An Interview with Emily James

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Singer/Songwriter Emily James is with us for a chat today to discuss her wonderful new EP, Wanted You To Know, Pt. I. Emily, and I also chat about her early days in music, the recording of her debut at such a young age, her thoughts on streaming and social media, and what she’s looking forward to in the future. If you would like to learn more about Emily James, you can head over to her website here. Enjoy this interview. Cheers.

Andrew:
Emily, I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us. How have you been holding up over the course of the tumultuous events of this last year or so?

Emily:
I’ve been doing pretty well, thank you for asking! It definitely hasn’t been an easy year, but I am grateful that my loved ones and myself are all healthy and safe. Having them and my music to lean on has helped tremendously.

Andrew:
Before we dive into your professional career, I wanted to go back a bit and touch on your early days. What got you hooked on music?

Emily:
It’s hard to pinpoint an exact moment because music has always been a part of my life. Growing up, there was always music playing–in the kitchen, in the car, at after-dinner jam sessions on the holidays–I come from a big family of big music lovers. I just started singing along, and it all started from there 🙂

Andrew:
More on your origins, so to speak, where, when, and how did songwriting enter the picture for you? Who were some of your early favorites? Ones that really helped shape and define your sound.

Emily:
I always cite Adele’s album 21 as being a big turning point for me, especially because it came out when I was about 11 years old as I was just starting to write my own songs. That album had such an emotional impact on me, “Someone Like You” especially. That was the moment when I knew music wasn’t just a fun hobby for me but something I wanted to commit to for the rest of my life. As I dove deeper into songwriting, I started getting into a variety of artists and writers such as Bob Dylan, Carole King, Stevie Wonder– I also listened to a lot of Taylor Swift in those early years so I think a bit of that seeped into my writing…

Andrew:
Let’s go all the way back now. At around the age of 17, you put out your debut EP Emily James, which was produced by Grammy Award winner Ian Fitchuk. That’s an incredible feat for such a young person, let alone artist. What do you remember about the recording of your debut? Looking back, do those songs still speak to you in the same way, or have you moved forward?

Emily:
It was such an amazing experience, and I feel really lucky to have had the chance to work with Ian and all of the musicians on that EP. Those songs were like my children (as all of them are!), and I had a lot of ideas about how I wanted them to sound once they were produced. Everyone was so open to me getting involved in that process, and they really respected and listened to my ideas, despite it being my first project. Having that as one of my earliest experiences in the studio definitely helped shape my confidence in trusting my instincts as an artist and producer.

I don’t often listen to my older music because once I release something, I feel like I’ve let it go to live its own life, and I move on to the next thing. But when I play those songs live, it feels like they’ve grown with me. I’m sort of able to apply the lyrics differently to my current situation, which I think is a really cool aspect of music and songwriting. The message of a song can apply to so many different situations, and it can also change and shift as we grow ourselves. 

Andrew:
This past February, you released your new EP, which is called Wanted You To Know, Pt. I. I was a bit late to the party on this one, but I really enjoyed it. Tell us more about it. Where can we get it, and what formats will it be on.

Emily:
I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you so much. There are six songs on the EP, half of which are collaborations, and the other half are ones I wrote and produced myself. It was really fun to make it that way because it allowed for very different creative processes. I actually wrote one of the songs, “that’d be alright,” with my collaborator over Zoom, and we co-produced it completely virtually. It’s really incredible that we have the technology to even make that possible. The songs I wrote and produced myself were all done in my bedroom, and I think in a way that adds to the intimate feel of the project. The whole EP is very personal; hence the title, Wanted You to Know, Pt. I, and I think that comes from creating it in a personal space. Wanted You to Know, Pt. I is available on all streaming platforms.

Andrew:
I wanted to dig a bit deeper into your songwriting process now. As a lyricist, where do you draw your inspiration from? Are your songs intensely personal, or are you merely weaving stories together?

Emily:
There’s a piece of me in everything I write– how much varies from song to song, but I think having some amount of truth in every song is important and kind of unavoidable, at least for me. When I’m really tapped in, it honestly feels as though the song is writing itself, and I’m just the vessel it’s running through. Most of the time, I don’t even know where a song is coming from until it’s about halfway written. I then realize that I’m writing about something I didn’t even know was on my mind. I think that’s why songwriting feels so therapeutic to me– because you’re really digging into the thoughts and feelings you weren’t fully aware of and then laying them all out there in front of you. It can be difficult and ugly, but in the end, it’s such a beautiful and rewarding process.

Andrew:
Your EP has six wonderful tracks, my favorite of which is the album closer, “Venice.” Is there a through-line between these songs? A running theme, perhaps? If so, does that theme reflect on your personal experiences of late or your current status/position in life?

