Songtrust Spotlight: Emmavie

EMMAVIE is a triple threat singer/songwriter, producer and DJ from London whose music is an amalgamation of 90s R&B and her love for digital audio experimentation. Having released music with IAMNOBODI, Buddy, ROMderful, Alfa Mist, Jarreau Vandal and Jay Prince and so many more, Emmavie is known for her passion for collaboration.

Off the back of releasing her debut self-produced album ‘Honeymoon’ with boutique label, Fresh Selects - receiving praise from the likes of superstar actor, Idris Elba and hip hop legend, Phonte - the last 12 months have seen Emmavie hit the ground running. Emmavie has had a busy year of releases, dropping two collaborative EPs with all-female international collective, Her Songs, a joint project with renowned London jazz musician, composer and rapper, Alfa Mist, a joint EP with Hungarian live band and DJ collective, Solqlap Budapest, whilst also racking in a handful of features and production credits.

Emmavie’s music has jumped on to the screen in a big way with her songs recently being placed on the critically acclaimed “I May Destroy You”, Michaela Coel’s newest HBO/BBC Three series, Tyler Perry’s “Sistas” on BET, Oprah Winfrey’s network produced series, “Queen Sugar” and MTV’s “Teen Mom US 2”.

Her songs, ‘OOPS’ and ‘An Idea’ have both been selected by rapper and popular commentator, Joe Budden as his Sleeper Tracks on Joe’s hugely popular podcast, The Joe Budden Podcast.

August 2019, Emmavie was scouted by legendary DJ and Fresh Prince of Bel Air star, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and flown out to his house in Delaware to spend a week making music with the likes of Mac Ayres, Robert Glasper and Redman as part of the Playlist Retreat.

Emmavie's high profile performances have seen her share the stage with Mahalia, Eric Bellinger, Smino, Iman Omari, and The Internet front woman, Syd for Red Bull Music Academy’s Paths Unknown. Emmavie went on to support Playlist Retreat alumni, Masego and Moonchild on their European tours.

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Who inspired you to become a musician?

I can’t say it was any one person. My dad would always play awesome mixtapes on our car journeys. I was introduced to artists like Erykah Badu, Brandy and Raphael Saadiq as a little kid and I connected with that deeply soulful sound. I have a soul tie with a song called ‘Climb The Mountain’ by Kenny Lattimore. I honour it in almost all my writing.

As I got a little older, Missy Elliott became my Black woman superhero. I was a chubby kid so I loved that she kinda looked like me and she was so versatile – rapping, singing, dancing and directing her insanely innovative music videos.

Before I started making songs, I had aspirations of becoming a dancer. I performed in cute little talent shows and competitions at school. I actually started teaching myself to produce so I could make music to dance to but the more I made music, the less I thought about dance. My dad bought my first set of home studio recording equipment when I was around 15.

How would you describe your style of music and performance? How would you describe your philosophy and style as an artist? 

I would describe my core style as future soul and R&B. Because of my experimental approach to music making (a consequence of how unorthodoxly I learnt to make music) I’ve never stuck to any one style and I listen to almost everything. I try to push myself to practice the sensibilities and conventions of many different genres and incorporate the things I’m drawn to into my songs.

My philosophy as an artist has been to find ways to push the boat forward - breaking the rules, telling new and honest stories and stamping my identity on a song. I really believe in the power of knowledge and the gift of being able to absorb my environment, digest it and spit out something new.

What drives you to create, and how do you define success for yourself in music?

I try to stay in tune with my ability to learn and my thirst for knowledge so now my drive to create comes from constantly learning new tricks and putting them into practice. It took some time but I’ve learnt to be satisfied with having just made a new noise instead of driving myself crazy trying to make big commercial hits everyday – though, I’m very happy when I make a bloody good song.

Success for me is to be able to grant myself freedom. If the music I make opens up doors for me and makes my life even a tiny bit easier, that’s success to me.

How do you think the music industry can develop into a more equitable and welcoming space for Black music creators?

That’s a good question. The change has to happen from the top down. It will become safer for Black creators when all music structures are fair to and inclusive of Black people in general. 

Firstly, shout out to the companies that have created task forces led by Black people to challenge their own internal shortcomings and that are doing it all year round; and also those that have sought to put Black people in senior management positions. More of this!

Secondly, I think we need to stop saying “the industry” because we end up pointing the finger at and scrutinising some faceless “the man” system when the problem’s probably your 60 year old boss that needs to retire their yucky old ideas.

A lot of teams need to take an honest look at how they play a part in the unethical exploitation and appropriation of Black art and also examine why their workforces lack diversity. It’s weird that companies are literally foaming at the mouth for Black music and content but won’t pay Black creators fairly and don’t hire Black people to be on their staff and in their boardrooms. It’s even weirder to see companies blatantly tokenising Black creators in an effort to appear “woke” whilst the topic of racism is hot but make absolutely no structural change to their companies. Don't do this.

Do you have any advice for young Black musicians just starting their careers, based on what you’ve experienced?

Firstly, practice your craft, constantly. 

Secondly, study as much as you can about the music business. You don’t have to be an expert in everything but you should aim to understand the basics of things like publishing, licensing, distribution, the many different types of deals, splits, your rights etc.. Understanding these mechanics will help you understand what you’re entitled to.

Lastly, listen to people that have been through it! You’d be surprised how many experienced people in the industry you can get in touch with that are happy to share their stories and advice with you. I’ve had so many mentors through the years.


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