- Words Josephine Amstad
Following a mammoth breakout year, singer-songwriter Em Beihold spills on her debut EP 'Egg in the Backseat' and gets candid about life in the spotlight.
Growing up in LA, singer-songwriter Em Beihold is no stranger to a Hollywood love story. After catching sight of a piano through a shop window at just six years old, Em Beihold’s fledgling affair with music took flight. Penning her first song at the age of seven, the songstress has been prolific ever since – and it seems like it was always meant to be. After her first live show in 2016, director Michelle Schumacher invited Em to write a track for her film I’m Not Here. But it was after blowing up on TikTok in 2021 with her track “Groundhog” that things changed for good, setting Em Beihold on the trajectory of viral stardom.
Since releasing her single “Numb Little Bug” back in January, it has amassed nearly 400 million streams, propelling the rising star further into the spotlight. Tracking her struggles with anxiety and experience taking antidepressants, the song struck a chord with listeners and racked up a million streams in a single day, shooting to number one on the Spotify Global Viral 50 Chart. It’s been nonstop ever since. Even Em seems bemused by her stratospheric rise, musing: “I never imagined myself being an artist like this, because I just thought it was so unfeasible.”
After wrapping up a string of sold-out shows throughout Europe, which took Em from London to Berlin to Amsterdam, the artist unveiled her debut EP ‘Egg in the Backseat’. Superimposing melancholic lyricism with her bouncing pop melodies, Em joins the line of pop powerhouses that have paved the way before her, from Sara Bareilles to Lily Allen. Her new EP mines her rich pool of experience for inspiration, and from “12345” (a song about panic attacks), to “Porcelain”, Em’s music has an air of authenticity and maturity that surpasses her years.
In the age of social media virality, there is pressure for artists to keep pushing for their next huge hit. It can be hard to know when to slow down, but Em has her head firmly screwed on her shoulders. The rising star chats to Notion about her new EP, how songwriting is her therapy and why there’s nothing wrong with saying no, sometimes.
Congrats on the release of your debut EP ‘Egg in the Backseat!’ I love the name – what inspired the title?
When I was younger, I used to tie my hair back in this really tight ponytail. My head looked like an egg, so I would call myself egg, my friends would call me Egg-mily, kind of like this silly identifying thing. I was writing this song that really had nothing to do with eggs. But I suggested the lyric ‘you cracked me like an egg in the backseat’, kind of as a joke. My writer and producer were like, ‘no, you should go for it.’ So, we went from putting a joke lyric in the song to naming the entire EP that. I did it because I feel like people tend to name their EPS very dramatic things. I wanted to choose something fun and light-hearted that felt like me.
How are you feeling about the EP’s release? It must be exciting for it to finally be out!
Yeah, I’ve been sitting on these songs for a year and I’m excited about them now, but I was so excited about them back then. I was just like, ‘I want everyone else to hear this!’ So, it’s crazy to have that happen a full year later.
Can you tell us about the latest single “Too Precious”? I loved the Old Hollywood Glamour vibes of the video. How was it shooting that?
There was someone in my life who called me ‘too precious’ because I wasn’t really into the partying and drinking scene. It’s not that I ever have been judgy of that, it’s just not how I enjoy myself. I don’t know if they meant it as an insult, but I took it as one. Basically, I just wanted to write a song that’s kind of an anthem for introverts or people who are into different things. We’re fun! And shooting the music video was so much fun. I told the director I want to be Audrey Hepburn at a college party.
With an EP full of hits, do you have a song you were most excited for your fans to hear? If so, why?
Probably “12345”. It’s a concept song about panic attacks. I’m just really proud of how the lyrics came together. I feel like I have this pressure to create happy tunes with a dark theme because of “Numb Little Bug.” And it’s never something that I do intentionally, I don’t go into the room like, ‘Okay, let’s do this.’ It just happens. I feel “12345” was a natural rendition of that.
On the topic of “Numb Little Bug”, it’s approaching almost 400million streams and discusses your mental health experiences. First of all, how does it feel to know so many people have listened to your music and how did you find the response to the track?
It’s incredible that so many people are listening, and also the amount of amount of people who have DM’d me and said that they feel less alone, or they’ve sought out therapy, or even groups of women with PND (postnatal depression). Obviously, I don’t even know what that feels like, but they’re like ‘This describes the feeling of that exactly.’ It’s crazy that the song found so many lanes. I never would have expected that.
How important is it for you to share your story through your music?
Very important. When I’m in the room, if there’s not a point to the song, I’m not in it. It has to say something.
Can you talk me through your song writing process? Do you consider it a cathartic outlet?
I started writing because it was my form of therapy, and it was the way I made sense of things. I remember I literally got over boys that hurt me just by writing songs about them. That’s like a power! I have been doing it since I was seven. I remember I transitioned into a new school and the way I got through that was writing. Just any hard time, really.
So, you started writing songs at seven? Amazing!
Yeah, [the song] was called “America home”.
Tell me more about your musical journey – did you come from a musical household? What was the moment it clicked that you wanted to pursue music as a career?
Growing up in LA, my parents would take me to shows and we go to the Hollywood Bowl and stuff like that. When I was six, I saw piano in a window. I just thought, ‘Cool kids play piano. So, I want to play piano!’ Which I learned later is not true. I asked my parents if they would get it for me. And they’re like, ‘as long as you practice’. It’s like when you say you’ll take care of the cat!
