Singer-songwriter, and women’s advocate, EMM uses her powerful vocals and edgy lyrics, to showcase her point of view. A producer, who is also a classically trained multi-instrumentalist, EMM has a hand in every instrument on every track, every word she sings, and every melody you hear.
She is also helping to change the woeful statistics of women in music, which currently stands at around 5% of producers in the industry today being female.
EMM has performed around Los Angeles to audiences in the largest arenas, and small intimate club gatherings. Her social media following is growing by the day, and her most music video, ‘FREEDOM’, has garnered more than a million views.
Lisa spoke with EMM about her life, her music, and what she stands for.
What’s the EMM Story? Feel free to say as much or as little as you like!
So I started really young. I was raised by two classical musicians and was playing classical piano and writing music by the time I was 7. Then I added guitar into the mix, and not too long after that I picked up production.
Eventually, I left my hometown when I was 16 to move to New York City and pursue music professionally. I went from a really sheltered upbringing to entering one of the most intense and difficult industries in the world, so it was a crazy learning curve for me. It’s been a very long road for me with a lot of ups and downs – way more than I can list here!
I’ve been through so much just to get to this point and I’m so thankful that I get to be doing what I’m doing. I think 2020 is going to be really amazing.
What have been the biggest inspirations in your music so far? What about in your day to day life?
In my day to day life, I am really inspired by the fans that reach out to me to let me know how my music has impacted them. It motivates me and helps me to stay strong.
I’m up against so much daily adversity – especially since I run the business side of my music. I’m completely self-funded and I make all the decisions for my career. And I often am standing up for myself and my dream to much older or successful men, who are telling me all the things I should change about myself to become who they think I should be.
I’ve had so many tough days where I get a kind message from someone and it gives me the extra push I needed to remember why I’m doing what I’m doing. They inspire me every day.
In my music, I’m inspired by a lot of things. Because of my upbringing there is always an undertone of classical music in the way I create. I love so many genres of music and I think that you can hear that in my versatility across all the music I’ve put out so far – the difference between a song like ‘Please’, to a song like ‘Boys Like You’ is huge. But I love surprising people.
Tell us about your music. What are your influences, what style, the songwriting process.
I dropped my first mixtape, ‘Burning In The Dark’, about my challenges with mental health. I did 100% of that project from scratch in my bedroom so it’s really special to me.
After that, I wanted to branch out and start collaborating more. So I spent 2018 making 50 songs with my Squad. I loved so many of the songs that I decided to spread them across three more mixtapes – ‘EMERALD’, ‘RUBY’, and ‘SAPPHIRE’. They all fit together, like a set. The music is bold and empowering and no two songs sound the same, which I love. Each mixtape is based on a superhero character that I created.
I think of each one as a different side of myself that’s emerged as I’ve grown. I’m getting ready to put out ‘SAPPHIRE’ now and start sharing my show with the world. And I’m starting to work on my album.
I write a lot about stories that I’ve been through (Bite’, ‘N’ot Sorry’, ‘My Friend’), a lot about issues I feel passionate about like drugs, women’s issues, and mental health (‘Freedom’, ‘Lady’, ‘Psycho’), and a lot of vulnerable songs about things most people are uncomfortable writing about (‘Fall’, ‘Pretty Face’, ‘Satisfied’).
My process is all over the place- sometimes I write the song at home on an instrument and bring it into the studio to finish, sometimes I write over a production idea, sometimes I start with just a lyric idea. It really all depends on where I am when I get an idea.
What’s your take on the current state of the music industry?
The biggest issue I see in music is still the lack of equality for women. The ratio of female to male producers, engineers, mixing and mastering engineers, executives, A&Rs, lawyers, drummers, guitarists, managers etc is abysmal.
I’ve found that most of the time, my female friends and I are working 3 times harder to get half of the opportunities that men are given. I think that until that’s made right, there will continue to be abuses of power and young female artists, in particular, will continue to be put in dangerous situations far too often.
I think that the #MeToo Movement is long overdue in the music industry and there needs to be a massive reckoning there. Most women can’t come out about abuses in music because they are still in contracts and their abusers hold the keys to their survival. This has to change.
I think a major part of that change is going to be the rise of the independent female artist. The more that we control the money and own our own work, the more the scales will tip toward justice for us.
What artists – apart from yourself – should we be listening to? Who’s on your playlist right now that you think we should know?
I just made an amazing playlist of up and coming women who I love that deserve more attention. You can check it out here:
If you could go back to your younger self, knowing what you do now, what would you tell yourself?
I’d tell her she’s smart enough to do everything she wants to do. And that she doesn’t have to settle, ever. I would tell her that all her instincts are right. And I would tell her to trust herself more and ask for permission and validation less. And I would tell her to stop listening to everyone who has an opinion of who she should be and trust that she’s exactly right the way she is. I would tell her not to shrink for anyone, ever. And I’d tell her to invest in Tik Tok!
What question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview, but nobody ever does?
How does money play a role in the life of an artist? Why does it matter where the money that funds an artists career comes from? How does that affect their freedom and choices as an artist?
Or, can you tell some specific incidents of gender inequality I’ve dealt with in music?
‘Fall’ is out now and can be streamed here on Spotify: