Emalia is a voice that Australian audiences need. With a growing RNB-pop scene, Emalia is a name that alongside Becca Hatch and Lara Andallo is one that you need to get acquainted with if you haven’t laready. Leading the way with soulful vocals, vulnerable lyrics and hard hitting production, she’s created a sound that is immediately captivating.
Her debut EP ‘UNMUTED’ is a visually charged collection of tracks that hones her vision as an artist and gives you full unapologetic energy. From the empowering ‘Woman’s Intuition’ to the vulnerably charged ‘Mistake’ she carries that sentiment closely. With an intro and skit also included in the body of work, she really elevates that visual component and immediately shows that she is always looking towards creating something bigger and bolder. As the first teaser of what else is to come from her, Emalia is marking herself as a true force to be reckoned with.
I recently chatted to Emalia about the visually charged identity behind the songs on her debut EP ‘UNMUTED’, discussed the creative process behind ‘False Advertising’, ‘Messy’ and ‘Woman’s Intuition’, and then bringing these songs to the live stage. Check it out BELOW;
THOMAS BLEACH: Your debut EP ‘UNMUTED’ is a visually charged collection of tracks. After listening to this EP in full, what is one of the main things you want people to walk away learning about who you are as an artist and a person?
EMALIA: A lot of my music is centred around empowerment as I like to keep it sassy and confident and inspire others to do the same. With the EP though, I’d like the takeaway to be that I am multifaceted. I have a lot of different sides to my personality; I’m confident, I own my sexuality but I have my bad days, I’m big on mental health advocacy because I battle with my own, I live with my hurt, I feel vulnerable and insecure and there’s strength in being open about that.
I consciously choose to value myself and back myself through my anxieties, even though some days that’s harder to do than others. I try my best to live with my heart on my sleeve. I also have a range that I like to explore within my music across the R&B/pop spectrum rather than confining myself to one thing, and I am incredibly passionate about every aspect of my art. I go all in. So I hope that all comes through on this project.
TB: The EP opens with an intro that hears you switching between the channels on a TV and ends on the beginning of an MTV intro. When you reflect on growing up and watching music videos that shaped your artistic vision and excitement to be an artist, what music video is one that stands out to you?
E: That intro was so fun to make. The ‘MTV’ line was actually originally intended to be a little Easter egg in the ‘Unmuted’ universe, as well as to pay homage to the network I grew up watching. The program is called ‘EmTV’ (lil play on words there), an MTV spoof, and the music video for IOU is set on that channel. Unfortunately due to copyright we couldn’t use the ‘EmTV’ logo we’d created for it on the music video – but hey, the intention was there!
There are a lot of videos that come to mind for me; ‘Umbrella’ by Rihanna, ‘Leave (Get Out)’ by Jojo, ‘So Sick’ by Neyo, ‘Irreplaceable’ and ‘Ring the Alarm’ by Beyonce, ‘Thriller’ by Michael Jackson, ‘Say My Name’ by Destiny’s Child, ‘No Scrubs’ by TLC… there’s too many to choose!
TB: ‘False Advertising’ sonically lays the foundations for where this RNB-pop body of work directionally heads in. With some of the melodies, I get some classic girl group vibes. Who was inspiring you sonically with this song, and what were some of your main references?
E: It makes me very happy to hear you say that. Destiny’s Child was a huge one. I also listened to a lot of TLC vocal mixes and arrangements. I wanted the chorus to feel like a huge girl group, and I worked tirelessly with the mixing engineer to ensure it sounded as such. It’s very different to your typical pop chorus mix where the lead sits above everything with heaps of space around it. I wanted all the harmonic layers to be fighting equally with the lead for attention, so you could almost choose a harmony part to sing as a lead if you felt like it.
Ariana Grande often does that type of thing with her vocal stacks too, so she was another great reference for where I wanted to take this song sonically. One of, if not my favourite thing to do, is to harmonise and create lush vocal arrangements. I really went crazy with the vocal layers on this one, and on ‘Mistake’ too, and hearing it fills my heart with a joy I cannot explain.
TB: ‘Woman’s Intuition’ hears you singing “you can’t fuck with a woman’s intuition”. So when was a time that you’re particularly glad you listened to your intuition?
E: I think the situation the song is based off is probably the biggest one. I knew something was off about the guy I was with, but for a while I questioned whether it was my intuition or my anxiety trying to self-sabotage. One night against my better judgement, I finally listened to this little voice in the back of my head screaming at me to check his laptop. Turns out he was sexting multiple women the entire time we were together. Intuition was on POINT. I grabbed my things and left without a word while he was still in the shower. It was an empowering moment for me, and it taught me how to better listen to my intuition in the future.
