Infirmary Records Blog – Artist Spotlight: Emzae

Hi Emma! It’s great to get a chance to chat with you about what you do and your new album! Can you introduce yourself?

My name is Emma and I’ve been releasing music under the stage name Emzae for a few years now. I’m a singer-songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist and general entrepreneur (haha).

I think an entrepreneur is actually a pretty accurate description! How long have you been writing and performing your own music? How did it start?

I’ve been doing it forever, really. I can’t remember the exact day I wrote my first song, but it’s always been a part of my life. I started putting demos online when I was about 20 and then releasing them properly in around 2018. I started off performing with my friend Simon acoustically, and then I developed a solo electronic set.

Yes, I remember catching one of the shows you did with Simon at Vanishing Point Records in Chesterfield I think, and it’s great to see you’ve been so busy since then judging by the singles on your Spotify page! Did you study music at school or college?

I briefly learnt to play the flute in primary school and early secondary school, but other than that no. There weren’t really that many opportunities to be honest, and music wasn’t particularly looked upon as a viable or realistic career. Most of the things I’ve learnt, I have taught myself either through trial and error, books or online tutorials. I think there are pros and cons to both methods. Formal education provides more networking opportunities, the use of high-quality equipment and answers to questions are always easily accessed. Teaching yourself leaves space for innovation and initiative.

That’s a very good point, and I think being self-taught certainly gives the opportunity for people to develop in ways they might not if they receive formal training – I think it’s probably just different methods of learning for different people in the end!

I’ve really been enjoying your new single ‘I Guess Anyway’. It’s wonderfully crafted and feels like it’s pulling on a range of inspirations, can you tell us a little about how that came together and your process for songwriting and production? 

First of all – thank you! It was one of the last songs I wrote for my album. I really wanted a big ballad on it, but I find them quite hard to write. It actually took several weeks and was written mostly at my piano. I write songs in several different ways – sometimes in notepads, sometimes via Logic and sometimes via voice memos and freestyling/improvisation. I really wanted to get out so many of the thoughts and feelings I was experiencing in this particular song, so it took a lot longer than usual because I really agonised over the lyrics. The melody was finished fairly quickly. Production was fairly easy for this compared to other songs on the album, but it took a while to perfect the vocals and ensure there was enough emotion in them, along with recording the number of audio tracks required to create a choir with your own voice. That’s something I love doing! 

Absolutely, especially with the main focus of the song being the vocals, spending time crafting that sound is really important, and it sounds great! 

I know you’re also active in the live scene in Derby and performing seems to be an important part of what you do, how do you find this informs your writing?

I love performing. Sometimes how I perform a song live when it’s still in demo form can influence the final mix, but I mostly like to keep the two separate and not consider how difficult a song might be to play whilst I’m writing and recording it. It took me a long time to figure out how to transfer my music to a live setting because of the number of tracks within my projects and the amount of layering, but eventually, I found the MPC Live. It enables me to use a mixture of recorded music and live samples. I’ve written more here about my live setup, if anyone’s interested! 

Fantastic, that will definitely be an interesting read for our students, and I love a good deep dive into live setups! It’s something I think many solo performers deliberate on, especially when they still want to capture the energy of their songs but only be able to do one or two things at a time in a live setting.

Your new album ‘All Those Things I Thought I Knew’ is due for release on vinyl in September, how have you found putting a whole album together and taking a more DIY approach towards this? 

My favourite part of the journey is by far making the actual music. I also love release days – watching your analytics live as someone plays a track or clicks on a page. I enjoy getting listener feedback and reading features. Mainly I have found it exhausting because I don’t have anyone else on my team so I am doing what would normally be about 6 people’s jobs. I’m definitely on the limit of what I can do alone, but I still enjoy the challenge. The worst parts of having a DIY approach are not having a foot in all of the doors that would be valuable for you to have a foot in, and watching artists on labels sail through the doors without a key! It’s also really difficult to get your own gigs and festivals. But nothing is impossible!

It does sound like a lot, but ultimately it must be really rewarding, and I would imagine you get a level of creative control which might not be achievable if you’re working with a label or publisher – again there are pros and cons for sure.

Was it always your intention to release the album on vinyl or is that something that developed along the way?

I have a small collection of vinyl and I’m a big fan of physical music formats. Vinyl is the main format indie artists are releasing right now, and many of my followers are collectors. It’s a big financial gamble to press them in the first place, but also a product with a good potential profit margin.

That’s great, there’s nothing like holding a copy of your own music on vinyl, and I think a lot of fans like to support the artists they love buying records and merch.

Lots of our students are currently completing their Final Major Projects for the year, and many have been working on EPs and recordings – do you have any words of wisdom for those who might want to take a similar DIY approach to their music careers in the future?

First of all that is amazing, and I would have absolutely loved to do something like this at school or college. My first tip is to enjoy it, and enjoy these days of your creative education because you are lucky to have it and it will set you up for the future. For anyone wanting to take a DIY approach to their music career, I would recommend being really organised and having many spreadsheets. Stay on top of your finances, have a plan and set attainable goals. Keep defining your success at each step you take, so that you’re never feeling disappointed. Try not to compare yourself to others, and stay kind. Never forget the people who supported you when you first started out, or how happy you were to get your first blog feature or radio play. Do it for the love, but be business savvy and know your worth. Believe in yourself and don’t take criticism to heart.

That is very true, great to hear such words of encouragement. A career in music might not be an easy ride, but hugely rewarding and lots of fun!

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me, it’s been a pleasure! Before you go, have you got any shows coming up where we could see you live?

My next show is at the Bodega on 6th May supporting Crooked Colours. I also have an album launch show coming up later in the year which I’ll be speaking about loads nearer the time so look out for that!

You can find the latest single  ‘I Guess, Anyway’ over on Spotify and find out more about the forthcoming album here –

Interview and Author: Martyn Stonehouse

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