If you guys have read some of my past music interviews, you can quickly tell that my taste in music is pretty far and wide. But nothing beats light indie music that soothes the soul and pulls at the heartstrings. Luckily, I stumbled upon Emma Taylor who is an up-and-coming artist who describes her song as “sad girl music.” With her light acoustic feel and melodic vocals, she’s an artist you’d want to listen to immediately. I got a chance to chat with her about her new music, how her travels inspired her songs, and what she has planned for 2018.
TYF: Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into music?
Emma Taylor: I grew up in a household where my parents were always playing music on the speakers throughout the house. They had one playlist that was always on repeat with classic singer-songwriters like James Taylor, Carole King, and Joni Mitchell — so I was exposed at a very young age to those artists. Although my parents aren’t in the music industry, they love music in general and were supportive of me pursuing it professionally. I know it’s cliché to say that I was born wanting to be a musician, but it’s true! I was told that I used to hum before I even said full words, so I really do think it’s been in my blood forever. It wasn’t until I was around 6 years old that I started feeling comfortable singing in front of my family- I remember one time specifically bringing my karaoke machine into the living room and singing ‘Maybe’ from the musical Annie for my whole entire family. It was from that moment on that I was addicted to performing. My songwriting became serious a bit later when I was around 12 years old and attended a songwriting intensive during the summer. Although I had written songs before then, it was at the intensive that I discovered how essential it was to my life and how I needed to pursue singing and songwriting professionally.
TYF: You played a few instruments over the years but gravitated to the guitar. Has this choice influenced your sound/music at all?
Taylor: It definitely has. Every time I write a new song the first thing I do is come up with a melody on my guitar. Although I’ve written songs on the piano, I always find that the songs I write using my guitar resonate more with my lyrics and allow me to dive deeper. I also think that because so many of my influences are largely acoustic guitar-based, it has influenced me to really focus in on guitar and vocals as a couple and building each element off of the other.
TYF: Your acoustic-indie sound is quite unique. Who are some of your inspirations?
Taylor: Thank you! Joni Mitchell, first and foremost. She’s the reason why I started to take songwriting so seriously because she showed me the true art behind it. She’s a storyteller beyond anything and she completely dives into each song with such honesty while still keeping the lyrics relatable. Not only that, but her melodies are so brilliant and the way she combines her lyrics with her melodies and makes them work off of each other is not easy to do. James Taylor and Carole King have also both been inspirational to me because of their exceptional talent in both songwriting and vocals.
TYF: You described your music as “sad girl music” – can you tell us why you described it in this way?
Taylor: I’ve heard the term before and when I have, I’ve noticed how powerful it is. I’m not a sad person during my day-to-day life, but I guess when I say “sad” I just mean emotional. It’s okay to listen to music that is slow tempo and expressive and honest and I think that so many people can relate to that. It’s safe to assume that most people have a little bit of sadness inside and my music just shows that it’s actually a good thing to recognize your feelings and it’s okay to feel things that are deep and vulnerable.
TYF: How would you describe your writing process?
Taylor: Songwriting is my form of therapy so first, I always try to understand how I’m feeling in that present moment and jot down some of those current emotions. Usually, then I’ll come up with a line or two that really stick out to me and I’ll create a concept from that for the theme of the song. I write about typical 20-year-old stuff- love, confusion and finding yourself. Universality is super important when I song write because I want everyone listening to be able to relate to it. It’s also so important to have my melodies and lyrics really fit together and play off one another. I like to give my songs movement, meaning each section has its own feel and nothing sounds predictable. However, I try to not to think too much about it and just write so that I can ensure I’m totally honest and in a vulnerable state. By doing that, I can really dive into the song and everything seems to fall into place much easier. As for my technical process, I usually come up with a melody on the guitar before I write out full lyrics. After I think I’ve got a catchy guitar melody, I’ll bring in some lyrical ideas and will just go from there. Each one of my songs has had a different process, but for the most part, I just try to really stay true to how I’m feeling.
TYF: What was it like hearing the news that your song “New Found Sound” went from 8,000 streams to 55,000 streams overnight?
Taylor: It was unreal! It’s still so crazy to me waking up every morning and seeing that there’s continuous growth on the song. Having the song do so well overnight was validation more than anything else that what I’m doing is attractive to people worldwide and that my music can resonate with a larger audience than what I had expected. It’s been so incredible and I appreciate all of the support, particularly being an independent artist. It has given me even more confidence to continue to create my music.
TYF: I read that it took you a year to figure out your sound and put together your EP. What would you say was the biggest challenge to overcome during that year of discovery?
