INTERVIEW: Emmy The Great | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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It’s been five years since anti-folk songstress Emma-Lee Moss released her last record, Virtue, under her better known stage name of Emmy The Great. “Wow, has it really been five years?” Asks a genuinely surprised Emma, who is gearing up to release her new album, Second Love, this month. “It was finished last year, but schedules become pushed and you learn to become very patient.”

Although entitled Second Love, the record will actually be Emma’s third, and to confuse matters even more, it follows on from her debut record, entitled First Love. “I keep wondering why I did that!” Laughs Emma. “I felt very strongly that this is the album that First Love would have been if it had been made today. It also feels like the process of making this album was so intense and life-changing that when I finished it, I was in a new phase of life.”

The phase of Emma’s life that led her to writing and recording Virtue was undoubtedly a difficult one, having been left by her fiancé after he underwent a religious conversion. It made for one of the great break-up albums of our time, but one that she isn’t keen to revisit. “It just feels like it’s in a bottle, it’s in a different time,” she reflects, “that album really helped me get through that; the immediate shock of what happened. It encapsulated all my grief and sadness and put it into this little product but I don’t listen to it, ever.”

That grieving process undoubtedly inspired the writing behind Second Love too, a far more uplifting record. “It’s why this album was such an intense process. Because after you’ve healed from shock, what do you do next?  You have to figure out who you are. That’s why I separate Virtue from the other two because it was like a bandage, whereas the other two are more like, longer, less-emergency processes.”

Second Love finds Emmy The Great in a much happier place. Whilst it is littered with references to love – such as on the romantic upbeat pop of Never Go Home or the lust-filled R&B of Dance With Me – Emma is keen to stress that it isn’t a break-up record. “It was really important to me not to write another break-up album because after you’ve done three, I think that’s all you do. So I had to go and find out who I was as a musician outside of this format that I’d always used. That’s one of the reasons it took so long, because I had to find out who I am, and then what I want to sing about and it turns out after much travelling and living life and growing…I’m pretty chilled! Which was kind of a revelation to me, you get so quiet because you’re always observing and you have to just let things happen.”

the process of making this album was so intense and life-changing that when I finished it, I was in a new phase of life

As well as the age-old themes of love, Second Love also deals with the less traditional theme of technology, never more so than on the conflicted Hyperlink. “I always want a theme to kick myself off with writing and when I first started in 2013, it just felt so exciting and there was all this stuff that was making life so much easier, so I thought I’d write about technology and objects. As the process carried on, the world and technology got darker and social media changed and instead of being this upbeat thing where we were empowering each other and saying ‘hi’ to strangers, it became this place where we were part of mobs and we’re constantly judging each other. We’ve been through ups and downs now with technology and my original thesis which was: ‘How great is all this stuff?’ has become more complex.  Every song, although it started off as this idea about writing about computers and solar panels and things ended up being love songs anyway, so I didn’t have to really address any of the big issues because the album was about the human constant.”

Rather than enter the studio in a traditional sense, Emma recorded Second Love on her travels, utilising the very technology that the album often finds her singing about. It makes for a far more experimental record than fans of First Love may be expecting, though the ethereal vibes of last year’s single Swimming Pool set the tone early. “So much of the recording was just on my laptop. It just made it more free and there was much less of a time restraint because you’re not saying, ‘I’m in the studio for two months, better get this done.’ You’re just sort of experimenting.”

With the album set for release on 11th March, Emma is looking forward to playing the songs live for the first time, especially with a show at The Cluny two days later, which appears to be a favourite venue of hers. “It’s really intimate. I feel like every time we’ve played there it’s like looking every single audience member in the face which I really like; very accountable.  I’m excited to go back, it’s been a really long time.”

Emmy The Great releases Second Love on 11th March, she plays The Cluny, Newcastle on Sunday 13th March.

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