TB: ‘Messy’ is a song that immediately stands out on the EP with its catchy hook. Can you explain the creative process behind this track?
E: ‘Messy’ was written with Carmen Reece and PK Digital, who are a writing-production duo from the US. They have some amazing writing credits for some of my favourite artists. We chatted through what was going on in my life at the time, I talked through the ideas I had, and we built from there through sharing melodies and lyrics back and forth.
The process for this one was quite different from any of the other tracks I’ve done. I usually take the lead in the studio, so it was cool to see how quickly Carmen and PK work and their approach to writing. Carmen is a gun! I learnt a lot from that session.
TB: Your recent single ‘Mistake’ was accompanied by a really moody, vulnerable and sensual visualiser that saw you soaked in dark blue lighting. What was it about a dark blue palette that resonated with your visual interpretation of this song?
E: I’m a very visual person and sometimes I feel in colours, if that makes sense? Dark blue has always been the colour I envision with deep sadness. It’s also a colour symbolically associated with knowledge, and I learnt a lot from that whole experience. There is a theme of growth and wisdom within the song that we wanted to get across. Plus, I’m singing about a guy with blue eyes, so it’s a colour I always associated with the song from the moment I wrote it. After talking with George who directed the visualisers, and going through some references, we agreed that a dark blue light was going to be the most effective at representing the emotions of the track, whilst also setting the scene we were creating; sad girl crying on the floor of her shower.
TB: The Psychic Sunday’s skit before ‘DNA’ shows a really playful side to your vision for the EP. Where did the character Dr Divination and this skit concept originate from?
E: Thank you! Psychic Sundays is a fun little piece that I wrote with my good friend Dani Baynes. I wanted something humorous, that highlighted some of the painful conversations one can go through when battling mental illness and reaching out for help. It’s often incredibly tough when you’re in really dark places to feel like you’ll ever get out of them, and it can be frustrating when you finally take the leap to open up to someone but they don’t quite understand, unknowingly making you feel even more hopeless in your pursuit to get better.
‘DNA’ is a serious song, so I wanted a light-hearted skit to give context to it whilst showing a little more of my personality creatively. Creating Dr Divi was a fun way of doing that and also furthered the TV concept. She’s an exaggeration of the toxic positivity some people present when faced with someone who is struggling. She ultimately means well, but gives this cliche, vague advice that leaves the caller, who is reaching out in desperation, stumped.
We put a lot of personal Easter eggs in the dialogue between the two characters that allude to myself as the caller too, which was fun to play with. I loved watching those late night psychic hotline programs growing up, Dani did too, so after we landed on that theme we just ran with it, and I love what came out of it.
TB: You will be hitting the road for some headline EP release shows, and you recently performed a show as a part of the Women In Pop Live series. What song from the EP was the most fun to bring to life on stage? And what one was the most challenging?
E: Yes, I am so excited!! I think so far my favourite to bring to life on stage is ‘2am Habit’. That bass gets me in my feels every time. It’s sexy, but powerful and dark, and I love exploring my range like that on stage.
I think ‘IOU’ was actually one of the more challenging ones for me as a spoken word chorus is always hard to translate correctly to stage, especially when it requires so many vocal layers behind it to sound full. Incorporating more choreography in a live setting is also something that is new to me. I’ve definitely got to get my stamina in check after such a long break from live shows. It’s so much fun to perform though!
TB: Lets play a quick game of rapid fire questions. You ready?
E: Hit me!
TB: The emoji that best describes my debut EP ‘UNMUTED’ would be…
E: The speaker emoji with the two sound waves. Turn that shitake up!
TB: A strange hobby/obsession I’ve picked up in the last year has been…
E: Watching Youtube videos of Corpse, Toast and Sykkuno playing ‘Among Us’. I was obsessed with that game when it first blew up, but now I’m even more obsessed with watching that crew play it. It’s so entertaining, I can’t explain it.
TB: The colour of my toothbrush at the moment is…
E: Purple. My fave colour! I seek out purple every time I need a new toothbrush.
TB: If I could have any superpower it would be to…
E: Absorb the positive energies and attributes of those around me. I wouldn’t take theirs away from them, I’d just receive the same vibrations, so I can operate on the same frequency.
TB: Pineapple on pizza is…
E: Bomb. I love pineapple on burgers too!
‘UNMUTED’ is out now!