I would start practising and then I’d start goofing off. I’d be playing Chopin, and then like, start messing with chords that were in that song, and think, ‘Where can I go from here?’ And so, it was just kind of an addictive thing. It was one of those activities where time could pass and I wouldn’t feel it. I don’t know if there was a particular moment it clicked. Once I learned how to write I just didn’t stop. Yeah, and I also, it’s funny because I never imagined myself being an artist like this, because I just thought it was so unfeasible. I wanted to write songs for movies because I had an opportunity to do that. I was given a script and a prompt that I wrote that song, like, very quickly. It was such a cool process, but I never imagined we would be having this interview.
Have any aspects of your meteoric rise to success felt overwhelming or difficult?
Yeah, it’s everything I, deep down, wanted and never thought would happen. So, I’m so grateful for it and it’s also been very intense. And also hard because it really has been nonstop since January when the song dropped and it got a million streams the first day.
It’s funny because even my closest friends don’t totally know what’s going on. And they kind of are like cheering me on from the side lines, but they don’t get that I’m not just sitting here watching the numbers rise. There’s a lot of hard work behind it.
Now that you’ve experienced this, what would you say to an artist just starting out in their career? Do you have any advice? Or is there any advice that someone has given to you that has really rung true and helped you deal with the success?
The most important piece of advice that I’ve gotten from a few different people is just knowing what your limits are and setting boundaries. You know, when you’re having a moment, of course, you want to capitalise on it and everyone around you wants to capitalise on it. That makes sense. But you only have so much energy and you can’t do everything. I was saying yes to every opportunity. And it was way too much – that just burns you out. So, I mean, honestly, to say no sometimes is such a good thing.
Did you have any musical heroes growing up that you really looked up to? And do you feel they have influenced the music you make now?
I listened to a lot of female singer-songwriters kind of the early-2000s, 2010s Regina Spektor, mainly, I write because of her – she was the most inspiring to me. Also, Feist, Lily Allen, Fiona Apple, Sara Bareilles, Kate Nash. Just like piano driven pop songs were my childhood.
I can hear some echoes between you and Sara Bareilles! Do you have any contemporary artists you would love to collab with in the future? Who’s inspiring you at the moment?
My answer for this kind of changes all the time because I’m constantly inspired by different people. I feel like it’d be really cool to do a song with Glass Animals. I don’t know if they’ve ever done a collab, but I was listening to them yesterday and I was thinking ‘hmmm’. That would be cool.
You’re joining King Princess on tour this Autumn. What can we expect from an Em Beihold live show?
A lot of the songs from the EP. I’d say some silly stage banter because I just speak my mind and I don’t really plan it out, which is sometimes good and sometimes not. I’ve finally got to the place where I’m having fun performing. So hopefully that’s something that you can sense from the stage, but it used to stress me out a lot.
Did you used to get stage fright?
Yeah, I mean, it’s funny because when I was telling you I never imagined being an artist, I never dreamed about being on stage. And then because of “Numb Little Bug” all these stage opportunities came up very quickly, in front of 1000s of people on these huge stages with catwalks and like I didn’t know what to do! With experience, it gets more fun.
You’ve already played a load of gigs all over Europe – was there a standout moment for you?
In London. I was sick before the show – not COVID – I threw up before the show and I was not sure if I could do it or not. So, I came out. Before our whole intro. I literally was like, ‘Hey, everyone, I’m gonna do four songs because I’m dying a little bit. Sorry! But I’m here and I wanted to see you.’ And then I sang “Numb Little Bug”. When people sing along, it’s actually hard to hear it because you have these in-ears that block out your hearing. But they were so loud that I could hear them so clearly. It was just kind of that feeling of them knowing the lyrics and helping me out because they knew I was sick and like, like them being into it. It was pretty memorable!
Following on from that what would you say the biggest pinch-me moment of your career so far?
I mean, that’s up there. Also playing the gigs with the radio shows with 1000s of people. Those are pretty crazy, like full amphitheatres when I was literally writing songs in my bedroom. I’d say I mean, number one, but when “Numb Little Bug” went number one on Hot AC Radio, which is crazy and beyond me. I don’t know, the moments keep happening.
Do you have a dream stage or festival you would love to perform?
Festival: Coachella. Stage, maybe SNL.
You’ve already had such a huge year. What is your biggest goal for the rest of 2022?
I would like to get some songs going for an album, I would say. It’s kind of funny, because before the EP, I was sitting on quite a few songs and just ready to get them out. And now I’m sitting on a couple that I really like but I want that number to be more that I’m excited about releasing. I think personally, just recalibrating is honestly my biggest goal 2022. Because, after the tour, I think there’s going to be a writing trip, it’s just been really ‘go, go, go’.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? What’s on the bucket list?
I would love to have a headline tour that people go to. I’d say more festivals. I’d like to do a TV show like Jimmy Fallon or Kimmel or something like that. I don’t know, I’ve always said I don’t want to be like Super Bowl level. I don’t want to like limit myself but I’ve always kind of valued myself more of as a songwriter than a performer that’s going to do these crazy things. So, I don’t totally know how to answer that question.
Finally, if you’re sound was a flavour what would it be?
I’m thinking like a fruity sorbet or like a Baskin Robbins 21 flavours… but, that’s a hard question!