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Singer-songwriter and producer emzae releases her debut album All Those Things I Thought I Knew today. Pulling her inspiration from a melting pot of strong artists such as Fiona Apple and Lana Del Rey, emaze’s unique twists pin her as a dynamic artist to watch.

Her earworm songs are coated in the influence of 90s and early 00s pop, rippling with depths informed by her experiences as a young woman growing up and conceived through the frustrations and anxieties of the last six years which included a pandemic. Determined to do things on her own terms and make art that is not dictated to by trends and algorithms, she is releasing her album on her own label Zirconia Records, putting her hand to everything from writing and production to artwork creation, all with empowering execution.

Hey Emzae how are you today?
Hello! I’m good thank you, although releasing an album is a wild ride that I’m experiencing for
the first time, so there are so many emotions associated with that which I think I’ll be processing
for several months!

Where are you from and when did you start writing and releasing music?
I’m from Derby in the East Midlands, and I have been attempting to be a musician since I can
remember. I first started uploading music online in around 2014, and then releasing it officially in
around 2018. Before that, I was making music in whatever way I could, whether it was on
cassette tapes or on my laptop using the built-in microphone.

This is your debut album, how long has it been in the works?
Around 6 years. I thought it would only take a few months – how wrong I was!

How would you describe your sound in five words?
Atmospheric, thoughtful, pop, interesting, OK…

We see you are self-releasing. How tough is it to do everything as a solo artist in 2023?
VERY. I’ve put that in caps to emphasise it! This is by far the biggest gamble I’ve made to date
and the biggest and most ridiculous amount of work I’ve taken on. Being someone with a
chronic illness, it is made much harder still as it is already too much for a healthy person to be
doing. You have to make a lot of sacrifices in a lot of areas and believe in your project almost to
the point of delusion. On the plus side, I now have basic experience in several professions I
could probably go into if this doesn’t work out. The downside to that is that every single task on
your to-do list has to be carried out by you, and then everything that a human being needs to do
to stay alive and feel half decent also has to be carried out by you, and everything that would
cheer you up such as having your hair done probably has to be carried out by you too because
you need to save your money for the musical expenses. So that’s exhausting in several ways.
Basically, it’s not for anyone who isn’t willing to completely throw themselves into something and
be prepared to face barriers and solve stressful problems. When it does work out, though, it can
be very rewarding. And of course above all else, you are crucially maintaining creative freedom
and independence and all of the financial profits are your own. So I guess it’s what they would
call swings and roundabouts.

We really enjoy your hook laden songs like ‘As this day fades into another’ and ‘Strip
lights’. Did you have any touchstone influences or records you were listening to whilst

Thank you, that’s very kind. I don’t tend to write or record music in that way if I can help it. In fact, I made a point of listening to as little new music as possible during the creative process to ensure that I wasn’t subconsciously copying trends. Usually when I write, I’m imagining an image or a setting or a feeling in my head and trying to create sounds which will illustrate it. Obviously we are all influenced by the music we have consumed growing up, and anything that we are loving at a particular moment. I didn’t go cold turkey with music for six years as that would have been impossible, so there were all kinds of things in my headphones when I wasn’t in a writing zone.

The first song I ever fell in love with was Viva Forever by the Spice Girls. Production-wise, most
of my reference tracks are mid-2000s Timbaland and Danja. Break the Ice by Britney Spears is
in my opinion one of the best produced and mixed songs of the 21st century. I also listened to a
hell of a lot of female singer-songwriters from the 90s to present day, including people like Lana
Del Rey, Fiona Apple
and Natalie Merchant, and I think people will be able to hear that I also
have a few 80s and 90s influences within my work. I don’t like to be a complete nostalgia freak,
though, so I try to take all of those things and place them very much in the present day,
whenever that is. I try not to make references that will date too much both sonically or in my
lyrics if I can. Because the album is also set in my home city, I tried to reflect what I hear when I
think of it if that makes sense. I was referencing a lot of the architecture, scenery, weather and
the echoes of the past.

You’ve been quite vocal about your health issues, just how tough is it managing your
energy levels with touring/recording/promoting music?

In a word, very. It’s a learning curve, and there aren’t really many resources out there to help.
I’m just here trying to see if I can make it work, and honestly I haven’t discovered if it will be
something I can do long-term yet or not but I will try my very hardest to make it possible.
Honestly, the most difficult part is making a steady income without exhausting yourself. I’m not
there yet, and that’s my ultimate aim. I want to be more steady and balanced, rather than
rushing around and burning out then having to rest again in a constant cycle. I think it’s also up
to the industry to try and find more ways to accommodate the disabled and chronically ill, too.
And particularly funding bodies – we need dedicated funding opportunities as the current system
unintentionally shuts us out.

Many of us have to choose between taking on music full-time or
having a full-time job, as we don’t have the energy to do both. Therefore, funding is vital and if
we are rejected for an opportunity we don’t have anything to fall back on. The problem is,
funding applications often require you to start the ball rolling on several things with the gamble
that you will be successful, which leaves you in a bit of a mess. This happened to me during this
album release. Another problem we have is that many of us are independent, self-managed
and/or self-releasing because it is hard to find inclusive, accessible people to work with who
understand or are able with the pressures of their own jobs to meet our needs. We are just as
serious and dedicated as other artists, but I feel we are sometimes placed below those who are
managed, signed or have been working with producers in studios in order of priority. Anyway, I
could talk about that all day! Hopefully those of us who are stubborn enough to stay visible and
keep fighting will gradually start to make a change.