Taylor: I’d say the biggest challenge was learning to accept and get comfortable with change. I never realized how change can affect my overall well-being and it took me a while to understand that transitional periods in life are normal and are crucial for overall growth. I’m actually so happy that I had to face some obstacles in my personal life because it forced me to get to know more about myself and thus allowed me to write better songs and more emotional songs. When I finally was happy with the person that I had become, I was able to let go and immerse myself in my music and what I wanted it to sound like.
TYF: You made the move from Los Angeles to New York a few years ago, did you always want to move to the East Coast?
Taylor: New York has always been so attractive to me and I knew that I wanted to live there at some point, I just didn’t know when. I got accepted to NYU so it seemed like the perfect timing to make the move and really explore what it’s like to live in such an energetic city. It’s been a really positive experience for me and I’m so lucky that I’ve been able to spend time here.
TYF: For our young readers who are currently in school but also what to pursue music, what would your advice be when trying to balance between the two?
Taylor: I’d say that prioritizing is so important. While everyone’s journey is different, mine happened to be the perfect balance because I went to college for music. It gave me the opportunity to get my education while also growing my knowledge of the music industry. It’s one thing to be passionate about music as an artist, but it’s a completely different experience studying the business of music behind the scenes. It gave me a deeper understanding of how music works and helped me really get a sense of what is ahead of me in the professional music world. Even in my classes that aren’t music related, I try to find any creative aspect of the subject I’m learning and implement my artistic skills to help me grow. It’s very doable to do both school and music and it can actually help you in the long run with your career as long as you have a good balance and fully immerse yourself in your passion.
TYF: Touching back on the fact that you made quite the move going across the country. What was the transition like moving from one major West Coast city to a major East Coast city?
Taylor: It definitely wasn’t easy, but I’m so glad I did it. Moving from LA [a super laid back and comfortable city for me] to moving to New York [completely opposite with high energy] forced me to get out of my comfort zone and inspired me to look at the transition through an artistic lens. Looking back, I can definitely say that I’ve changed a lot in all aspects of my life, especially with my music, my style, and my overall creativity level. New York has shown me a different way of living that requires a lot of hard work and commitment because of how fast paced it is. That has given me even more confidence and a stronger passion to succeed.
TYF: There’s quite a bit of anticipation building up for your upcoming single “My Dear” – can you tell us a little bit about the track?
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Taylor: I went to London a few months back and I was struggling with the concept of change in all aspects of my life, including in my relationship. It put me in a very vulnerable state and caused me to really pour my heart out. ‘My Dear’ is written from the perspective of someone wanting, so badly, for the relationship to work out even though promises have been constantly broken before. It’s about hoping that maybe this time things will be different and that maybe this will be the time that things change for the better. I think that most people can relate to the topic that love can be greater than struggles if you can find a way to make it work. However, there’s always that worry that things might not ever change, which is discussed throughout the song. Because I’m in a period of my artistic career where I am constantly growing, ‘My Dear’ has showcased new depth and movement that hasn’t been discovered before now. I can’t wait for you to hear it!
TYF: Your single “My Dear” has a lot of influence from your time abroad. Have any other similar international experiences influenced your writing?
Taylor: Yes. Because my surroundings and experiences are a huge part of where I get my inspiration for my songs, a lot of my writing stems from when I travel to places foreign to me. I had the great opportunity when I was in high school to leave the US and live in Italy with my parents for a few months. It was such a surreal time in my life and I was constantly visiting new cities throughout Europe, which gave me a lot of material to write about. On top of that, I had just started a relationship and being apart was new for us, which was difficult and put a test to our love. That combined with living somewhere new caused me to create some of my favorite songs, one of which I plan on releasing in the near future.
TYF: Speaking of travel, what kind of music do you like to listen to on the plane?
Taylor: It really depends on where I’m going and what kind of mood I’m in. For example, when I’m leaving NYC to go back home, I’m usually super excited and will listen to more up-tempo songs. Lorde’s new album ‘Melodrama’ is definitely on the list and I also constantly find myself listening to ‘Hold Back the River’ by James Bay on my flight home. When I’m leaving home or are going somewhere unknown and am a bit more nervous, I’ll listen to my favorite artists Lucy Rose or Joni Mitchell who help me embrace my feelings and give me some comfort in my new destination. Sometimes, I get in these moods where I listen to Top 40 the whole flight and just jam out, which is always a good change. Plane rides are my favorite time to discover new music or listen to things I normally might not listen to daily.
TYF: Lastly, what plans do you have for the rest of 2018?
Taylor: I plan on releasing a few more singles as well as some music videos to go with the songs. I haven’t explored the visual side of things yet so I think it could be a really cool aspect of my career. I also plan on playing a lot of gigs, which is really one of my favorite things about being an artist because I feel most connected with my audience and I can showcase more of who I am as an overall person. I can’t wait for whats to come – be on the lookout for more updates soon!