Five EPs, two headline tours and one tour supporting Busted later, Basildon-born rising pop act Emma Blackery has been catapulted into international fame over the past year, and has recently released her first track of 2018, ‘Dirt’, which has already racked up nearly 400,000 views on YouTube since its release and has been met with high praise by her many fans and online followers. I spoke to her about the single’s inspiration, her other projects and what she’s currently looking forward to listening to this spring.
Congratulations on the release of your new single, ‘Dirt’! How has your last week been since its release?
My past week has been pretty hectic! There’s been a lot of stuff going on, and lots of new things I’m waking up to every day – I’ve been doing interviews and lots of stuff with Spotify, adding the song to playlists. Just the overwhelming support I’ve had from people who have supported me for a long time, it really has been overwhelming. To the point where I’m pretty tired right now – but it’s been wonderful.
The song is doing well on the Spotify playlist too, isn’t it?
It’s number five on the UK Viral Chart, which is a complete surprise that that many people are listening to it, and it was added to New Music Friday, which is a huge playlist and just a complete honour. I’ve been trying to keep tabs on everything, but it’s just amazing to receive so much support.
I’ve read that the lyrical inspiration behind ‘Dirt’ comes from personal experiences, at the same time, naturally, your musical style has developed in the last few years, who or what inspired you to reach your current sonic?
When I was younger, before my early teens, I loved pop music. Then I became more into rock and pop punk, so I sort of neglected pop music for a while. But over the last year or so, I’ve really come back into it and I’ve been loving the tracks which are so popular right now – Dua Lipa, I absolutely adore, Taylor Swift’s new music, Katy Perry, and I really want to create a ‘power pop’ sound as it’s been missing from my life a little bit. I always think that when you create art or any kind of music, you need to try and fill a void which you think is missing. I just wanted to make something light-hearted and fun, so I’m happy that it’s coming across that way.
‘Dirt’ has a lot of clever lyrics – is there a line in the song you’re particularly proud of?
I’m so proud of the song as a whole, I wrote it back in August when I was feeling sad about a personal issue I was having with somebody. But I’d say the line “using my name for fame, yet you say you’re self-made” – I quite like that one.
Can we expect more of this style from your album?
Yeah definitely! The album is still in the works and we still have quite a bit of work to do with it, but I’m really proud of the sound. Whilst every song has a different twist to it, it’s all very fun and just enjoyable and light-hearted – I just can’t wait for the next year of my life!
I always think that when you create art or any kind of music, you need to try and fill a void which you think is missing
Among your other projects is your debut book, ‘Feel Good 101’ – how did you find writing a book after writing songs? Obviously the two are very different, but did you find there were certain themes which are easier to cover in a song rather than a book or the other way around?
I’d say with a song you’re allowed to be vaguer. Lyrics can be interpreted in many ways, but really, you’re the only one who knows the backstory, who knows the meaning. But when you’re writing a book, you have to go into more detail and give more context about what you’re saying – you’re telling stories. It’s a completely different experience, I can’t really compare the two and say one is better than the other. I really enjoyed writing the book, but it was quite difficult at times going into things in such depth. Whereas with a song, you can write lyrics, and you know what they mean, but others relate them to their own lives instead of relating them to their own lives, rather than reading a story by someone else.
Thinking about artists such as yourself and the likes of Carrie Hope Fletcher, Bethan Leadley and dodie, how have you found the media’s general response to artists who also happen to make YouTube content?
I think we’re breaking boundaries every single day. I think at the start, perhaps a few years ago, it wasn’t taken very seriously. People who wrote music and put it online themselves, it was seen as almost a daunting thing and it hadn’t been done before, but I think now, the industry is opening up and seeing that there is a ton of talent out there, it’s just a completely different way of putting music out there. Whereas maybe twenty years ago, to get the industry to listen to you, you had to send in a demo tape or a cassette and hope that maybe they’d write back to you. Now, your work is already out there, you’re able to generate a fan base maybe without needing a label to do it for you. I think in the years to come, they’ll be even more acceptance of people that connect with an audience in their own way.