Emily:
It’s interesting because I created each of the songs individually, not intending to put them together on an EP. But then when I thought about it, these six songs made sense together, as a combination of me reflecting on the past, meditating on the present, and looking forward to a brighter future. I think that theme does reflect on my current position in life because I’m really trying to just live in the moment and maintain a positive attitude. I want to acknowledge my past experiences, and be hopeful about the future, but not be consumed by either. I think that with all of the uncertainty that this past year has presented, it’s taught me to really live in the here and now, and not get so caught up in what’s out of my control.

Andrew:
Shifting gears a bit now. As a young artist, what are you most looking forward to as you move forward in your career? What are your hopes and goals for, say, the next five years?

Emily:
The biggest step I’m looking forward to is touring. I can’t wait to start traveling, and performing live again, and meeting new people. Over the course of the next five years, I’m hoping to be able to keep creating, putting out music, and connecting with more and more people. I just really want to see the world and play music.

Andrew:
Streaming services are something of a hot button issue within the industry, so I wanted to get your opinion on them. My understanding is Spotify doesn’t really pay well at all, but it’s sort of a double-edged sword, as artists seem to need them to gain exposure. What are your thoughts?

Emily:
Yeah, I mean, I think with everything there are pros and cons. Yes, some of them could be paying a bit better, but ultimately I’m really grateful to the streaming services for their support of me and my music. As an independent artist, if it weren’t for places like Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud, and all of the others putting my music on their playlists and introducing more people around the world to my music, I definitely would not be where I am today.

Andrew:
Social media could be seen in a similar regard to streaming, right? It’s such a time suck, but now more than ever, artists seem to need it to get ahead. That said, with so much information being dumped into our heads at once, can an artist really stand out? If so, how does one go about it?

Emily:
I really believe you just have to stay true to yourself. It’s such a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason! I think there’s space for everyone in the music industry because everyone has their unique sound and style. Once you eliminate the mindset of being in “competition” with everyone else, you really free yourself to simply doing what is true to you. It’s important to draw inspiration from others, but not imitate, because then you’re neglecting your own individuality. At the end of the day, being yourself is a lot less work than trying to be someone else.

Andrew:
Now that the hard ones are out of the way let’s talk about vinyl. Are you into it? Tapes? CDs? Or are you all digital?

Emily:
Yes! I love vinyl. My dad has this giant record collection, and I’ve been slowly working my way through it. I appreciate the mobility of digital music, but the distinct sound of vinyl creates its own mood. For some reason, I feel like I listen more closely when it’s in that format– maybe because it forces me to be in one place and pay attention. I don’t really listen to CDs anymore, but since that’s what I grew up with, they will always have a nostalgia attached to them. I always loved reading through the liner notes and messages in the little booklets.

Andrew:
What else are you passionate about? How do those passions inform your music, if at all?

Emily:
I’m passionate about spending time with the people I love. I have a really close relationship with my family and my friends are the best people in the world. I also love to cook! It’s another creative outlet that feels very therapeutic to me– at least when I’m not under time pressure. Haha. It’s kind of similar to music in that you throw a bunch of things together, let it simmer (or bake or whatever), and then you get this whole new thing that never existed before that you can enjoy and share with people.

Andrew:
You’ve got this wonderful new EP out, but things move fast, so what’s next on your docket. The EPs title seems to signify a part II, right?

Emily:
Yes…Part II is in the works and coming soon! 🙂 I’ve been working on a lot of new music and am really excited about how it’s sounding. I can’t wait to share it.

Andrew:
Last one. Hindsight is 20/20; with that being said, what advice would you have for your younger self, which may translate over to help others as well?

Emily:
I would say don’t get so caught up in the little things. Enjoy where you’re at because you will never be in this exact moment again. Life is so precious and, as we’ve seen in this last year, can change in an instant. It’s important not to feel like you’re rushing through every moment and to take some time to pause and be grateful for what you have. I’m still teaching myself that it’s good to slow down and love the experience of the journey.

Interested in learning more about the artistry of Emily James? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

Published by Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. After losing his life-long vinyl collection in 2014, Andrew began his vinyl collection from scratch again when he met his future wife Angela in 2015. Andrew’s love of music only further blossomed as his collection spanned all genres possible. After amassing 5,000 albums, Andrew knew it was time to finally follow his dream, and thus, Vinyl Writer Music was born. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict, for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island with his wife Angela and their four cats, Oliver, Patrick, Charlie, and Kevin. Andrew works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night. Andrew is also the admin of several Facebook groups dedicated to music.

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