Hailing from Seattle, EMI is exactly where she needs to be. With the release of her debut single “Phantom” in 2016, listeners quickly gravitated to her melodic vocals, hard-hitting production, and undeniable swag. With over 20,000 streams within the first two days, the singer-songwriter proved she was just getting started. Read more…
Last year, she released her Planet EP which hails standout tracks “Like Us” and “Embob.” In addition, EMI is a walking poster girl for positivity and female empowerment. Fans can look forward to the “Bad Friends” music video, which serves as the first visual in her career.
For those who don’t know, who is EMI?
It’s me, I’m a singer from Seattle. I’m a musical genius, obviously! [laughs] Just kidding. I like to call myself an artist. I’m just super into anything art-related. Video, photography — I haven’t tried my hand at painting yet, but music is my primary focus. I produce, sing, write all my lyrics. Not good at dancing, so give me a minute with that.
Where do you fit in the realm of R&B, hip-hop, and pop?
If I had three feet, I’d have one foot in each door. Basically, I like all three, so I try to mix all three together into my sound because I love them all equally. I couldn’t just pick one genre to stick with because that wouldn’t be true to myself.
You’re from Seattle, how does that play into your life and career?
We have a really good music scene out there. It was definitely easier to get into music just with people around me also doing it. We have a lot of talented people from there. My family is from Brooklyn but they moved to Seattle before they had me, and they’re musical as well. My step-mom is a classical pianist and my dad is a really, really good guitar player. They definitely encouraged me to pick up instruments and stuff like that — I’m self taught. I spent a lot of time inside and not out doing stuff as much, so I had a lot of time to hone my skills.
How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
It’s super important. I will never move here, don’t quote me on that. I love Seattle so much, but it’s so important to come out here because no matter where you’re from — even if the scene is good where you’re from — all the connections are here. It’s such a small industry and you have to come out and meet people. You could meet one person at Starbucks or something, and they could change your life because they could introduce you to everyone.
And you have to be nice to everyone because you’re gonna run into them again. Anybody who needs to get into the music industry, they need to come out here at least once a month. That’s what I do, I do it a week out of every month just to get it poppin’ and refresh my connections.
What made you want to keep just your first name?
I was thinking of last names but none of them felt like me. I probably should have chosen a last name so that my search engine optimization is better. People always pull up EMI music – they signed the Beatles which is one of my favorite bands. But it’s short for Emily, which is my name.
Love your record “Bad Friends.” Can you talk about producing as well? I feel like not a lot of people are doing that.
People’s biggest complaint about me is that I’m really picky with my beats, so I figure if you want something done right, you do it yourself. Not that other people don’t make dope beats because obviously they do. But if I’m on a specific vibe and I really want one specific sound — and I’m just going through folders and I’m not hearing it – I’m like, “Yo just pull up the program, I’m gonna start playing something.”
You literally taught yourself?
Yeah, well I don’t know how to use the actual program. [laughs] I play instruments and I’m good at composing. I call myself more of a composer than a producer because I can’t actually… if you sat me at a computer, nothing would happen. I need an engineer. But that’s what I enjoy doing, is sitting down with other producers that are good at Pro Tools or Logic, and are good at drums and 808s and all that stuff I’m not as component in. It’s a good feeling to be able to say I produced this, I wrote it, I sang it — I took the cover art too, so it’s really personal.
Can you talk about your relationship with Mally Mall and how he found you?
We actually have the same attorney, whom I love. He’s the best attorney I’ve had so far, I love him. He introduced us because he thought we were a good fit personality-wise and music-wise, and he’s super on point. He was like, “Mally is a big hitter and I think you would be a match.” We met and immediately we were like “gang gang!” We liked each other off the bat, so it was just a really good situation for both of us.
What’s the best piece of advice he’s given you?
To listen to him. [laughs] He’s really experienced and knows what he’s doing. He also told me to talk less and listen more, which I agree with. I do kind of talk a lot, and you notice more things when you listen. That was very valuable advice from him.
