Brought up in Scotland, Emae is the singer, songwriter pushing a sound akin to something melding folk, soul and gospel. It’s the type of music that makes you love independent artists who are able to push their music through the ubiquitous forces of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and more.
While Scotland has a rich musical history of its own Emae attests that it was not so much the music that inspired her formative years but rather the culture and natural beauty of Scotland where she would spend hours by the North Sea as a young child.
Of course as an independent, while a pursuit of your passion is a ‘want’, you ‘need’ to survive and in some instances fall in line with the natural ebb and flow of life. A qualified pharmacist Emae has been able to juggle work and her passion allowing her to put out material like her debut single Beautiful Something which came out last June.
Her most recent project, Imperfect Words is an acoustic album saturated with classy, emotive songs poetic in their structure. Picked up by names like Afropunk and BBC it’s a brave but correct project that allows us to hear her vocal clarity and take in the actual words of her pieces without over zealous productive distractions.
It’s a project that states with simplicity; I am a singer songwriter.
Elaborate on your journey into music from 2014 when you dropped your first single to now with the most recent project?
I graduated in 2014 and released my first single, Something Beautiful that June. It was so exciting and it snowballed in a way I didn’t expect. BBC Introducing jumped on it, MTV The Alternative Wrap Up, VEVO, I was getting love from the US and Japan-literal madness. It was a really great reception which gave me a lot of confidence. It is one thing to have a song you think is good in private but it is different to have the music industry agree with you. Then I released my second single Know You, which was supported by BBC 6 music and others. After which came Imperfect Words, my acoustic EP-Afropunk premiered the ep exclusively for me and they are a massive platform so the exposure from that was big. I actually ended up supporting the American artist, Adia Victoria at her debut London show off the back of that Afropunk feature.
Let’s discuss Imperfect Words, which you gear as a project that embraces the normality of your life – elaborate.
I want to keep the answer short but that’s a deep questions! I write all my lyrics and being authentic is very important to me. I can’t sing about what I don’t know so the only way is to write about my life. The good, bad, ugly, I talk about anything in my songs. So the ep is about different situations I’ve lived through.
Why did you decide to approach this as an acoustic project?
Several reasons; the fact it was acoustic meant that there was no fancy production to hide behind – even if I wanted to. The strength of the songs had to be in the writing, which I loved. I think that’s a hallmark of a good song, when you can sing it stripped back and it still has an impact. It also paid homage to how I had been performing my material up to that point. A few months before, I had just performed my first headline show, it sold out and it was a really great night. I wanted to commemorate that so I made the ep line-up the same as my headline, 2 guitars, cello and cajon.
Also discuss the personnel on this project and how you connected.
My management team are great and between the two of them, they probably have 40 years of experience across working with major artists and labels like; Island Records and Atlantic Records. On the project there wasn’t really a producer because the music was the same as my headline so I had already written the song arrangements. David McEwan, a friend of my management, was the audio-engineer; he’s a producer/engineer who’s worked with names like Nitin Sawhney. My younger brother, Gershom, is a professional guitarist and session musician. Courtney Jones (second guitarist) and Charles DC Hall (drummer/percussionist) both super talented and they came through from industry connections.
Song-writing how has your talent evolved?
I think every songwriter starts the same way. You just have to write the rubbish songs out of you. I started writing quite late, around 17 or 18 years old. A friend of mine held regular poetry nights at her house where I would sing those initial attempts I made at song-writing. From then till now I’ve just been exploring my relationship with words. How they sound when you sing them, how to say what you want but in different creative ways, how to sing something really complex using simple language.
Discuss what it means to be flawed.
It means being a disappointment sometimes, then getting over it. Knowing that is not the end of the world because we all let someone down eventually. It means looking around and not realising the damage you’ve done till you’ve done it. It means humbling yourself and asking for forgiveness but also being forgiven and most importantly forgiving yourself. It means failing, then getting up again instead of wasting your time in a pity party. It means a lot of things but it’s also the beauty of life that we have to figure things out as we go.
Do you embrace your own flaws?
I can’t say I do fully embrace my flaws yet but I’m certainly a hell of a lot closer now than I was a year ago. A light bulb moment happened recently when I realised that not everyone will be willing to accept or forgive or embrace me, even people I would have sworn blind to but I’m obligated to do that for myself-otherwise how do I live? Also socially, as a black woman, there are subliminal messages from everywhere trying to make me feel inadequate from different angles: be that race, social status, age, it happens so subtly. So it’s a journey and I have to reset my mind everyday to protect myself.
You have a bit of the Joan Armatrading about you by the way-was she an inspiration?
Thank you! She’s a legend and I have great respect for her but she wasn’t an inspiration initially. She’s someone I learned about as I got deeper into music. Initial inspirations ranged from Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, to Whitney Houston, I also loved the old school gospel scene.
You talk about revealing different sides of you in the future expand on that.
Not so much different sides – to me that feels static, like in the future I’ll be giving you the same kind of music but just from a different angle. What I meant was more an artistic evolution. As I grow and life happens over time, my music is bound to change as well. It will be interesting so see how my audience responds to that change because they are growing as well-it’s all really fluid.
Where and how far are you looking to take your musical career?
I’m just trying to find my audience. Wherever they are and whatever size arena they fill, I’m finding the people who resonate with me, appreciate my music and get lost in it like I do. Every project builds more momentum and I have a great team. We set goals, achieve them and move the target a bit further back so I’m just thankful and enjoying the journey.
Finish the sentence-‘music is……..’