Audiences, fans, societies, and cultures worldwide gravitate towards artists who possess one thing: self-cognizance – a sense of understanding, knowingness, acknowledgement, and embracement of oneself. Emma Charles, a 22-year-old, Connecticut-born, folk-pop singer and songwriter is this breed of artist.
Born and raised to a family of musicians, Emma Charles discovered her love for music at a very early age. Throughout her childhood, she would foster her passion by practicing various instruments and learning the ropes of songwriting…and would write her first complete song at age 12.
While continuing to pursue her life’s love, she would soon attend Berklee College of Music and eventually graduate with honors. It was not long before her career took off, as she headlined and opened for singer-songwriters Howie Day and Taylor Hilton right out of college.
With several singles and an EP under her belt, Emma Charles is in the driver’s seat of her career, and she is voyaging to great heights of fame. Her newest release, “Book,” just came out – it is simultaneously gentle, empowering, innocent, mature, and curious.
“Book” is the perfect example of Emma’s tactful songwriting and artistry – skills that are unique from the others – as she is successful in bleeding her true sense of self into her music. She knows who she is…and the world is about to as well.
Ladygunn had the pleasure of interviewing Emma upon her new release and her aspirations as an artist.
How are you? What has your quarantine day-to-day looked like?
I am doing ok, thank you for asking! Quarantine is a whole different animal – days are sort of blurring together at this point. It’s been a really interesting time to see how strong we are as individuals, and I find on some days I am stronger than others. Over quarantine I have spent half of my time with my roommates in Los Angeles, and half with my family in Connecticut. I have gotten a lot better at exercising and cooking, but I have definitely been struggling with being creative since the only thing I see everyday is usually my bedroom! A lot of my time has been spent having Love Island marathons with my roommates though and that was pretty fun.
At just twenty-two years old, you have graduated from the Berklee College of Music with honors, have released a multitude of singles and a compiled EP, have headlined and opened for singer-songwriters Howie Day and Tyler Hilton, and have a new single out. What do you feel has been the most formative experience in your career?
I would like to say everything you just listed was the most formative experience! If I just had to pick one though, touring was definitely the biggest learning curve, so it was the most formative experience for me thus far. Having performed a good amount on the east coast, I knew what to do and how to showcase my music, but what I didn’t know was how to get into a room full of people who had no idea who I was, and were not at the show to see me, to like me and my music. I think the more I was on the road, the more I grew into myself as an artist and the more I worked on my performance style. By the end, I was confident in how to run my show, and how to be the most authentic version of myself.
When did you know that you wanted to pursue music?
When I was about 5, I knew that I wanted to have something to do with music for the rest of my life. My mother is a Juilliard trained singer, my grandmother is a voice teacher, and my uncle is a percussionist with various Broadway shows and the New York Philharmonic. Music does run in the family, so luckily I was exposed to it at a very early age. I started playing violin when I was 4, and piano when I was 5 at Suzuki music school. From there, I started taking voice lessons at age 6 and doing local theater. As I started to get deeper into theater, I also started to write my own music, resulting in my first original song at age 12. However, as time went on and I was doing more of both musical theater and songwriting, I felt like I was the most authentic version of myself when I was performing and writing my own music, rather than someone else’s. From there, I went on to Berklee to pursue my education in performance and songwriting, as I knew I wanted to be a musical artist from then on.
What type of artist do you strive to be? Does this come from any musical influences?
I want to be an artist that heals through music – a lot of my influences are the great artists of the 60s and 70s, including Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks, and Carole King. They were able to really express their emotions through songs which make the listener feel connected and healed in a really beautiful way. As for modern influences, I love artists like Maggie Rogers, Bon Iver, Phoebe Bridgers, Dermot Kennedy, and Ashe. All of these artists have a similar vibe, and they are all so authentic. I just want to be someone who people will turn to when they’re feeling all types of things: happy, sad, even melancholy, to assure them that they’re not alone in their feelings and that we’re all in this together.
Your new single, “Book,” is beautiful – melodic, lyrical, and perfectly composed. What did the artistic process look like behind this song?
Thank you! I wrote “Book” with my longtime producer Doug Schadt, and co-writer Cara Salimando. I had written the chorus on my own, and then brought it in to Doug and Cara who helped me flesh out the verses and pre-chorus concepts. I wanted it to have a feeling of longing, which is something that I think a lot of people regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation can relate to. It touches on the learning curve of love – there is no guideline or manual, so how are we supposed to know what to do when we’re in it? From there, Doug and Cara and I finished the song and Doug put in the final production touches. I am so happy with how it turned out!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself as a successful recording artist and business woman, touring stadiums across the world, writing and recording new music, and being a role model for young people. I want to be an advocate and a voice for causes I am passionate about, and I don’t want to be afraid to use my platform for good. Also maybe some acting – TV or theater is never out of the question!
If you could have written any song in the history of music, what would it be and why?
I wish I had written “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac – it is the perfect example of how a song can be so simple (only 2 chords the entire time!) but SO emotional and powerful. It just makes you want to dance and sing to it regardless of where you are, which is so cathartic. I love that song.
In writing songs, what topics are most important to you to convey through your music?
A lot of the time, I find myself gravitating towards the topics of change, loneliness, and love. I think these three things are so universally felt, which is why they usually make for songs that resonate with a lot of people. I have experienced a lot of those three feelings within the past few years, moving from Connecticut to Los Angeles, and feeling alone in a new place. Even though that is a daunting topic for a lot of people to listen to, I also always try to incorporate uplifting themes to a certain level throughout my music, so that people who hear it will feel empowered in the fact that they’re not alone.
What is next for you?
I am releasing my second EP soon, which is so exciting! My previous single, “25” will be on it, as well as “Book,” and then 2 more songs! I also have a handful of new songs in the works that will be rolling out after this song cycle has ended. There will be plenty of music videos and live performance videos as well, so be on the lookout! Lots of new music coming soon!
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