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Hi Emma! Thanks so much for doing this interview with us! You’ve recently released the The Table; I’ve seen a comment you made that the title comes from the name of one of the songs Late to the Table, and the phrase itself which you feel refers to how in life we can often feel we are second best – can you expand on why this phrase meant so much to you and why it seemed the right title for the EP?
It was really difficult actually. With the album I wrote five years ago, as soon as I wrote one of the songs I knew that was going to be the title and it was so perfect and I was dead set on it at the beginning. With this one that moment never came, I really had to search for the title and that was way harder. I just started listening to the songs on repeat and focusing on the lyrics; thinking about their context outside of the songs and what they mean. I was listening to Late to the Table and was thinking about people listening to that song who would have been in circumstances close to it. The song just grew into this metaphor, the table became a representation of life; no matter what people say you should be doing or what you’re doing right or wrong there is always someone talking about it. Someone always has an opinion and the specifics don’t matter, there will always be something people pick up on. That song just became about life in general and as soon as I started looking at things that way The Table came to me as a title. All the songs and stories on the EP are linked into that by real life; they aren’t pretty or wrapped in perfection, there are flaws and mistakes and they are really grounded in reality. As soon as I made that connection The Table became the perfect title.
Husband or Kids is a sort of protest at the idea that women are expected to follow a certain life path, but you say, ‘I’ll take option 3’ and say at the end of the song, ‘Tell me this ain’t all there is’. As a young woman, do you feel there is too much emphasis today of what we, and others, feel society expects of us and how do you think we can combat this?
That’s a really big question! There is still a stigma attached; there’s a certain way people expect you to live. It feels like you’re supposed to grow up dreaming of the wedding and picking out your kids' names when you’re ten! That’s become the norm and there’s nothing wrong with that, it is a beautiful life for so many people but for some it just isn’t what they want. I wish I knew what the answer was but the song Late to the Table is also about that - the bridge ‘When did a life looking different to yours become a wrong choice’ sums it up really. I think everyone just really needs to stay out of everyone else’s business! The world would be such a nicer place if for the most part people did; if you’re not hurting or harming anyone you should be able to do kind of what you want, so maybe just a little bit less butting in people’s lives!
Late to the Table – the title track – follows in a similar vein to Husband or Kids in which you are defending your right to make your own decisions and criticise those societal expectations as to where you should be as a woman at a certain part of your life. What advice would you give to young women and girls who may have that feeling, or have been told they are ‘late to the table’, and how important do you think it is to forge your own path through life?
I think it’s really hard to say to somebody how they can change it. I’m lucky I was brought up by amazing parents who always said, ‘As long as you’re happy, we don’t care! Do what makes you happy’, and we need more parents like that! That’s a great step, just supporting people and not being afraid of things that are different. There’s a certain safety in following the rules or what everyone has done before you; it’s a path where you don’t expect an awful lot of surprises. Whichever way you want to go, whether you want a slightly different career or life choice, relationship or want to move halfway across the world - people do all kinds of things that aren’t the norm (whatever that is anymore!) It’s just knowing what you want; that’s not always easy to figure out. Do what feels right for you and if you don’t know what that is then just wait, there’s no rush. There are things people are doing later in life now, we come from this society where people expect you to have done everything by 30 and then there’s nothing to look forward to! Happily that’s no longer our world anymore.
Waiting For You discusses the incredibly complex feelings that love and heartbreak can generate. The lyrics at the start ‘I can’t let go I know I will cry’ and ‘I should be able to fake a smile’ is something that many people will be familiar with, as it is common that we feel pressure to bottle up our emotions. This also comes back in the narrative of the song in which having not been able to express your love, you have to watch someone you have feelings for fall for someone else. How important do you think it is that we are able to express ourselves and let out our emotions for our own benefit, as well as for those close to us who may want to help?
It’s absolutely vital! You don’t have to say every thought and feeling that comes to you, some people write songs, some paint, write poetry or stories, have a journal or just have great conversations with friends, and that’s all amazing. Some people are very honest and bold with their romantic feelings and can just walk up to someone and say, ‘I like you’ - all power to you! I think those people are incredible because you are really putting yourself out there and if those feelings aren’t reciprocated - no one wants to feel that! Those brave people are amazing, I’m one of those cowardly people that stays quiet, as Waiting for You details! Getting your feelings out is so vital, that’s how I started writing. It was a very quiet time in my life, but there were lots of big changes going on and I had no idea what I was doing! You have to find a way to get those feelings, fears, ideas and questions out. I think it’s really important and helpful for everyone.