Your single “Phantom” says you hate being on camera. Talk about your mind state then compared to now?
At the time, I just realized how little I liked being the center of attention. This is a super weird career for me, not liking being the center of attention. I do like my privacy and I don’t like judgy people, which is unfortunately two things that you have to deal with. But I think it’s worth it to be able to do what I love. Just at the time, I was just having people starting to comment on my lifestyle and notice me more. Basically, I wasn’t enjoying the attention because some of it is negative sometimes. Also it doesn’t seem like it but I’m kind of camera shy, which why I haven’t done a video interview until last week.
How’d it go?
It was good but I was actually hoarse. I had lost my voice, I don’t know how. It was bad, it sounded like I was crying when I wasn’t. It was emotional, for sure.
What is it you want fans to get from your story?
I just want them to know that anybody can do this as long as you genuinely love music. I feel like people think that I’m like an unlikely candidate for the type of music I make. Whenever they see me in person, they’re like, “what?” But I feel like as long as the music is good and you’re true to yourself — you’re super assertive and you go for it — anybody can make a name for themselves.
How important is social media for your career?
It’s super important. When it became more prevalent, you could see how many people who wouldn’t even be noticed are now doing music. All these like, I don’t like using the term, but SoundCloud rappers blew up just off of having access to social media. There’s even people who are social media personalities who decide to switch and make music. I think it’s crazy but it’s dope. It killed music sales and it killed “the album,” but there’s ways to profit off of the current structure anyway.
Talk about your stance on body positivity and female empowerment.
Oh boy. I think as long as you are taking care of yourself and you’re healthy, you should just love your body and not care what other people want you to look like. Because there’s different norms and different periods in America. It used to be curvy was a thing, and then it was stick thin was a thing, so you can’t criticize yourself based on a trend. You should criticize yourself based off of your health and try to feel good about yourself as long as you’re taking care of your body.
As far as female empowerment goes, I feel like people think that feminism means you’re a man-hater. That’s not what it is, it’s just wanting everything to be extremely equal. It shouldn’t be like women are better than men — we are at some things obviously — but it shouldn’t be an unbalanced thing. Women empowerment is just bringing us up to the level of equality with men that we should have been at since the Stone Age or beginning of time honestly. I try to preach it. It includes empowering every woman, you can’t pick and choose which women get empowered. You can’t be like, “Oh yeah, rich white women should be empowered, but sex workers shouldn’t.” You have to include everybody: trans women, gay women, everyone. I was explaining that to my dad the other day.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
Honestly, real estate. I kind of want to do that as a side thing anyway. I’m good at flipping things. You just need that initial large bag, and then you buy the property and then you flip it. Then you use that and buy more property. Plus I love houses and decorating.
3 things you need in the studio?
Water, air purifiers, and just a good engineer that’s fluid and understands my really weird shortcut languages. Like, I need someone who understands when I say, “make it da-da-da,” I want them to know exactly what that means. [laughs]
Talk about touring the Thugger and The Neighborhood a few years back.
That was super fun. They’re both really genuinely kind and accommodating. You wouldn’t think that someone on that level would care about their opening act, but they were super cool. They were like, “Hit this blunt! You need any food? Is your dressing room comfortable?” They were super friendly and it was just dope being able to watch their shows. Watch them perform and just hang out with their crew, because they both had super dope people around them.
Favorite song to perform in a set?
I like “Like Us.” It’s really high energy and the way that I placed my breathing in the actual recording reminds me to just sing straight through the song really strongly. And crowds really like that song. I notice that sometimes people will be a little bit stoic during the slower ones, and then that comes on and they’re like “Okay!” [snaps] “Wow, did she just say that? Holy shit, she just said that!” They get into it. It’s like a crowd-grabber.
Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
Honestly, Drake. His catalog is just so diverse. You can have turnt Drake or crying Drake. It just depends on your mood. I like all of it.
Obviously Drake, but also Rihanna. She just matches my vision. Or Dua Lipa is cool too.