Find Out Why BBC 1Xtra Believes In The 'Life And Truth' Of Emma Marie's Debut EP
It was the richly resonant vocal tone that caught our attention - U.K. singer/songwriter Emma Marie first made us stop and listen back in 2012, certain as we were that a voice so sonorously vibrant and emotively compelling would not be long in gaining further recognition. With the gospel-infused vocal hues of her voice reflecting her church upbringing, in 2013 the Birmingham based independent artist began to fulfil the promise that we knew her vocal prowess suggested as she went through he process of creating her deeply personal debut EP, 'The Life And Truth Of Me', which can be downloaded here -
Cementing her place as one of Birmingham's premier vocalists with her appearances at the city's iluvlive events, she went on to receive recognition and airplay from DJ Trevor Nelson and DJ Target on BBC 1Xtra nationwide radio in the U.K., and earned a trip to the BBC's legendary Maida Vale studios after being handpicked by DJ Target from his year-long 'Target's Noticeboard' collaborative project. Now, having just released her introspectively honest and emotionally sincere debut EP, we caught up with Emma Marie to talk about how she feels about the project, her BBC 1Xtra experience, and where she goes from here -
You have just released your debut EP. How does it feel to have the project out there in the world, and what was the experience of making the EP like for you?
It’s a very strange feeling, being my first release, I am both full of excitement and terror. The world is such a small place now with social networks etc, so what you think is a small project is, as you have said, ‘out there in the world’; this is slightly terrifying. Making this EP has been a labour of love, and sometimes hate; an obsession and a release. I didn’t really know what I wanted when I started putting the project together, so I let myself be lead by the songs. I tried to forget what was going on in the world around me so that I wasn’t tempted to try and be current, and literally let my truth speak through the songs.
The EP is a very personal collection of songs. What motivated you to write such an intimate EP? Was it a cathartic process writing the songs?
My motivation was just to be me - as a new artist I didn’t want to become clouded by current trends, I wanted to exact my freedom as a writer and vocalist and literally do what I wanted. But then the difficulty came in not knowing what I wanted, so I figured you can’t go wrong by sharing your truth. Music for me is my therapy, and it felt natural to share some of my deepest thoughts and experiences, without being too pretty about it. Indeed, writing the songs was a cathartic process, particularly when writing the 'Light' and 'Carry You', both were somewhat inspired by my late grandmother. Often I would have to just let the tears run whilst I recorded those songs because she impacted my life so greatly.
Songs like 'The Light' and 'Life And Truth' address many of your fears and vulnerabilities, while touching on your faith. How does your faith inform your songwriting, and how do you infuse it into the lyrics and narrative messages in your songs?
My faith very important to me and is like a very quiet elephant in the room when it comes to my song writing. Though I rarely overtly sing about the specifics of my faith, it is clear to the listener that I am very spiritual and believe that there is more to life than what is seen. Through my songwriting, I try to make my faith accessible to all listeners of various backgrounds by sharing the overarching experiences that we all face in life and the big life questions that we all ask ourselves.
You have a very rich, resonant voice. As a singer, how did you approach the vocal and musical arrangements for the EP?
The songs have all tended to come in one big chunk, lyrics, melody and arrangement. I then take what I have created to the musicians I work with and see what vibe they get. At some point, we then agree and fine tune from there. Vocally, I tend to lean toward a simpler approach, coming from a family of singers, I always remember my grandmother shouting ‘Just sing the damn song!’, and that has always stuck with me. Musically, I am all about how it makes you feel. If I feel moved then it’s a keeper.
What do you hope that listeners will take away from the EP? Are there particular messages that you hope will resonate with people?
I hope that after listening to the EP people will feel encouraged to search themselves and to truly value the ones they love. When writing the 'Light', I was really struggling with life and all it’s monotonous necessities, and by the time I had finished it I realized that I’d missed the point of life completely and was searching for fulfilment in places that would never give me what I need i.e. being fashionable, having money etc. I found freedom of mind writing that song, I hope that song will encourage others to embark on that journey.
You have received support from BBC 1Xtra's DJ Target and DJ Trevor Nelson, receiving airplay for two tracks from the EP. You were personally invited by DJ Target to the BBC's legendary Maida Vale studios for the 'Target's Noticeboard' collaborative project. How did this come about, and how important has this support been to you as an independent artist?
I found a Shoreditch based producer, and started writing to one of his tracks. I then tweeted to the #TargetNoticeboard hashtag that I had collaborated on a great track. The guys at 1Xtra then asked for the track and gave it its first spin on national radio. The quality of the track and the vocals then set me apart from a lot of some of the other artists who use the hashtag, and I was blessed enough to be asked to collaborate at Maida Vale.
The support from 1Xtra has been instrumental in that people take you seriously when you have had national radio play; it almost provides credibility to what you’re doing. Also the connections I have been able to make would not have been possible without them.
What are your musical influences? How did you get started as an artist? What are some of the events you have been involved with, and that are coming up for you in the near future?
Music has always been around me, from a very young age I remember my parents putting my brother and me to bed and then playing their reggae dubs. This is probably where my addiction to bass started. My mother always played music in the house, from Dionne Warwick to Earth, Wind and Fire, Brownstone to Public Enemy. I definitely get my varied musical palette from my parents, I am a sucker for the old school.
I started writing when I was 13 when I attended a local church in Handsworth, I started writing about life as I knew it and God. As I wrote more I then got more involved with community shows and that’s when people in my city really started to recognize my talent and start to support me as an artist.
2013 was a great year for me; Punch records really got behind me and opened so many doors. I supported Bilal during the Birmingham leg of his tour; I also went on my first tour as part of the Soul Cafe Tour. I have also been blessed enough to be part of iluvlive, even named as one of the best of the year. 2014 is set to be a great year, I am releasing my first EP, as well I will be supporting Eric Roberson on Sunday 9th February, and I am currently working on a summer project!
How has making the EP influenced your growth as an artist? In what ways do you expect your musical aesthetic to develop in the future?
The EP has really opened my eyes to the many facets of being an artist and how they all interlink, from the writing stages, through to the production and post production stages and vocal recording. I definitely learned a lot from this project and will implement the lessons learned in the next project. For me personally, this EP has helped me learn to enjoy what I do and not get too bogged down with the drive to be perfect, the need perfection can literally ruin the experience of bringing a project to fruition.
I now feel ready to explore music with new producers and experiment with different sounds and themes. I am writing for so many different producers at the moment, I am hoping to find the sound that resonates with me and my voice most and expand on it. Who knows what this might mean musically? Could I fall in the neo-soul or jazz lane, or stick with a more eclectic/organic sound, I really couldn’t tell you. I am just playing with the freedom of being an independent artist, you can literally do anything.
What are some of the challenges you face as an independent artist from Birmingham?
Everybody knows that the hub of music in the UK is London; I love my city but we just don’t have the infrastructure in place to create a music scene independent of the capital. So, in regards to challenges, I would say that I feel that I am in the wrong city. Also being a full time researcher and mother, it makes traveling to various places difficult at times. But I persist and continue to do what I do; being from Birmingham hasn’t hindered me any, I suppose we just have to work that little bit harder to get noticed.
What are your plans for the future with your musical career? What goals and ambitions do you have?
My short term goals are to release a summer project this year and really build on the momentum from ‘The Life and Truth Of Me’ EP, exploring different themes, styles and working with different producers. My long term aspirations are to write, record and perform music full time and not have to restrict my music to evenings and weekends. To be able to do what comes naturally to you for a living, for me, is the ultimate freedom, and I feel like I am getting closer to achieving that.