Emma Blackery: “I worked hard, I didn’t quit, and I got better”
In this interview, Emma Blackery discusses her life as a touring musician and her most recent single 'Dirt'.
Emma Blackery, the Essex-born online personality who’s opened for acts like Busted and Pixie Lott, recently dropped her latest single.
‘Dirt’ was produced by Toby Scott, known for his work with Little Mix and Girls Aloud — so you know it’s going to be a huge track.
Last year, Emma toured her EP ‘Magnetised’, and this year she’s finishing up her album and hitting the road again. We managed to catch up with one of the busiest ladies in the pop world today for a chat about her music career so far and what we can expect for 2018.
Hi Emma, thanks for taking the time to speak to us! Firstly, how do you feel now compared to the release of your EP ‘Magnetised’ last year?
Honestly, I can’t remember how I was feeling last year. I was so caught up in the release of the EP that I didn’t take time out to think about how it was making me feel. I was proud, and excited, but it felt as though it was over in a flash. I recorded and released it and promoted it live in the span of four months.
With this album, it’s already been in the writing and recording process for around eight months. I’m a lot more engaged with the emotions that I’m pouring into these songs, and it’s been the most emotionally-taxing piece of work I have ever created.
The music video for ‘Dirt’ is full of aesthetically pleasing color schemes—we love the pastels, but is there any particular reason for that? Any stories behind why you created the music video that you did?
I just wanted something fun. The song is obviously filled with a narrative, and I felt as though a video that told a story would be too much, and make it seem to personal — I wanted something simple, a bold statement as if to say “This is the sound going forward.”
I’d never try and tell you that the video was groundbreaking, but that’s because I wasn’t aiming for that. I think a simple video makes you pay more attention to the song, and whether you liked it, or disliked it, it got the attention it was reaching for.
‘Dirt’ seems to be a diss track towards someone — do you think it’s easier to express your words through lyrics/songs? What’s your creative process like when you’re making a song like this that’s meant to be a dig at someone?
Honestly, people think I’m always very opinionated and outspoken, because that’s the face I’ve put online for so long — we all exaggerate our characters online.
Posting about how you’re a bit tired and fancy a sandwich isn’t engaging, and so we hype ourselves up, but really, I’m fairly introverted. I listen a lot more than I speak in the real world. I am constantly anxious of making a fool of myself when talking, and so, when I write, I’m able to pour out every emotion that I don’t say, or type into a machine. I’m able to write, and then rewrite, until I know my words can’t be misconstrued.
There was a lot more that I could have added to ‘Dirt’, and there almost was — but fortunately, as the writing process continued, my feelings towards the person who inspired the song calmed down a little. I was able to see through the red mist and see them as a human, with faults and feelings again. It was about getting the balance of encapsulating how I felt at the time I first sat down to write, and about holding back a little as I overcame those emotions.
Since you’re starting to make it pretty big recently, who would you say is your biggest inspiration music-wise?
I try not to use the word ‘inspiration’ anymore. It leads us to putting people on pedestals, and as I’m someone that’s grown up and made mistakes in public, I don’t know how the artists whose work I enjoy would feel.
Instead, I just tend to think about who I’m listening to at the moment. Taylor Swift always blows me away with her songwriting, and how she’s able to perfectly pen her emotions in both honest and humorous ways. People are quick to jump on the failings of certain people but not pay respect to their strengths. I’ve also been listening to a ton of Björk recently. I’ve only just got on board with her discography, so I’m still making my way through it, but her delicate, raw openness is incredibly eye-opening.
You finished up a tour for your EP last year. The fans, the atmosphere — how did that feel?
It was probably much different than being an opening act. I finished that tour back in June, so it’s definitely going to be harder to comment on something that is stored away in memories instead of being completely fresh — but the tour was so much fun. It was the first time out on the road with my new band, who are all professional musicians. Working with them has been a dream, and removed so much stress compared to some of my previous tours.
I’ve been headlining tours for a few years, and supporting other acts at the same time — they’re completely incomparable. I would never try to dismiss being an opening act. Opening for the Busted arena tour taught me so much, and was the hardest challenge to overcome in terms of performing live, but I was surrounded by amazing, supportive people that gave me so much advice. The guys from Wheatus taught me so many lessons in how to still love past songs and overcome technical problems.
That said, headlining shows is my favourite thing in the world. People often ask, “Don’t you get nervous?” and I honestly don’t. I pace around backstage, desperate to go on and perform!
The Magnetised tour was so special, because the songs were so personal this time around. I always write from the heart, but the songs on that EP were very centred around love, and was my first release since my most recent breakup. Seeing so many people singing my words back, often crying… It was a very special, emotional experience.
People say that I shit on my past music a LOT but I still love the majority of it. Honestly.
Also the entire STBY EP is good from start to finish and that’s the real tea ☕️
— Emma Blackery (@emmablackery) May 7, 2018
Do you have any pre-show rituals? Superstitions?
No superstitions, but on the first date of the previous tour, Jedward came to the venue to show support to me and my bandmates. They were so overwhelming and so friendly that for the rest of the tour before going on stage, my band and I would huddle up, put our hands in the middle, and after the count of three, shout “JEDWARD!” I like to think the spirit of Jedward followed us throughout the tour, because every show was wonderful. I have no doubt we’ll continue that tradition.
With ‘Dirt’ coming out, it’s left a lot of fans excited about what’s next for you. What can we expect with your future in music? Will it be a similar sound to what ‘Dirt’ delivered or will you take another risk and do something different?
My absolute favourite part about the upcoming album is that each song has its own individual sound. I wanted people to hear the album and think, “Well, this is a bit erratic,” because that’s precisely how my personal journey was whilst writing it. The next single after Dirt has a different sound, and the single after that will sound different, and so on. Whilst the album is along the synthpop genre, I really do think people will be surprised.
Besides music, you also wrote a book this past year, which only adds to the list of endless projects you take on. Is there anything else we can expect from you in 2018 besides music?
My entire year is focused on this album. Releasing it, touring it — I’ve dedicated a lot of time towards this release, so other projects will have to take a backseat. This is what I love, this is what I’m passionate about. Writing this album really solidified that for me.
What is one thing you hope people, whether they’re new or longtime fans, can take away from you and your career?
I’ve been knocked down a hell of a lot in my time. I’ve been kicked out of bands, turned away by labels when I was first starting out, I’ve been told I’d never make it. But I’m stubborn. People need to remember that being stubborn can be a good thing as well as a bad thing. We just call it ‘determined’. I worked hard, I didn’t quit, and I got better at both singing and writing. I’m constantly learning, and I don’t think I’ll ever believe I’ve ‘made it’. I just keep working for something better.