When focuses on the difficult situation of being the ‘other woman’ in a relationship but takes a strong confrontational stance in which you are demanding that the partner admits to himself what he is doing. I think this is a really powerful number in encouraging people to stand up for themselves in these situations, and to understand and appreciate their own value. Why was it so important for you to write this song in this strong style?
It kind of came from two places. Quite a few relationships I’ve been watching around me or stories I’ve heard from friends. That bridge part came from a friend of mine who was cheating on his girlfriend; I was sort of thinking, ‘Do whatever, I’m not here to judge’, but he was very adamant that because very specific boundaries hadn’t been crossed, he wasn’t cheating, but the line was so thin. He was just under the impression that, ‘Well, it’s not really is it’, and it was so casual. The other side is that I’m completely obsessed with Grey’s Anatomy! I’ve written loads of songs inspired by it, I absolutely love it. One of the characters in it did have an affair but it was an emotional affair. She found out that he had been emailing this other woman while they were together, and she was so hurt by her husband telling someone else feelings that he wouldn’t talk to her about. That always stuck in my mind. That song is actually one of the oldest in terms of writing. I love cheating songs in country music, they’re so dramatic and some of the best in the genre! I wanted to find my way to make it more interesting so I actually wrote that story three times, in three different songs and from all three perspectives. It was like a writing exercise. I just wanted to see if I could do it. When it got to writing the other woman’s side of it, the initial one was quite different actually, but her story wasn’t one that you hear a lot. I wanted to try and find a voice and hear these conversations and it all beautifully melded together. It came at the right time.
Match Made in Hell continues in this form in which you are understanding your own value as an individual and deciding not to change for others or waste time on those who don’t appreciate you for who you are. How important do you think it is in life that we understand our individuality and appreciate ourselves, even when others around us don't?
That’s the hardest part isn’t it, doing it for yourself when you’re surrounded by people who aren’t all that true to themselves! I think somewhere in that song is a little bit of me having more guts in the song than I do in real life, that’s a goal of where I want to be and it’s very to the point. It is so important - I don’t really know what the answer is. I was always an odd kid; I was always the tallest in my class, the only redhead, always overweight, I loved to sing, I loved musical theatre and country music - none of those were or are really what the ‘popular’ kids liked or wanted to do. Everything I loved was always different so I never really noticed it. There was definitely a period where I tried to listen to the music the ‘cool’ kids liked; I remember buying this one album but I just had no interest in it whatsoever! I’d wear what I thought people wanted to see me in and do the things I thought people wanted me to do, but I’ve been lucky that every time I’ve tried to change it’s always cemented who I am to myself anyway. I’ve always ended up coming back; if I tried to dip away from country music I always ended up loving it even more. I guess that’s maybe a part of growing up - experimenting and trying things, but it is really important that once you find a piace of yourself you want to lock in, you try and hold onto it as tight as you can!
The EP expresses self-love throughout in different contexts – what was it that inspired you to create an EP themed around this, or was it something that occurred naturally when writing and recording the music?
I think maybe it is part of my style! I didn’t set out to write songs that had a certain message, I’ve never really been able to do that much. I did a Masters in songwriting, so some of those assignments had to be very specific and I could do them but they were never my best songs or ones I wanted to shout home about! I think it’s really interesting actually you’re one of the first people I’ve spoken to who has really listened to the songs for themselves - quite often I get my own song descriptions read back to me! It’s great to hear from someone who has listened with an open mind and found their own way in. I’m still listening to it myself, I listen almost every day and I’m still finding new things in there. Some of those things that you’ve brought up, they are there and they’re subconscious. It must just be super ingrained into my personality and writing style. I always write intentionally, I always want to have something to say. It’s never personally been enough for me to just think ‘This would be fun’ or ‘That’s a cool line’. There always has to be at least some part of me in every song no matter how different, Some of them are very literal - Waiting for You could’ve been a diary entry. Then you’ve got ones like Match Made in Hell which is a little bigger and a little different, but they always come back to me. I’ve never really noticed this self-love aspect running through it so that’s really interesting to me, but I’m very independent, I do a lot of things on my own, I wait for things and I’m into quality over quantity, so it feels like maybe there’s more personality coming through on this EP than I had even intended!
Finally, one thing we ask all of our interviewees is to name their top three songs that relate to mental health. What would be your top three?
1. '9 to 5' - Dolly Parton
2. 'Anything' - Brandy Clark
3. 'All I Ask' - Adele
This article is kindly sponsored by Scarlet River Management
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