“I think it is important to focus on what you do have and what you can do, rather than what you can’t”
Emzae is a talented musician who has been releasing self-produced music since 2014. Her style of melancholic pop is beautiful and easy on the ears. The combination of thoughtful and personal lyrics, swirling vocals and lo-fi beats is hypnotic and dreamy. It was lovely to talk so openly and honestly with Emzae this week about her music, her journey to self-love and her proudest moments…
How would you describe your style of music to someone who has never heard it?
I always say that I am a pop artist first and foremost. I write and produce my own music — sometimes I write about myself, sometimes I write about characters or things I have on my mind or about the world. I often describe it as “melancholic with a light at the end of the tunnel”. Most of the time my music is electronic but I sometimes dabble with the guitar. I’ve never really thought of music as being classified into rigid genres and I always want to do something slightly different with each project otherwise I would get bored.
Your latest single, ‘Another Lesson Learnt’, focuses on falling in love with the wrong people because of societal pressures. Could you explain what these pressures are?
I think it is subconsciously drilled into us from a young age that the ultimate sign of having your life sorted out is being in a stable, long-term relationship. We are basically told that until we find ‘our person’, we will be lost and uncertain about ourselves. So many people I know are desperate to find love. I think we all want to be loved, and it can be so difficult sometimes seeing so many people in love and wondering why you haven’t found that yet. It makes you question whether there is something wrong with you. But I hate that way of thinking. We should be encouraged to love ourselves too. We should be told that even if we never find the perfect match or we never get married or have a family, that we are enough and we haven’t failed. That is where my thinking is on all of that at the moment.
Has looking for validation outside of yourself been something that you have struggled with personally?
Definitely! Building my self-esteem and learning to love myself is a long, ongoing journey for me and although I’ve made a lot of progress, I’ve still got a long way to go. I think part of the writing process for ‘Another Lesson Learnt’ was the realisation that if I “made peace with myself” things would get a little easier in life. The whole song is quite conflicted. Half of it is self-assured and confident but then it slips into autobiographical sections where I realise that I have a lot of progress to make. Often I make discoveries about myself and my thoughts and feelings as I write.
All your singles focus on extremely personal topics. Does this make it scary or difficult for you to release them?
I have never really struggled with that. I do sometimes find it awkward to release a song that is obviously about someone I know, so sometimes I either change lyrics to make them more ambiguous or wait a while to release the song so that whatever I am talking about is water under the bridge by then. That is never really a problem because it takes me several months to mix tracks. I find that people connect more to your music if they can sense that you mean every word that you say or that the song comes from your heart or your authentic experiences or beliefs. It also makes me feel better sometimes to share my true feelings with the world – it is like getting a load of stuff off your chest.
You’ve mentioned living with chronic illness. Could you explain what that experience has been like and how it has impacted your life and your music?
I live with OCD and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and they pretty much impact most, if not every day of my life. In my opinion, there are only two positives to them. The first is that I have been blessed with the opportunity (well, I had no choice really!) to see life from a different perspective and to think outside the box. If I had grown up ‘normally’ I think I might have taken a lot of things for granted and a lot of what I am thankful to know now, I wouldn’t have known otherwise. I would have been much more immature. I would probably be somewhere out there living it up but it would probably be to my detriment due to my addictive personality!
The second is that I have been able to meet so many inspirational people in my life so far, and I also feel like I have the opportunity to help other people feel better or less alone. Make no mistake, these illnesses absolutely suck, make everything harder and I hope one day there is a full-on cure for both of them. However, I think it is important to focus on what you do have and what you can do rather than what you can’t. I also try to laugh as much as possible, even if it is dark humour about what I am going through at a certain time.
In terms of my music, songwriting helps me to make sense of how I am feeling and it also makes me feel like a normal human being for a while. When I am Emzae, it is like she is the person I want to be. She is sort of like a character but sort of not.
Since first releasing your self-produced music back in 2014, what has been your proudest moment?
I was really proud of my 2016 album Double Life because I really wanted to make an upbeat, confident, bubblegum pop album and I managed to do what I set out to. It was also my first full-length electronic album. But in terms of songwriting, the songs I have been writing for the last two years for my next album are definitely some of the best I have ever written. I am so excited to get them out there. I am really proud of my recent single ‘Lucid Dreaming’ because it is one of the most autobiographical songs I have ever released. It’s also my most streamed song on Spotify — I set out just to break 1000, but at the moment it’s on 10,000 streams and counting!
How does it feel to have received support from the likes of BBC Introducing?
I started from scratch in somewhat challenging circumstances. I don’t come from a musical background, my family don’t know anyone even remotely in the industry and I do everything in my bedroom. So, for me to receive the support I have from BBC Introducing not only confirms to me that it is a fantastic programme that provides truly equal opportunities for a diverse range of artists, but it also makes me pinch myself. I am always extremely thankful for any airplay or gig offers, and it never gets old or becomes something I take for granted. It means the absolute world to me.
Do you have a dream venue or festival that you would love to perform at?
I’d love to start performing outside of the East Midlands. In terms of dream venues or festivals, I don’t really have many. I am just here to see how far I can take this project and I am thankful for every opportunity that comes my way. Maybe it would be really cool to play in some tiny corner of Glastonbury or in America maybe. Who knows what the future holds?!
What new music have you discovered in 2019?
I’ve recently got into Sharon Van Etten’s music. I really like the song ‘Jupiter 4’ that she co-wrote with Donna Missal who also did a version of the song called ‘Jupiter’. There is also an absolutely brilliant song called ‘Two Nights’ by Joy Crookes, and I have no idea why it hasn’t become a gigantic hit in the UK so far. I also recently listened to Arlo Parks’ EP ‘Super Sad Generation’ and I really enjoyed the title track in particular. I feel like the world and society is in a state of huge ongoing change, and there’s some amazingly honest, thought-provoking music being made about how it feels to live in this era.
What are you working on at the moment and do you have any shows coming up?
At the moment I am working on my next album. I have a single which should be coming out in the summer which I can’t wait to share with everyone. In terms of shows, I have a few coming up. My next solo electronic show is supporting an amazing new band called Cinema Gold at the Chameleon in Nottingham on 31st May alongside The Honeymoon Suite.
Follow the links below to discover Emzae’s music:
By Eveline Vouillemin – Up&Coming