How important do you think YouTube is as a platform for independent artists?
I wouldn’t say it’s absolutely essential. There are tons of places out there such as SoundCloud and Bandcamp – people post videos of themselves to Instagram and labels pay attention to that. I would say that YouTube is definitely the most unique platform in being able to put yourself across in video form rather than text, but ultimately there are so many ways now for social media to catch the attention of artists and the industry. I wouldn’t say it’s necessary, but it’s definitely helped me a lot and I’m glad that I’ve been able to build a fan base on there over the last six years – I have nothing bad to say about it!
Your previous EP Magnetised had its artwork used in the global reveal of the iPhone X, as an unsigned artist, what impact has that had on your career?
I woke up the next morning finding out that I had an entire day of interviews for magazines that I’ve been reading my whole life, websites which have so much prestige, it was the most overwhelming twenty-four hours of my entire life! Suddenly everyone I know in the phone book was texting me and congratulating me. At the time, I didn’t really understand the impact, but finding out that it had gone out to millions of people around the world at the same time was incredible, and I think it was definitely a step up in making people take my music more seriously, in a way, because suddenly it wasn’t just the people who enjoy my music acknowledging it, but people who had never seen my art thinking “who was that?”. I feel like it definitely opened a lot of doors for me.
I’ve been enjoying following your ‘365’ playlists and now your new ‘Womenspiration’ one on Spotify – it’s a great idea for your listeners to be able to hear the type of music you’re into – what made you decide to create those playlists?
I really want to try and use streaming services as a social platform. I don’t think a lot of artists really connect with their fans in that way, whereas that is really the only way that people will listen to music these days. Streaming is a big deal, and if you can catch people’s attention and help them see you as a human whilst they’re listening to you, that’s an incredible thing. People who don’t follow you on Twitter or YouTube or Instagram, but like your music, suddenly they know what music you enjoy, and I wanted to be able to introduce people to music they maybe hadn’t heard of or even inspire them.
What are your main hopes and expectations for your autumn headline tour, which you maybe haven’t had about previous tours?
Obviously being able to perform the new music for the first time – I haven’t even begun to think about production-wise how it’s going to translate into a live performance, I’ve been so wrapped up in recording the album that I’ve kind of put that aside for now! But I know that once the album is out, and I get to perform these tracks for the first time and I’m able to show people what I’ve been trying to put forward in the message of my music, it’ll be incredible. I can’t say too much about it yet because it’s so far away, but I know it’s going to be exciting.
I think we’re breaking boundaries every single day
Lastly, after this week’s sudden announcement of the new Panic! At The Disco record, which upcoming releases are you looking forward to or currently loving? As a Paramore fan, what were your thoughts on last year’s After Laughter?
Jack White’s album came out today, and that’s really the one I’ve been looking forward to. I’ve been a huge fan of The White Stripes since I was about thirteen, so that was definitely something I was happy to see this morning. Apart from that, really I just want twenty one pilots back! I don’t know what they’re doing right now, they’re quite quiet at the moment so I’m hoping this year there’ll be new material. Then as you said, the new Panic! album should be great – I did not expect another one for months or maybe another year or so. It feels like Brendon (Urie) has only just finished touring the last one. I loved After Laughter, I stayed up til midnight to hear it and listened to it all the way through. I think it’s wonderful – their best work to date, personally. I know the sound is dividing a lot of people but it’s clear that they’re doing what they love. I got to see them live a few months ago at the O2 and they just seem like they’re having so much fun. It’s great to see – I’m glad they’re happy!
As the interview ends, I thank Emma for her time and reflect on her last answer – fans of hers are clearly pleased to see her happy too and are as eager for her new music as she is to put it out into the world.
‘Dirt’ is out now on all platforms.