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Interview: Emmy the Great

12th August 2011

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Emmy the Great aka Emma-Lee Moss is renowned for her thought provoking lyrics. Always into music from a young age she released her debut album “First Love” in February 2009 which ranked #7 in the New York Times “Best Albums of the Year” list. TNS catches up with her following the release of her second album “Virtue”.

So you’ve just released your second album. How did the creative process differ from the first time round?

Emmy: It was much more natural, a lot more flowing, and I didn’t have to think as hard about the situations. With the first one it was very much about putting songs in context, with the second album it was just more free.emmy the great 2

What’s your favourite track from the album?

Emmy: Probably ‘Exit Night’. I always rally for the songs that other people haven’t mentioned. I think I would be a really bad mother, because whichever kid gets less attention I would favour!

You seem to take a lot of inspiration from things around you, is there anything in particular that inspired this album?

Emmy: Yeah. I think it was travelling on the road, especially up North and seeing big, beautiful fields and then old, strange, industrial structures like power stations. Then moving to West London where there’s concrete everywhere, there’s Trellick Tower and stuff like that.

How do you go about writing? Do you have any routines?

Emmy: My writing styles are changing album by album. My first one was really rigid – I would sit there and I wouldn’t stop until I’d finished a verse and a chorus. The second one I set times, but I was more free about it. And now, I just write when I feel like writing!

And do you find this way brings more creativity to the songs?

Emmy: It’s definitely more fun! I think the lyrics come out differently because they’re not coming in this really conscious brainwave, they’re just poking up at various points in the day. Sometimes I’ll be walking along the street and think ‘oh yes, I’ve got that lyric’, and if I don’t write it down it could get lost. But then I don’t mind that, because if it’s really great it’ll come back.

You have a UK tour coming up, what do you enjoy most about touring?

Emmy: I like hanging out with my band, they’re really funny people. When you get into the rhythm of the tour, and it’s about two weeks in, you start to think that all the days are the same. Nothing starts until 5pm because that’s when you arrive...and your working day finishes at 2am. You have to work really hard to remember what city you’re in – I get quite into that.

You’ve done a lot of charity work, with Pledge Music and WaterAid, and now you’re helping to clean up after the riots. Is charity work really important to you?

Emmy: I’ve always been aware of the fact that musicians have this really flexible time: during the day or when you’re not travelling, the time is yours. It’s an amazing thing that I would like to make use of. The day after the riots I had a couple of hours in the morning and it just made sense to go out and do something. I think a lot of people felt ‘I’ve got to go out and let my community know that I care about tomorrow’. The thing about being in a band is that you have a lot of Twitter followers, and it sort of just made sense to use that in a positive way.  

What’s your favourite Jelly Belly flavour?

Emmy: I don’t eat them because they’ve got horses hooves in them...gelatine right? But are they the American Jelly Beans? I can remember this from childhood. I like the watermelon ones, because they’re different on the inside!

And finally, if you could be anyone for the day, who would it be?

Emmy: Oh, cool. Hmm. I don’t know. Is this like Being John Malkovich and I’m in their head but they’re still being them? So you’re just watching through their eyes? Can you hear their thoughts?

Yes, I haven’t thought this through, have I?

Emmy: I’d quite like to be an animal. That would clear a lot of things up. Maybe one of the White House dogs. Because firstly you’d work out if animals have thoughts like ours, and secondly you’d be chilling with the Obamas all day.


Emmy the Great’s album Virtue is out now, and UK tour dates start from August 12.


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