The power of Emma King’s voice has taken her from her home in Kingston-Upon-Hull to touring the US and Europe, along the way receiving 5-star reviews. Now she’s back, and has released her debut, self-titled, solo album. With a sound that is an idiosyncratic mix of pop, soul and roots, Emma has a voice that has been compared to Joss Stone, Annie Lennox and Christina Aguilera.
Previously working with Grammy Award winning engineers including Chas Sandford (known for Stevie Nicks and Chicago), Milan Bogdan (who’s worked with KC and The Sunshine band, Shania Twain) and Aaron Swihart (Peter Frampton), Emma’s debut album was independently produced, and recorded at Snap Studios in London, then mastered at Abbey Road.
Her writing style is open and honest, and touches upon themes including as anger and loss, but with a sense of optimism throughout. The experience of living abroad is a prominent theme; she describes album opener ‘Devil City’ as being,
“about feeling completely lost in unfamiliar territory; getting pulled back in every time you try to leave.”
Emma received a scholarship from James Brown’s god-daughter Carleen Anderson (Brand New Heavies) to study at BIMM Brighton, and she performed in England and Germany before making a self-funded move to the US, where she stayed for five years. This hard work paid off, and led to some incredible experiences, such as playing in Sun Studios in Memphis using vintage tape machines, Elvis’s microphone and Jerry Lee Lewis’s piano.
Emma King has appeared on the PBS network, BBC Radio 2, ITV, performed live for the prestigious WSM radio station and supported acts such as The Drifters.
We’re pleased to bring you our interview with Emma King.
EP: What’s the Emma King story?
EK: I began listening to old school Elvis and Cash and instantly fell in love with their unique musical style and cheeky rebellious nature. I was drawn to those real artists who sang with passion and soul. I began singing, writing and playing live as much as I could growing up. I soon realised I felt most at home travelling and playing music.
EP: You received a music scholarship from James Brown’s goddaughter, Carleen Anderson, to study at BIMM. How did that happen? How did you come to know Carleen?
EK: I really wanted to surround myself with other musicians and writers who shared the same passion, so when I noticed the advert for submissions for a potential scholarship I thought I had nothing to lose. I gained so much knowledge and experience in those few years, I made every day count and the support of the scholarship/tutors was overwhelming. Carleen taught me some important lessons in life and music.
EP: Describe your musical style.
EK: I would describe myself as roots pop, there’s definitely a soul element to my music too.
EP: You took yourself to the US for five years – what did you learn there that you couldn’t have learned in the UK? What’s the music scene like in the US compared to the UK?
EK: I really wanted to experience the places my idols originated from to explore the music and lifestyle. I always heard about The Bluebird Café, WSM Radio and CMA Fest so I wanted to play those places and learn more about their writing style. America is possibly much more collaborative and the musicianship is of course off the wall. When you experience Tennessee living you can really start to understand the method of writing and grasp why simple can be beautiful.
EP: If you could do it all over again, what, if anything, would you do differently, and why?
EK: If I could do it again I would spend even more time in Memphis it’s one of my favourite places on earth, the people, the history and their soul music is something else. It’s real, raw and powerful.
EP: Talk us through the process of making your album – was being independent important to you? How important to you is complete creative control over your art?
EK: We began the record at Sun Studio in Memphis, it was really important to hear each song in the purest un-produced way possible. Half of the album was written and recorded in Tennessee and the other half in England, I always knew I wanted to finish the record at home. I didn’t keep a diary of my time in America, instead I created songs so they could transport me back to another time and place. They album followed me home and the record was mastered at Abbey Road. I co-wrote and produced the album with Ritch Spence and it was really nice to have the time to explore, stretch boundaries and have that full creative control to produce something real.
EP: Describe the song writing process for you. Do you write from personal experiences, or are you moved to write about the news, for instance? What inspires you?
EK: On this album you’ll definitely hear a little Memphis and Nashville I think after living so long in the states it was inevitable, I absorbed everyone and everything around me at that time and I took those experiences good and bad and made them into something positive that I could keep. People inspire me the most, I love to travel and I always take a little something from every road trip experience. On my debut record each song was written in an entirely different way, which really kept the process exciting! Songs tend to come when we’re driving around on the road. I think it would be really difficult to write with honestly and sing with conviction without travelling I think the 2 go hand in hand.
EP: Who are your musical influences? The ones who shape your music, as well as shape your life? Why?
EK: Elvis and Johnny Cash are the first 2 that come to mind! :- ) I love to see/hear musiciansfeel the music, it’s not something you can learn. I’m also a huge admirer of Annie Lennox/Eurythmic and their ability to cross over and blend genres which always makes their music interesting. Annie Lennox also lends her voice to much more important issues around the world, she’s not only an inspirational singer but humanitarian and fundraiser too. Her humble, yet fearless nature is just what the world needs more of, I have much admiration for her powerful campaigns supporting basic human rights for everyone! She’s a beautiful reminder we can all do so much more.
EP: What 3 artists should we be looking out for now and why?
Orfila – are 3 siblings who create the most beautiful songs with tingling blood harmonies, a must see live!
Janet Devlin – has a tour coming up which everyone should check out… her music is just wonderful! Super Cute!
Katie Spencer – doesn’t get much better than this, I recently saw Katie live she has something very special.
EP: What question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview, but nobody ever does?
EK: If you had a time capsule what would you put inside? You can have 5 items.
I’m taking into consideration changes to the world and the fact it may be found hundreds of years on so…
* A newspaper
* Combo of vegetable seeds (there’s got to be a reason they’re diggin’)
* A family photograph
* Fully charged iphone
* My album (always nice to leave a little piece of yourself behind)