Every Monday we will be bringing you interviews with unsigned UK or Ireland artists for Independent Music Monday. Recently we caught up with unsigned London based singer Emma Withers to find out more...
Where are you from and how did you first get into music?
I’m from a small area on the outskirts of Birmingham, there wasn’t really an awful lot going on there so as a kid boredom was rife, which has shown to be an absolute blessing in disguise; as it opened me up to a wild amount of music from every genre imaginable, I was always rifling through my dad’s CD collection and always searching for music which was new to me whether it be from 1950 or a new release, it always sounded so fresh and exciting. This sparked my interest in music, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t obsessed.
But in terms of taking note of my own skills, random story but I remember doing a harvest day assembly at primary school, I must have been about 7 or 8 and I did a duet with a choir boy, I was quite a confident child at that age so it had no effect on me, I didn’t get what all the fuss was about when other parents were fussing over me, and the teachers were telling me how good I was. I don’t think my parents had any idea I could sing either so, I think they were just as shocked… the choir boy threw a tantrum because I was getting all the attention which I had no desire to hold, it was all very dramatic hence this is still quite a vivid memory. Straight after this I then asked my mum if I could go to a singing teacher, and so. it. began.
I was classically trained by an amazing Soprano who had toured the world with an opera company in her younger days, my love for classical music is still very much there, but I began to develop my own sound, and sway more to rock/indie/electronic genres; I began to write my own music, and even though I’ve written a lot of songs I cringe about now, it's all helped to get me to the point I am.
Who were your musical influences when you were growing up and who are your influences now?
I would say my stand out influence growing up, probably still my biggest, is Kate Bush. This came out of my dad’s CD collection as well, I remember picking up ‘the kick inside’ because I thought the artwork was cool. Now, my attention span was and still is quite short, so listening to an album from start to finish at my 8 years old was a rarity. But I remember sitting in front of the stereo, and literally being entranced, and then I played the whole album again and again. I was absolutely in love, I had never heard anything like it, the way she used her voice, the development of the songs, the way they twisted and turned but so smoothly, it was just beautiful to me. Now, I could pretty much teach a class in Kate Bush, I’m still just as obsessed.
Other inspirations, Amy Winehouse, massive influence, truly unique and I haven’t heard another singer in modern times sound quite so raw, I often fantasise about what another 5 albums of Amy would have sounded like.
Nirvana, obsessed with Kurt Cobain, his erratic stage persona and voice of boiling nails I will never tire of, my favourite songs are ‘Drain you’ ‘Aneurysm’ ‘something in the way’ ‘milk it’.
David Bowie, of course… I could explain why, but the name speaks for itself, just genius. This has been a constant throughout my life.
T. Rex, when I was a kid I was obsessed with that rock star persona, I loved Marc Bolan I just thought he was the coolest guy, I almost just wanted to be him! When all my school friends were listening to Eminem, I was listening to stuff their dad probably liked, needless to say I hid it to be saved from teasing, which I feel awful for now! I led a double music life i’m not proud of…
My influences now, only keep expanding, my main influence of the past year or so is singer-songwriter Borns, he truly is incredible and has a touch of that old school androgynous rock star about him. His music is phenomenal, voice like butter and live he is even better!
Others to note: Nina Simone, Beck, The Pixies, Alanis Morrisette, Pearl Jam, Blondie, Christine & the Queens, Kiiara, Banks, Florence + the Machine, Cage the Elephant, Kaleo, Hole, Annie Lennox, Duran Duran, 4 Non Blondes, Jade Bird, Gwen Stefani/No Doubt, most stuff from the 80’s.
How would you describe your sound?
My sound is trans genre I would say, my EP I’d label as Heavy Pop as a blanket description, but elements of rock, grunge, electronic, pop, indie, soul can definitely be heard.
When I play these songs acoustically, they take on a different life. More soul/rock, and even a little bit country some have said. Personally labelling my own music I find hard to do, and as a song-writer having the freedom of not being tied to one genre is a hell of a lot more exciting to me, so just because this EP sounds ‘Heavy Pop’ doesn’t mean my next one will. I feel like your sound doesn’t come from a genre or label, it is a style, and a solid style can transcend, I hope mine can, but either way I’m always excited to find out.
What is your latest release called and what was the influence behind it?
My debut EP is called ‘Ride or Die’.
I wanted this EP to sound like an explosion, I love the tense and release technique of writing music, so you will notice that each song explodes at some point. The producer I worked with (Ben Matravers) got this pretty much instantaneously, and we both felt where each song should go pretty much without even vocalising it, just trialed some sounds and it worked wonders!
Even though each song has a very different feel and meaning, the underlying theme is freedom and reckless abandon. This is something which is close to me, I feel like in the society we live in now, it is so rare to just be carefree and live in the moment, I try to do this whenever I can but it's easy to be sucked into everything else, we forget our grounding and the importance of just being in the present.
I try not to talk too much about what a specific song is written about, as I feel once my music is released, it belongs to me and the person listening. I want them to hear it and relate it to their truth, and I don’t want to ruin that relationship between a listener and the music.
This EP is unapologetically me, my sound and a part of my soul. I am extremely proud, and I hope everyone who listens loves it as much as I do.
What’s your local music scene like?
I live in London, so it's very very good. There are so many opportunities, which doesn’t necessarily make anything easier, but it is there, and knocking the right amount of doors will make one open for sure. There are a lot of cool venues and open mics to trial material round my local Battersea area, you never have to walk far before seeing ‘live music’ on a pub or venue’s board.
What do you have planned for the next 12 months? Any albums or festivals?
I am currently working on a new project which I’m keeping pretty low key, but I’m extremely excited about it, very happenstance but the best things always are. Maybe we are looking at Christmas time for this release for this, so stay tuned for that one, it will be good I assure you.
Is there anyone you’d love to collaborate with?
Borns or Banks, Banks has such an amazing sound and she’s an extremely talented writer, she’s also never given up her personal style for commercial success, I have been following her for years and she’s always stayed true, she's becoming a bigger name now in her own right.
Borns, as previously stated he is just incredible, and I think our voices would gel beautifully.
Any funny stories surrounding your live performances?
Ah literally every time I perform something will happen. I had an incident where the band before started an argument with the sound guy, right as me and my band were ready to go. The lead singer and the sound guy got into a physical fight directly in front of me, which I was trying to calm for a while, they weren’t stopping so I had to just go. We all sounded absolutely terrible for the whole set, no-one could hear themselves, the sound was distorted and the levels were completely off, but luckily they decided to stop when my set ended… So then I had an argument with the sound guy, and the lead singer of the band on next, joined in backing me up. So the sound guy walked off, and the guy who he initially had a fight with did the sound for the rest of the night with a bleeding nose, the venue just let him do it ha!
What is the one thing that you want readers to know about you?
I’m a very sincere person, I don’t like arrogance or smoke screens, I like truth’s and peoples truth’s. I think the beauty of music is we can express our own truth’s, and learn that we are all more similar than we think. A weight can be lifted off someone's shoulders with something as seemingly insignificant as a 3 minute song; really powerful… and two people with completely personalities can bond over a sentiment in a song. That and my passionate for sound is why I’m in this.
You can find out more about Emma Withers via Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud, Spotify, Twitter or YouTube.