Great expectations for Emmy’s return
- Credit: Archant
Now into her third album, Emmy the Great is ditching break ups and Englishness for a more worldly charm, finds Alex Bellotti.
If Emma Lee-Moss was starting out in music now, she could hardly be more in vogue. When she first arrived on London’s folk scene back in 2007, it was a much smaller, indie affair; a world away from the pop distortion it has since become through stars such as Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift.
Ironically though, the early days of Emmy the Great – Lee-Moss’s stage moniker – almost pre-empted Swift’s now trademark confessional style. Her first two records were both inspired by relationship break-ups and picked up fans through punchy melodies and poetic, conversational lyrics.
If ever there was a time to cash in on her folk credentials, it would be now, but thankfully the 30 year old’s artistic ambitions extend beyond rocketing up the charts. In fact, having teamed up with Tom Fleming of the brilliant Wild Beasts for her brooding new electro pop single Swimming Pool, her style has slowly but surely shifted into a different musical and lyrical field entirely.
“I wrote two break up albums; the first was maybe a bit self-indulgent because it was practically an adolescent one,” she explains ahead of her show at Hackney’s Oslo. “The second one snuck up on me and I had nothing else to possibly write about – that was the only thing that existed in my world.
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“And then when I came out of those two, I thought that you can’t write three break up albums – that is tragic. You’d really be coming across as an un-datable person if you did that! So that was a huge thing as well – ok, well if I’m not writing about the contents of my diary, what am I writing about?”
Posed with this question, she took a break from records to gig, collaborate with a seemingly endless list of artists and put in her “10,000 hours” of learning guitar and then how to record and produce music.
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During this time, she slowly began to find inspiration in the world around her. Sitting in a hotel Tokyo hotel room two years ago, Less-Moss began to try channelling the influence of such new environments into her songs. It didn’t quite work, but she continued to move: Salt Lake City, Hong Kong, LA, New York and London all became pit stops in an effort to broaden her horizons and eventually they seeped into the four songs of her new EP, entitled S, which will be followed this year by a third album.
“It was really necessary” says the musician, who is half Chinese but has lived in England since she was 12. “I’ve always had this really English identity, reading really English novels and growing up in the country.
“I think I’d run out of ideas in that mould and so at first I was trying to write like I’d been elsewhere and that really helped because eventually you’re not trying anymore, you’re living it.”
While such experiences certainly took her outside of her comfort zone, the world’s technological advancements were also having an impact. “Even in the last two years, since that first day I wrote in a hotel, I can’t even imagine how life has changed,” she admits. It’s made her both appreciative of the fact people are still listening to her records and aware that even the way she makes them has shifted to match the habits of her young generation.
“I definitely think it’s changed the way people consume music – this is probably going to be the worst year for album sales yet. But it also changes the way I write music: I text and write at the same time!
“I used to have such deep concentration when I wrote; I’d be sat in a dark room, but now I’ll be ordering dinner while I write a song.”
Intriguingly though, this might have had a productive effect on her writing: “I think that my attention span getting shorter has actually made my songs simpler. I’m not planning on having the world’s shortest attention span forever, but that feels like life at the moment.”
Emmy the Great performs at the Oslo, Hackney Central, this Tuesday. Visit emmythegreat.com