When you hear Emmy Law’s music, you’d think she’d been writing songs for years and years. In fact, the gifted singer and songwriter hasn’t been in the pop world for very long. She comes from a classical background, and says that the two worlds don’t really collide very much. It’s surprising to hear that she’s a relative newcomer, given the fact that her songs are emotionally rich and musically imaginative.
She’ll be bringing her superb songs to Foxy Loxy Cafe on Fri., June 7, and we spoke to her beforehand about her career so far and what her songwriting process is like.
How did you get into writing songs and pursuing music?
Law: I was raised classically, so I took piano lessons and was in chorus in school. Songwriting really wasn’t a big part of that growing up. I majored in music education in college, which was more classical stuff, and then when I was in college I started songwriting. So songwriting is something I found on my own. I wasn’t really taught it, because I was in the classical vein.
I’m thankful for that education - it helped me, but I wasn’t in songwriting classes or anything. I’ve had to work to find my own sound.
How did you go about doing that? There seems to be a really good balance of folk pop and almost synth pop stuff.
Law: That’s been the hardest part about doing this thing. I do write some songs in the synth vein, but I’ve actually been thinking of launching a separate project for that material. It’s so tough with genres, because you don’t want to get stuck in one genre but you also don’t want to sound like five different things. I really like the EP I have out, but it wasn’t exactly as cohesive as I’d like it to be. So it was a learning process.
I think we are almost in a post-genre world where you can get away with doing a few different things as well.
Law: Yeah! There’s a lot of diversity for sure.
Where there specific artists you were inspired by when you first started to venture into this?
Law: Yeah. Ingrid Michaelson was one, and Norah Jones. Her style and singing - I’m really drawn to that smooth female sound. My voice is not a pop voice, so I’m drawn to artists who sing in that style. Feist is another influence. The band Copeland is another influence, and Damien Rice as well. It’s funny because people think if you have influences you have to sound like them, but not at all. All of these artists have great songs, so the songs are inspiring to me.
So in terms of production on the songs you’ve done, do you go into a studio with an idea of the vibe you want? Or do you let the studio dictate the process?
Law: My first EP was a learning process, so I went into that project still trying to find my sound. You can hear it on the EP, but I let the producer take the reins. We’d both discussed trying to find a sound, and by the end of it I discovered some things I dug and some I didn’t. It was great because I learned what I want to go for. So with my last single, I kind of went in knowing how I want it to sound.
Your lyrics also jumped out to me right away - how do you typically approach writing lyrics?
Law: It’s funny, I’m not a person to sit and write poems and lyrics. 95 percent of the time I write the music first and sing gibberish over it. There are some bands who sit down and look at each word and figure out what vowel works, etc. I don’t do that - I’ll sing gibberish and then let the music inspire what I write.
I just kind of write what sounds good to me. I always write the vocal line first, and then maybe three lines for each line, and then use what seems to work best.
What’s ahead for you?
Law: I’ve decided that I really want my music to be vocally driven, so I’m about to put out my first live EP. It’s all on a baby grand piano and live, so I’m really excited about that. And probably the rest of this year will be a couple of singles, and I’m also working on putting together a full-length. There are just so many things to do!