DK: Hello Emily! Happy New Year! Thank you very much for taking time out of your day to speak with me, I greatly appreciate it! How are you this fine day?
EJ: Hey Dennis! Happy New Year to you too! Thank you so much for the opportunity. I’m doing great! I can’t believe it’s already 2018. Last year just flew by.
DK: That it did! I am not the New Year’s resolution kind of guy (myself), but did you make any New Year’s resolutions like so many people tend to do?
EJ: I’d really like to just be more present this year. As I said, 2017 went by in a flash and I have a feeling 2018 will as well. I want to be able to fully experience each moment and continue to surround myself with positivity.
DK: I hear ya and remaining positive seems harder and harder to do these days, but it is more important than ever though too to stay positive. Now, with a new year ahead of us and your debut album ‘Til the Morning’ out next month already, 2018 is already looking pretty amazing, right? How excited are you?
EJ: I’m incredibly excited! Although, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m a little nervous as well. I’ve been working on this album for the past year or so and these songs are my babies. There are a lot of emotions I’m feeling as we approach the release of “Til the Morning,” but it’s mainly excitement.
DK: Is ‘Til the Morning’ one of the tracks off the album? I expect there is a great story behind it too, right?
EJ: Actually, “Til the Morning” is not the title of one of the tracks. It’s the line that I repeat at the end of the first single off the album, “Lion’s Den.” I intentionally made the decision not to name the album after a certain track because I didn’t want to emphasize any specific song. This album is truly a collection of songs and stories and I feel that each one is equally important in representing the album as a whole. I went with the line “til the morning” as the title because I felt it encompassed the common thread among all 12 of the songs. They are all memories, dreams, and stories happening in my head, so the album is kind of a journey through the night that we go on together “til the morning.”
DK: Nice, I can’t wait to hear the full album, now even more so! How was it working on the debut album with Ryan Hadlock producing it?
EJ: Ryan is fantastic. Not only is he incredibly talented but he is just a wonderful human in general. I stayed in Seattle for a few weeks in January and again in March (it was cold!) to record all of the tracks. I came to Ryan with about 30 songs that I had written and was considering for the album. Together, we cut it down to these 12. The production of the album was definitely a collaboration between the two of us, which was a really amazing experience. It was so great to be able to bounce ideas off of each other and inspire one another. In addition, all of the musicians Ryan brought in for the session are so awesomely talented. Having them there to also put their own unique sounds on the songs made a huge difference.
DK: For your self-titled EP, you were already working with Grammy-winning producer Jacquire King and Ian Fitchuk and you were only 16! How was that experience for you, what did you learn and how did you apply that knowledge to this album?
EJ: Working on the EP was definitely a great learning experience, and I am so glad I got to do that before recording my first full-length album. It made recording the album less scary because I knew more of what to expect in terms of recording and building up a song. Through the process of recording the EP, I learned not to be afraid to voice my ideas or opinions and to trust my artistic instincts. It can be intimidating to be
in a room full of experienced musicians and start giving them suggestions, but ultimately, all they want is for the artist to be happy, so the more communication the better.
DK: Definitely! How long did you spend writing and recording the album?
EJ: I wrote the majority of the songs during the months preceding the recording. However, I had written a handful of them even earlier. For example, one of the tracks, “Under the Rainbow,” I wrote when I was 14 and still living in New York. It was kind of my “okay I’m done with high school and ready to enter the real world” song.
We broke up the recording into two sessions: a few weeks in January and then a couple weeks in March. I even wrote two of the songs from the album in the time period between the two sessions. I was used to recording in much tighter periods of time so it felt like such a luxury to have all of those weeks in the studio; although we certainly used every second of it!
DK: Did you have any guest musicians accompanying you on the making of the album?
EJ: I did! I was fortunate to have so many incredible musicians be a part of the making of this album. Tim Hanseroth, who is one of my songwriting inspirations, and Josh Neumann, are both from Brandi Carlile’s band and they are two of the kindest people ever. Tim played acoustic guitar and also did some background vocals for a couple of the songs. Josh is an incredible cellist and played on many of the songs.
I was also lucky enough to have Gibb Droll, who tours with Bruce Hornsby, play electric guitar on “Nobody’s Baby.” We initially didn’t plan for electric guitar on the song but after hearing him play it once, we knew we had to have it.
