Interview: Esmae | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Teesside artist and YouTube star Esmae changes her musical direction as she teams up with rapper Onika J on her brand new grime and rap inspired single, Fire. The track, which “embraces female empowerment”, comes complete with popping synth, snappy beats and photoplay music-sounding keys, which provide the perfect platform for Esmae’s effortlessly soulful vocal and Onika’s sharp, flowing lyrical delivery. 
We catch up with Esmae to talk about her, her online success and the latest single…

How did you get into music?
I wrote my first song when I was 16 in LA, and I always knew that it was something I wanted to do because of the special feeling it gave me. Coming from an Irish Catholic background music was always playing in my house growing up and if it wasn’t then it wouldn’t be long before someone was up singing their rendition of an Irish folk song ha! Music is the one thing we’ve always celebrated as a family through good and the bad times to bring us together, so I guess it makes perfect sense that it’s the one thing I use to process and regulate my own emotions through writing. Despite life taking me on a totally different journey, I find it fascinating that I’ve come full circle and I’m right back doing what I am supposed to be.

If you could collaborate with any artist, past or present, who would it be and why?
There are so many amazing musicians out there but for me, It would definitely be Lauryn Hill as her album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, resonated so deeply with me. It was the first time I truly understood how using your emotions to articulate your pain could not only heal yourself but can also help others understand, process and heal their own demons at the same time.

Briefly describe your songwriting process. What do you like to write about?
Of course, all the songs I write about are based on either my life experiences or the people those of people who are closest to me. Collectively, we have a few and it’s safe to say it tends to open up a whole range of human emotions, from love to hate to anger! I would say my inspiration comes from the emotion I’m feeling (generally at a very silly time in the morning) where I’ll record the lyrics and melody onto my phone, then from there I take it into the studio to finish the song and the music with a producer.

What was it about your music or interpretation of other artists’ music that people struck a chord with people online?
I would say that it is because I have only ever covered songs that I genuinely love and music that comes from artists who I would love to work and write with, which I think translates through my versions.

How do you engage with your online audience?
My main platforms online are Instagram and YouTube which is a fab place to be as I have only ever received great support from people. It is important because it allows you to continue to grow and connect with people while remaining 100% authentic. That is the one thing I feel keeps me connected to my audience.

Which were some of your favourite, or most well-received, cover versions on your YouTube channel?
Some of my favourite and best-received videos are Then – by Anne Marie which has around 57k views and also One Last Time – by Ariana Grande which has a similar amount.

What about Teesside influences or informs your work?
My biggest influence from Teesside and inspiration is James Arthur, not only is he unbelievable but he stands for some really important causes such as tackling homelessness in our region too! It is amazing to see someone overcome their life struggles and achieve what he has done.

Tell us about Fire What is it about and how does it differ from previous music you’ve made?
Fire is such a fun song, which really embraces female empowerment. You can feel the unapologetic united front between me and the incredibly talented rapper, Onika J, from the off. There is no choice but to bounce to this track – it has its own life force, it’s just pure fire”.

Why have you moved towards a UK rap and grime sound?
I love rap and grime, so FIRE was the perfect opportunity to gravitate in this direction as it is the perfect fit. Once we discovered the featuring artist it felt only natural to go in that direction musically.

Who are some of your influences from this genre?
My biggest influencers from this Genre are Stormzy and Skepta

How did working with Onika J come about and what was it like to collaborate with her on this track?
I found Onika on Insta and loved her content. We got chatting and hit it off. Collaborating with her on this track has been amazing because our energies match and it just elevated everything to a whole new level!

What’s next for you as an artist?
Honestly, there are so many exciting things happening with a new summer release underway and plans to go on an even bigger UK tour in the autumn. The most important thing for me as an artist is to keep on working with other exciting musicians, writing, refining, learning, growing and most importantly levelling up at every opportunity I’m blessed to have.

What do you hope to achieve?
The world!

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