When Clash is introduced to Emmeline she has just performed her first ever headline gig. “I’m still kind of riding an adrenaline high. It was so much fun. It was scary. And it felt like a big thing to do,” she beams. But Emmeline is no stranger to putting on a performance. As a teenager, she was drawn to slam poetry before music, and words still come first in her process.
“I’ll be working on a concept or a theme or trying to write about a certain feeling or mood and the lines will come out of order; I’ll get a word or a phrase stuck in my head. And then I’ll get a phrase that might rhyme with it, or would pair with it, and it expands outwards from there”.
It was a chance meeting with producer Fraser T. Smith that pushed Emmeline to take the leap to pursue music seriously. “We almost always start with a voice note – we’re big voice noters, I’m talking 10-minute recordings – we talk about everything that’s going on: music, where we’re at, and sometimes send tracks that we’re listening to and influenced by and interested in.”
Her new EP ‘Small-Town Girls And Soft Summer Nights’ goes back to Emmeline’s rural childhood in West Yorkshire. “Growing up in the middle of a field, there is an inevitable sense of isolation,” she says. “There’s always a grass is greener mentality, and I wanted to move out to the city because I felt like I would be connected. And then I moved to London, and what I actually found was that it’s just the same in reverse. There’s all this motion, there’s all these people, there’s all these opportunities, but actually, there’s also the exact same feeling of isolation”.
This complex nostalgia is a shaping force for the record, and informs the broader cultural influences that seep into the music. References range from the American poet Elizabeth Bishop to Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet. Standout track ‘The Dance’ gestures to the character Trip Fontaine from Jeffrey Eugenides The Virgin Suicides, layered with other images of American suburbia.
In her debut EP ‘Satellite Navigation System’, Emmeline weaves across genres between spoken word and rap, but it is on her new record that she experiments more heavily with singing. Both bring a distinctive vulnerability to her music. “I think that there’s an inherent confessional nature to speech,” she says. “Particularly for me, it’s a vulnerable place musically”.
WHAT: Explicitly honest pop.
WHERE: Yorkshire originally, but now London.
3 SONGS: ‘Stay With Me’, ‘Girls Write Rhymes’, ‘Small-Town Girl’
FACT: Emmeline initially wanted to act and trained with the National Theatre.
Words: Sasha Mills
Photography: Bella Howard // @bybellazine
Styling: Sabrina Soormally