Andrew Vait and Emily Westman from the band Sisters are insane instrumentalists- I think collectively the two of them play something crazy like 50 different instruments. Andrew and Emily both brought such unique sounds to every song that they played on.
A good number of the songs have strings on them and that is all thanks to Andrew Joslyn’s fantastic string arrangements. Andrew has arranged strings for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and, most recently, on Kesha’s “Praying.”
I also had the chance to play piano, guitar and Wurlitzer on the album, which was really exciting!
DK: Wot, this sounds like a very full-bodied album with a lot of complimentary instrumentation to really accentuate your beautiful vocals. What a great way to go for your full length album! What formats will the album be available on; digital for sure, but will you release it on vinyl as well?
EJ: The album will be available digitally on iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora… all the usuals. In addition, I will have physical copies in CD form as well as vinyl. I am so pumped for the vinyl because I’ve never had any of my recordings printed in that format and I am absolutely in love with the sound of vinyl.
DK: How long were you in New York and when did you move to LA?
EJ: I grew up in New York and lived there until I was 16. I spent two years in Nashville, which was awesome, before moving to LA last June. New York will always be home to me, but I’m really loving LA so far. I could definitely see myself staying here for a while.
DK: How long did it take you to get rolling with your career in LA (meeting the industry reps, getting shows, etc)?
EJ: When I first moved here I started booking shows at some smaller venues, which was a great way to get to know the live music scene in LA. Since then, I’ve been focusing a lot on the album release and filming music videos for my first few singles. I’m looking forward to getting back out there and performing once the album is out!
DK: Did you have any lessons of any kind for your career?
EJ: Yes, I started taking piano lessons when I was about five, took voice lessons for many years, and then
guitar lessons for a couple years as well.
DK: Do you feel everyone should have at least some lessons under their belt before exploring their own musical career?
EJ: Everyone is different and therefore has a different learning process. Some people prefer lessons while others may want to just pick up an instrument and learn by themselves. I don’t think there is a wrong way to do it. With that being said, I feel that it would benefit every singer to have some sort of vocal training, even if it’s just one voice lesson, just to make sure they are singing in a healthy way.
DK: How supportive has your family been with your career and do you have any artistic siblings?
EJ: My family has been so beyond supportive, and I am extremely thankful for that every day. I know I can count on them to help me with anything and everything. They all love music and are artistic in their own way and a couple of them are musicians as well. It’s really amazing to have a support system of people who appreciate music and understand what it is I’m doing and not think I’m crazy to be pursuing music as a career!
DK: Your latest video for ‘Lions Den’ has garnered a great amount of views in a very short time, over 41,000 in 6 days alone now, very nice! What can you tell me about this video; how it was filming it, how it translated for you in relation to the song and how it compares to your other videos to you?
EJ: Thank you! Filming “Lion’s Den” was a lot of fun. It was a different process because before this, my videos have primarily been performance videos. I knew I wanted to involve more of a storyline in this one. I was fortunate to work with a really talented director, Tyler Michael James and his awesome production team at Ad Opus. The “Lion’s Den” video was also my first time shooting with another actor, which I was a little nervous about. It ended up being a lot of fun– there were a lot of laughs filming that video!
I’m really excited to be releasing music videos for my next two singles as well! They’re all very different and I feel that Tyler and I both pushed ourselves outside of our comfort zones when filming them. I can’t wait to share them!
DK: You are so talented on so many levels, when listening to your music, it is hard to tell what I find your strength to be, to be quite honest. But if I were forced to pick just one, your songwriting has stood out to me, but it is followed very closely by your voice and music. When writing songs, do you set time aside to write or does the words come to you throughout the day?
EJ: I sincerely appreciate that!! Although I think of myself as a singer/musician, I see myself as a songwriter first. My process is different every time; sometimes I’m inspired by a conversation, or an idea or a melody will just pop into my head. Other times, I’ll sit down at the piano or with my guitar and just start playing around until I find something I like and run with it. It’s a very organic process.
DK: Is it music, then lyrics for you? Or vice versa?
EJ: It’s really different each time. Generally I will map out a melody first, but I’ve written songs where I
start with some lyrics or a title and build it from there.
DK: What would you say has been the most effective in building your fan base?
