Interview: A Conversation with Emmy the Great

Emmy the Great (Emma-Lee Moss) is on stage with her fellow band mates, brother Robin and friend Mikal, when I arrive at the Deaf Institute for the interview, mid sound check.  Despite everything sounding absolutely great, there’s an issue with the projector being a little out of sync which causes a slight, but not at all annoying, delay to the start of the interview.

While the rest of what needs doing gets done Emmy leads me to the backstage area, a part of the venue that I have never been to before.  The room is pretty cold and after a brief mess around with the thermostat and a little fixing together of some food, we start our conversation proper.  On Wednesday night the band were in Manchester to perform on Marc Riley’s 6Music show. The following night they played at King Tut’s in Glasgow before returning to Manchester for this show at the Deaf Institute. Was the way that this had worked out a little annoying? “We’re staying with a friend who we really love, so it’s actually awesome

After spending the first few minutes never really consistently calling her Emmy or Emma, I bring up the fact that she apparently hates being called Emmy. “That’s what Wikipedia says“, she remarks as she pulls her coat over herself to combat the cold room, “I don’t believe a word that Wikipedia says”.  She continues, “I knew somebody called Emmy when I was young who I didn’t like. My friends at school called me Emmy to piss me off but I don’t have any bad opinion about the name.  My brother calls me Emmy!

The new EP ‘S’ has just been released and I let her know that it I had originally planned to ask why it was titled that. But it was whilst writing questions for the interview that I realised all the song titles began with the letter ‘S’. “You don’t have to ask that” she says with a little laugh. “I can’t stop writing songs that start with ‘S’. Honestly, if i start a song I have to actively be like ‘what can I call this that doesn’t begin with ‘S’. I don’t know what happened. Maybe a lot of futuristic objects begin with ‘S’?

emmy_the_great_sIn the spirit of all things futuristic, Emmy is actually using a hologram of herself around the theme of the EP.  “I’m quite enamoured with my hologram. When we got the live hologram in I projected it on to the wall in our rehearsal room and I was just staring at it the whole time like ‘Coooooool‘” she says as she erupts into laughter.

The recording of the EP was actually split between two studios.  One in LA and one in London.  This has been mirrored by Emmy herself who has found herself moving about quite a bit over recent times. “I live in New York now, in Brooklyn, and I’m gonna stay.  My rent isn’t going to go up for a while.  It was quite hard at first and I was crying a lot“.

The week that I did ‘Solar Panels’ I felt like the sound was a cool thing. When I was in the studio with Ludwig and he put that on I was like ‘hehehe that’s so not what I sound like, let’s do it!’ Then when we were mixing there were definite moments where I was thinking ‘Shit, this isn’t me, I don’t want to put it out'” Said Emmy as we talked about the third track on the EP. “Ultimately I thought that, to me, a record is a record of a time. If you make a decision during that time then you have to stick with it. I don’t like too much hindsight, it can really destroy your creative process. I could just end up double guessing every decision and then not putting anything out. You just have to put it out into the world and just see what happens!

The fourth track, ‘Somerset (I Can’t Get Over)’, is a touching number in which Emmy returns to her more usual sound and pleads for her past lover to ‘Please don’t get over me’.   Herself in turn claiming that ‘I can’t get over you’, something that she admits she may have been a bit premature in writing.  “I actually got over the person in that song not long after I’d written it” she says, laughing. “We’d only been broken up about two weeks when I wrote that.  I’m really good at getting over stuff.  I can move on quite quickly.. just because I’ve had practice“.

Outside of music, Emmy also enjoys to do a spot of writing.  She is a regular writer for Noisey (her articles are a decent read and tend to make me laugh, especially the one about Tinder) and we discussed an article that she did at the end of 2014.  In it, she listened to a number of records that had been released over the year for the first time and gave them a short review. “That was a really painful experience. I was so hungover!  I’d been to two parties the night before with a friend who always makes me drink too much wine.  I woke up and thought.. ‘I have to listen to ten albums today, I hope they’re ok’.  The first one was an Insane Clown Posse side project.  I was doing my Christmas shopping walking through Soho just listening to this noise.  I think I was crying.  It was so horrible“.  As Emmy talked more at length about the process, I asked if there was actually any positives from the experience? “The weird one was the David Crosby album.  I initially thought it was really strange but when I went back home for Christmas after I’d done the piece I recommended it to my dad and we listened to it quite a lot.  I’m also really into the Counting Crows record..” she says with a hint of embarrassment.

As with all my interviews, we talked briefly about some of Emmy’s favourite releases of recent times. “What has come out so far this year?” she asks.  The new Sleater-Kinney album is the first mentioned. “That’s already out? I heard one song off it that is awesome.  They can’t really do much wrong for me because her voice is so fucking interesting.  I was listening to that song (No Cities to Love) thinking ‘Could the riffs be getting a bit cheesy?’ but nope, not at all.”  There’s also been the Decemberists this year. “Already? but it’s January!” she says laughing.

Emily-580x326After a brief discussion in which I mention some of my favourite records of the previous year, Emmy recalls “Last Year I watched a show that was amazing! Gene Clark: No Other tour. It was Beach House, Robin Pecknold, members of Wye Oak, Celebration, The Walkmen and a few other bands. They did the whole of the last Gene Clark album. I saw them do it a couple of times, I was with them at the End of the Road festival and it was awesome. I discovered the album through that and listened to it for the whole of the last year

It’s always toward the end of the interviews that I have my same set of three or four questions that I like to ask.  “I think everyone should listen to my first album, I really like it!” Emmy responded when I asked about which three tracks from the back catalogue she’d choose to give to a first time listener. “I didn’t like it when it came out, but then recently I was listening to it and I thought ‘I really like this‘” she says with a laugh. “It’s totally different from anything else that I’ve done. When people say that they like my music I just want to respond with ‘well you should listen to my first album then. In full!

The interview was wrapped up with a conversation about own labels, the band Adult Jazz “They’re a band that I really like. Did their album come out last year? I really liked it“, the Mercury Music Prize and writing original songs for movies.


Emmy the Great was an incredibly entertaining interviewee and an interesting person to speak to. Amidst all the drama of a broken boiler, finding a local convenience store and planning when to get dinner she gave me her attention throughout and that’s always appreciated.

‘S’ was released today, Monday Jan 26th, and can be found at all your usual online retailers. You can buy it digitally from iTunes here and order a physical copy (signed) here.