Emma: Hi Steve, thank you for taking the time to interview me today…so we’re talking soul as in, spirit, passion and energy everything that music has and radiates. Music has so many healing qualities for the listener and creator alike. For me the whole process was an outlet of emotion, one big therapy session and in-turn who knows maybe that will transcend and resonate to more people down the line – like musical Chinese whispers. That’s why we love music because of the way it makes us feel, it’s a powerful tool and it can make a difference.
EP: I recently had the opportunity to chat with the legendary Rita Coolidge about her new album and how it was recorded in the old fashioned way with a group of incredible musicians all in one room. Is this something you like or do you prefer a more modern, produced approach?
Emma: I definitely prefer to create records the ‘old fashioned way’. We recorded at Sun Studio in Memphis, TN. and we did exactly that, everyone (including me) in one room making music and it was liberating.
Most of my vocals are live takes on the new album because I like to maintain the authenticity and the quirks of a full take. I think it’s too easy to iron out the cracks and become vocally neutral, but to really hear and know the singer you have to listen to the rough with the smooth and feel those breaks.
I also love a tape machine the depth it holds and the way it can transport you to another time and place. Magical.
EP: Not long ago I attended The Long Road Festival, a festival of Country, Roots and Americana. How important is it that festivals like this become a regular fixture for artists like yourself?
Emma: I think it’s wonderful that festivals are starting to flourish in England, it’s great for artists to have those platforms and stages to share their music and great for the audience to be exposed to so much music. Also it’s wonderful for artists to come together and share their love of music and support one another, it’s so important in this industry to build one another up.
EP: For people new to Emma King, how would you describe your music?
Emma: I think I’m right in saying my music is high energy, roots-rock! It can be lively, cinematic, delicate and everything in-between – it’s never usually predictable.
Our live shows entail a lot of rocking, sweet harmonies and passionate emotional singing. It’s cool sometimes to play acoustic shows, to go back to your roots… to the real bare bones of a song and watch it stand alone.
EP: You first discovered the joy of song from singers like Annie Lennox, Bette Midler and Fleetwood Mac. How did you move from that style to a love of Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash?
Emma: When I was 9 (by the way Country wasn’t a popular genre in the UK or on prime time TV then!) I crept downstairs really late and turned on the television to find some country legends gracing my screen, it was something so alien, honest and raw that I instantly fell in love with the style. From that moment I knew I wanted to live, tour and experience Tennessee for myself…who knew that some years later I would do just that! Nashville was my home for 6 years, touring across the states, recording in the top studios and visiting TV and radio stations along the way, such a cool experience because I was able to do that with 4 really cool friends. At that point I think only 5 other Brits lived in Nashville… a lot has changed since then! : )
EP: Did regular performances at the legendary Bluebird Cafe help you to perfect your live performance. Who influenced you by their performances?
Emma: We performed 5 or 6 times at the Bluebird each time was special, it’s not just the history and aura surrounding the place (although you do feel it) it’s the people that travel hundreds of miles to take a seat and REALLY listen and appreciate the music. It’s the people that really make it here.
EP: Coming back to the new album, I understand you had some famous faces on board in the band. How did that shape the music? Did you have a firm idea of sound at inception or was it more of an organic process?
Emma: Back in Nashville I worked with Chas Sandford…and Keith Carlock had played on a few tracks back then too. Keith (from touring with Steely Dan) has that rocking free-style roots vibe that I just love he’s one of the best drummers and I get Goosebumps when he plays, so it was a no brainer really, plus he’s a super lovely guy.
Chas is a phenomenal writer and has written a bunch of cool songs with Stevie Nicks, Chicago, John Waite… he has a brilliant creative brain and it was fun working with him. We wrote ‘So Alive’ together that’s on my record too – I couldn’t let that song lie it had to go on.
What I loved about making this record is that we were able to make music with friends – from the saxophone, harmonica to backing vocals it was really nice to hear interpretations of your songs from people you really admire is a cool and humbling feeling.
EP: With the new album, are the tracks self penned, did you collaborate or do you prefer to look at music from favourite writers? If so, why so?
Emma: I write alongside the very talented multi-instrumentalist Ritch Spence, it’s always very important to write organically. I prefer not to set time limits or even set days/sessions. I like to write when it feels right and when I’m really feeling something, so it grows from an organic place. I also write songs acapella, to piano, guitar… there’s even a track on the new album that I wrote to my hair dryer. Music should be a freeing experience with no rules or time frames and I think you create more unique pieces of art that way too.
EP: You are a very hard worker when it comes to touring. Have you got any gigs coming up? I assume you’ll be touring the album after release?
Emma: I can safely say…Yes! In a few weeks we will be announcing some UK dates (full band) in February and I’m also heading back to the states this winter too.
EP: I have been writing a lot recently about the level of anxiety and depression within the industry and how it can go unnoticed by fans and media alike. A couple of my favourite artists James Kellegher, from Eliza and the Bear, and Tor Miller, both recently bravely spoke out about their suffering and in fact, Eliza’s new album is called ‘Group Therapy’ because of the way it helped them deal with some issues. Is this something you are noticing? If so is it more prevalent than before or are we just getting more open about things?
Emma: I think every creative artist deals with this on a weekly if not daily basis, especially those who are independent and struggle to survive week to week. Unless you are in it, it’s really hard to understand or explain.
Social Media is a “best of” because no one really wants the doom and gloom and/or perhaps the honesty behind what it takes to create and release a record without the backing of a major label. I often wish more people would speak out about it, so thank you for writing about it.
I think it’s always been there however, social media’s competitive and numerical platforms certainly do not help mental health issues of those trying to swim alongside signed artists. The music industry is a constant rollercoaster, it’s a 2 steps forwards and 2 steps back business and that in-turn effects confidence, stress levels and causes a lot of anxiety within the industry. I think the pressure to ‘keep up’ is sometimes a losing battle.
It’s something I am very aware of now more than ever.
EP: Is the title of your album, ‘Electric Soul Therapy’, any kind of nod to its therapeutic nature?
Electric Soul Therapy is most certainly a nod to it’s therapeutic nature, it’s also what you need before, during and after completing an album hahaa…it’s what music gives us in some way. After a rollercoaster 2 years it seemed fitting and the title grew on me daily.
EP: Thank you very much for your time Emma. Good luck with the album.
Emma: Thank YOU so much for taking the time to interview and for talking about such important matters. Emma x