EJ: I’d have to say Spotify has been the most effective in that sense. They have been super supportive in adding my songs to some of their curated playlists, as well as Release Radar and Discover Weekly. I love Spotify just as a music fan in general–I have found so much new music through their playlists and suggestions that I probably would have never heard otherwise. I really appreciate how Spotify is breaking down the walls of genre and the need for major labels and providing a lot of support to independent artists.
DK: How involved on social media are you?
EJ: I try to be as involved as I can. If I spend time on social media, it’s because I want to share content from my life or my music with my fans and communicate with them directly. Social media is an extremely powerful resource in connecting with people all over the world. Platforms such as YouTube and Facebook have really been helpful in that regard.
DK: What have been some of the biggest challenges in your career so far?
EJ: Patience! Everything takes a lot of time, especially because I’m a bit of a perfectionist. But, the best
things take time, right? :)
DK: As the late Tom Petty said, ‘the waiting is the hardest part…’ and it is so sad, but true. How often do you play out usually?
EJ: I try to play out as often as I can. There’s something so special and unexplainable about live music. Whether I’m playing to an audience, or I’m in the crowd listening to an artist play, the energy is completely different than listening to a recording. I feel like music is one of the most powerful ways to communicate emotions. There is no greater feeling than having someone approach me after a show and tell me that my music moved them in some way.
DK: What types of venues have you performed at and do you have a band supporting you or are your performances more acoustic?
EJ: My performances tend to be more acoustic. Right now, I just accompany myself on piano and guitar but I’m really looking forward to playing live with a full band. It’s a totally different dynamic playing on stage by yourself vs. with other people. I feel like having more instrumentation can really add energy to the song and pump up the crowd. Although, there is something to be said about a voice alone with a single instrument. It just depends on what kind of show you want to put on I guess!
DK: Do you have a tour in the works for this year?
EJ: I’m planning to tour this summer! I don’t have any concrete dates yet but hopefully soon. :)
DK: Shifting gears now, what are some of your world views? What would you like to do to change it for the better through your music or personally outside of your music career?
EJ: Right now, my main goal is just to create music that people can connect with. No matter what someone is going through, I hope that they might be able to listen to one of my songs and know that they’re not alone. I hope to empower other young women and inspire them to work towards their dreams.
DK: Aside from the new album coming next month, what else do you want to see yourself accomplish this year?
EJ: I would love to get back in the studio and do some more recording! I’ve written a bunch of new songs that I’m really excited about, and I already miss going through the recording process.
It would be such a dream to tour with and open for another artist. I can’t wait to travel and just have the experience of playing on the road.
I’m also hoping to film some more music videos for the songs on my upcoming album. It’s so much fun to be able to bring a song to life and add a visual to the music.
DK: I just had an idea, you should totally film an album release show for sure or invite the fans to film it and splice together their footage for a commemorative video to be released on a later date. I think it is safe to say that you’ve got a solid fan base and connecting with them on a personal level for an event like this would truly make it even more special.
EJ: That’s a great idea! I’ll definitely keep that in mind for the release!
DK: Is there anything more you’d like to share with our readers today?
EJ: I’d just like to genuinely thank anyone who has listened to or discovered my music. I hope that you are able to connect with my stories in some way or another, and that they help you with whatever you are going through. Your support means the world and I truly can’t thank you enough.
DK: I sincerely want to thank you again for taking the time with me and cannot wait until ‘Til the Morning’ is released next month! You’re an amazingly talented artist whom I foresee will be a very big star one day very soon! Keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll get there before you know it! Thanks again Emily!
EJ: You are so kind!! Thank you so much, Dennis! I really enjoyed talking with you. I seriously appreciate you running the Chicago Music Guide and supporting independent artists! I hope you have an amazing 2018!!
Biography: Emily James is a pop-influenced singer/songwriter, originally from New York, now based in Los Angeles. Emily started writing music at the age of 10 and, at 16, began working with Grammy-winning producer Jacquire King (James Bay, Kings of Leon) and Ian Fitchuk on her self-titled EP, “Emily James.” Emily is now getting ready to release her debut album, “Til the Morning,” which she recorded with Grammy-nominated producer, Ryan Hadlock (The Lumineers, Vance Joy). The entire album was self-penned by Emily, who says “the songs are all memories, dreams, and stories happening in my head, so the album is kind of a journey through the night that we go on together ’til the morning’.” The album is set to be released on February 9, 2018.
Official Site: http://www.emilyjames.net/