hopefully my audience will hear what I’ve done and just understand it. Keep your eyes peeled! And please connect with me online, I hope we can be friends. 🙂