Is ‘I Guess Anyway’ partly about that?
A little. I Guess, Anyway is essentially me spilling out all of the emotions I was feeling in late 2021, It’s actually heavily influenced by the impact the pandemic had on me, and the negative beliefs I carried over from it.

Anyone who considered themselves vulnerable to the virus, especially before the vaccines came out, will know what I mean. It was this sense that society essentially didn’t care about you, and would shrug their shoulders if you died from it or developed further long-term illness because you were either lesser or that was decided to be your fate anyway. It’s about growing up and believing anything is possible, then facing unexpected barriers and being in a constant fighting mode to try and push them down. It’s also about realising that sometimes you can try with all your might and still not succeed with what you set out to do.

It’s about powerlessness, about unfairness and frustration. It’s about how confusing this entire time has been, and the tiny circle it reduced our lives to for a good while when the rest of the world had returned to normality. It’s about uncertainty, fear andself-doubtt. It’s kind of also a bit of a microcosm for the album as a whole and many of the themes I tackle throughout it. It’s just a raw depiction of me, in my late twenties, realising I don’t know as much as I thought I did and trying to find sources of comfort. It’s lots of thingy…

You mentioned Fionne Apple and Lana Del Rey as influences on that track, what is it
about their songwriting that inspires you?

I grew up with Lana Del Rey. She was the artist I was listening to as I was becoming a young
woman and I absolutely adore her music. I think she’s still incredibly misunderstood and
underrated by the masses to be honest. You only need to watch one of her live shows and see
how many – particularly women – sing along to every work and have tears streaming down their
faces. She vocalised so many things that we hadn’t heard anyone put a voice to before. There
was a lot of ‘girl power’ type music when my generation was growing up, which I love, but Lana
sang and still sings about the thoughts and feelings you thought were somehow shameful or
weak to express. She shines a light on the darkness. She sings with a raw honesty about what it
feels like to be a woman in the 21st century, and the weight of societal pressures and
expectations on our shoulders. It all started with the line “they say that the world was built for
two, only worth living if somebody is loving you” from Video Games. I think many people get her
wrong and depict her as someone who is nostalgic for a bygone era – but that’s far too
simplistic. A lot of the time she sings with a weathered cynicism and sarcasm that I guess you
either get or you don’t. But when you do get it, you really GET IT. It hits deep, as they say. And
A&W is her latest masterpiece. I will always be influenced by Lana, but I can only hope to write
anything 10% as good as her.

Fiona Apple is someone I got into after Lana, who was recommended under a YouTube video
once for fans of hers. The first song I got into was her biggest hit, ‘Criminal.’ I couldn’t get into
any of the others for years, until I hit my mid twenties. Suddenly I think I had more patience and
more space to understand what she was singing about. Fiona’s music is incredibly clever both
lyrically and technically, and there are some songs like Never is a Promise and Sleep to Dream
which I quite literally cannot believe she wrote at such a young age. She was certainly way
ahead of me in terms of her intellectual development! When I discovered that she also has OCD
like myself, I began to understand why I connected with her music so much. ‘Limp‘ is probably
my favourite song of hers, and ‘Fetch the Bolt Cutters‘ was my lockdown album. I think it’s genius
and it really inspired me to keep going with my own approach, as I also often use sounds from
my nearby environment as percussion. On ‘Strip Lights‘, for example, the sound right at the beginning is actually me hitting a biro against a bottle of deodorant. I thought well, if Fiona can
do it and get all of those critical accolades, it’s good enough for me. She’s incredible.

Some Kind of Cliché’ seems to be about the stereotyped ideals of romance we are
presented by media and movies, what were you thinking of?

It’s essentially about all of my contradictions, confusion and self-doubt about where I am in life.
It’s kind of tongue in cheek. I haven’t actually watched many movies in my life, as I’m more of a
television person. I guess it’s more about the external pressures we all face but particularly as
women. I am at an age where each time I visit Facebook, another distant friend has either got
married, had a baby or (somehow) bought a house. I am also essentially at the age my parents
were when they got married and started our family. If I was thinking of any reference, I was
thinking of Jez from Peep Show, who tries to be a musician for many years before realising it’s
not going to work. I am kind of saying, oh my god, am I actually Jez from Peep Show? What the
hell am I doing? But I’m being quite light-hearted with it.

You appeared on our Kylie covers album. What’s your favourite Kylie song and album?
I actually spent some time a couple of years back listening to Kylie’s entire discography in
chronological order. I’m a fan of the Body Language album, Impossible Princess and the first
half of X, which I think is underrated.
What are the top five songs on your playlist right now?
In terms of newish stuff, ‘Salad ‘ by Blondshell,Spinnin‘ by Madison Beer,Paint the Town Red’ &
by Doja Cat (they’re both great) and ‘HOT GO GO!’ by Chappell Roan. I also think
Olivia Rodrigo is brilliant and the first two singles off her new album are flawless!

Do you have any dates lined up?
My big album release show is on 1st September at Rough Trade, Nottingham with support from
Sen Olette and Rezzonator (tickets here: https://link.dice.fm/v560873c40f0)

I Guess, Anyway: https://open.spotify.com/track/2KJIA6SEIfEjlypQC374WF?si=722499bcb9944308

Vinyl Pre-order: https://emzaemusic.com/store/all-those-things-i-thought-i-knew


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