While defying death and gravity, EMM opened herself up while hoping not to ‘Fall.’ She dishes on the ‘challenges’ she faced while shooting the visual, why she proudly tackles women’s issues in her music, and what’s next.
What’s more terrifying: being suspended upside down and twirling, or being vulnerable? EMM does both in the music visual for her song, “Fall.” While suspended upside down, the LA-based artist begins to twirl and spin, a physical representation of the song’s lyrics. “I am terrified of love / I am scared to open up / I keep thinking you will run / Say you want the naked me / Scars and instability / I keep thinking you will leave.” Anyone who has ever had a moment of emotional intimacy would immediately relate to these powerful lyrics, delivered in a way that showcases EMM’s captivating voice. The visual also encapsulates her artistic vision, and “Fall” becomes even more impressive after learning this was the first time she ever tried a stunt like this.
“I have never done any type of acrobatics before, so I was really excited to try something new,” EMM tells HollywoodLife. “I had two guides there that helped me learn to hang, which was so helpful. We only had 5 takes to get the shot, and in each take, we had about a minute and a half before all the blood had rushed to my face. We were coordinating with lighting, frame rates, the two trainers, two assistants throwing flower pedals, and moving a ladder in and out of the shot between every take.”
Though, before anyone tries to recreate this as the next great TikTok challenge, keep in mind: shooting “Fall” was not all that fun. “It’s actually very painful to hang from your ankles if you don’t know what you’re doing,” EMM tells HollywoodLife. “So that was challenging physically for me. We had two and a half hours to do the whole shoot. In all my shoots, I’m performing, but I’m also making decisions and helping Kevin direct. I’m really proud of the visual for Fall because I know how challenging it was to make.”
If “Fall” proves anything, it’s that EMM is not afraid of a challenge. Her fearlessness is also heard in her music. With lyrics that put “Boys Like You” in their place and celebrate women’s sexuality, EMM is leading unafraid to tear down the patriarchy with her art. She talks to us about the intimacy of her lyrics, one time she should have asked for advice, and when fans can expect new music from her.
HollywoodLife: Your song “Fall” is incredibly honest. Was it intimidating to write such lines, or did you feel comfortable with this level of intimacy in this song?
EMM: I think it’s my job as an artist to say things that are uncomfortable. Vulnerability is always scary. But I get to remind people that they aren’t crazy for feeling what they do and that they’re not the only one. So that gives me the courage to write with honesty.
You tackle many women’s issues in your music – how women are stigmatized for their sexuality in “Dirty,” how ex-girlfriends are slandered as “Psycho” by men, how you don’t fuck with “Boys Like You.” Was there a moment when you made the decision to address these subjects in your music? Or was it pretty much given that with your passion for these causes that they would come up in your art?
Since I write all my songs, my music is reflective of who I really am and what I really spend my time thinking about. I think it is a given that so much of my work would be about those topics. I have been perplexed by gender inequality for my entire life, even as a child. I remember being upset in Kindergarten that I had to wear a long dress every day to a Christian school, but the boys could wear pants. It’s always been at the core of who I am to call out things that I feel are unjust. And that has gotten me in so much trouble in my life. It wasn’t easy to be a young feminist in an ultra-conservative religious upbringing, and it’s not easy in a music industry where men want all the power and control. But it’s worth the struggle to me if I can change things for the next girl.
What’s the inspiration behind your jewel-titled mixtapes? Did you want to live your full Elektra-Stephen Universe-themed-ninja fantasy?
Each mixtape cover is a different superhero. I think of each iteration – EMERALD, RUBY, and next, SAPPHIRE – as showing leveled up versions of myself. I’m very inspired by the idea of evolution. And I love the idea of personal alchemy – using your deepest struggles and misfortunes as catalysts to make you more powerful, more loving, more brave, etc… The music on the mixtapes is music I made while I was experimenting with different sounds and telling stories of how I got to this point in my life. I feel that the process of experimenting as an artist is such an amazing thing. I just thought, why not show the evolution of who I am becoming? My story has had so much struggle and growth, and there is this beauty in the journey that I don’t think people celebrate enough. I’m using music as a way to tell my story and catch people up to who I am now.
As far as how I dress, I look at fashion as a tool for expression. Who I am in my heart is very in line with how I dress now. I have no interest in dressing for anyone else other than myself and no interest in dressing to be cool. I am way more interested in dressing in a way that makes people feel something and helps me feel like my truest self.
You come from a music family – both your parents are Classically trained, and your father is an opera singer. Have they been involved in /supporting your career?
My parents are both full-time musicians — my father is an opera singer, and my mother is a harpist. I grew up around constant classical music for my entire life. They didn’t ever tell me that being an artist wasn’t realistic, which I’m so thankful for. And they sacrificed to make sure that my musical education was as amazing as they could make it. I think as a producer and a musician, being raised around such amazing jazz and classical musicians gave me a perspective that most artists don’t have.
Subsequently, was there a moment when you didn’t ask them for advice, but realize you should have? Or, at least, you slight regret not getting their take first?
One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is following my gut instead of listening to what other people think I should do. It’s so easy to think that your parents, or managers, or friends have the answers you need or that they are smarter than you are. It’s hard to trust the still small voice inside and trust that you know what’s best for yourself without having to have it validated by other people.
You’re also from what has been described as “a tiny town in Michigan,” but now call LA home. Does this Midwestern origin story factor in your music is some way? Like, are you an undeniably earnest voice in a city known for its artifice? Or does your creative voice exist independent of geography?
I was the only 13-year old I knew in my hometown listening to both Joe Satriani, Nina Simone, and Top 40 pop radio. In that way, I don’t think my location had to do with what I was interested in creatively. I was pretty weird that way. I left home when I was still a young teenager to move to New York, so I think I’ve been shaped by a lot of places, not just the midwest. I was very sheltered in a lot of ways growing up – I was homeschooled for a lot of elementary school. And I grew up in a purity-driven evangelical culture. I didn’t fit in at all with that culture like I mentioned earlier, but going from that world straight into the music industry was a very turbulent learning curve for me. I think that I’ve been exposed to so many different kinds of people and viewpoints now. I hope that it’s helped me write with more empathy. It’s definitely made me figure out who I really am, regardless of how it may conflict with other people’s opinions of who they think I should be.
As an artist, is there a medium that you’d love to try but haven’t? Are you looking to make a short film? A stage-play? Sculpture?
I’m really involved with the visual component of my music. Kevin Sarrico, my director/creative partner, and I are always learning new techniques and trying to grow as much as we can creatively. I think we will make some incredible visuals in the future – videos, documentaries, really anything we feel inspired to make. I love to write, I love fashion, technology, etc. I could see myself expanding to new areas later on as an extension of my music, too.
Will we get another jeweled mixtape this year?
Yes! The third mixtape is called SAPPHIRE, and I will be releasing it this summer. I feel like each mixtape is getting better, and I’m really excited to share this one with you.
Ruby is out now.