- Words Notion Staff
New York native Emily King talks being honest, using music as meditation, and making her truest album to date.
Making a massive impact with her previous album Scenery, Emily King continues to revel in a space that no one else sits in. Nominated for several Grammys, the record was heralded by many for its forward-thinking R&B and classical agenda. Now, after releasing the most recent single “Medal”, she’s gearing up to drop ‘Special Occasion’: her first album in four long years.
Currently embarking on an extensive month-long North American tour, Emily’s music embarks on life’s emotional complexities and its passionate resolve. The vocalist’s riveting releases have garnered well-deserved critical acclaim, with her songwriting showing nuance alongside airy instrumentation.
Across 11 tracks, ‘Special Occasion’ dissects heartbreak and its endless dimensions from a place of profound honesty. Her most open body of work to date, the record’s progressive pop sounds blend elements of soul and R&B in a way only she can. “Medal” is her latest single, following the riveting release “This Year”, which came out last year.
To honour the new album and single’s awakening, we spoke with Emily about being honest, using music as meditation and making her truest album to date.
Hey Emily, congrats on your new single and debut release of 2023 “Medal”. Can you talk to me a bit about this release?
Thank you! “Medal” is a song I’d had in my head a long time. I always liked it’s playfulness but sometimes the more lighthearted songs can get lost when you think you’re trying to make your masterpiece. We almost shelved it at one point but it kept showing back up. My brother in particular was a huge believer in the song and kept bringing it up to me. Eventually, it became one of my favorites.
You released your previous single “This Year” with a funky lyric video. Between this single and your most recent, they’re sonically different. How would you describe the sound and identity of your work?
I wish I had a great answer for that. I think my sound is a work in progress. Every song seems to call for something different in terms of production and sound. Usually I write the songs and then we figure out the instrumentation. The records go through drafts before we come to the final. I try to do something that I haven’t done before with every new composition but that’s also the challenge.
As a songwriter what’s your go-to essential when writing new music? How do you make sure your music strikes a chord with your audience?
I think the goal is being totally honest with myself. If and when that happens there’s usually a better chance that someone else will connect to the song. Sometimes it helps to write without any instruments, just singing into the air so that there is no wait time between feeling and expressing. I love to use percussion as well.
When did your music journey originally begin? Was there a particular album, or artist that led you to wanting to start your own music career?
I was born into it; my parents are singers and musicians. I grew up listening to them sing jazz in clubs in New York. I think it was natural to follow in their footsteps.
I read that you use music as a means of meditation, at what point were you able to discover this? Was there a significant moment or epiphany?
When I was a kid I would always sing to myself. I noticed myself humming on the subway recently when I was in an anxious situation. It is always a good way to feel calm and quieten the noise of the city. I think I sing as a way to relax myself.
You recently announced ‘Special Occasion’. It’s your first full-length project in four years. How does this project differ from your 2019 LP ‘Scenery’?
It’s maybe the most true to life album I’ve made yet. It was a hard record to create as I was going through big life changes and trying to figure out a relationship. Sometimes songwriting can feel like more of a science but in this case I had a direct vision for the music. These songs are more like journal entries.
I read that this project is about trying to find the light in the darkest of times. Can you tell us a time where you felt like you were really struggling with this?
There’s a song on the album called “False Start”. I wrote it one day in LA. I was feeling like I had betrayed myself and that I didn’t have the courage to make a change in my life. I was silencing this need inside of me to stay with what was familiar for comfort sake. And that song poured out of me. I felt instantly grateful.
And how did you overcome this moment? What helps you to recover from your down days?
The process of communicating these feelings through music, I know it’s cliche but it really helps. It is a good way to get to the bottom of things. Or take my mind off of concern for a moment.
This summer you’re heading on a headline North American tour. Is there a location in particular you’re most excited to visit?
I’m really excited to get out of my neighborhood and travel again. It’s been a while. I love both the east and west coast and particularly in the spring. I think hometown shows are especially fun. NYC is the last show on my tour so I’m looking forward to grabbing a pizza afterwards and sleeping in my own bed!
Is there a track on the album that you can’t wait to bring to life on this tour?
I’m really excited to have fun and dance with “Medal” and maybe jam on “Special Occasion”. That ending can go on forever. We might just play that song all night!
It looks like this year is going to be a big one for you. How do you plan on managing time to unwind from the excitement of the tour and album release?
I try to enjoy the quiet moments. As long as I can find a cute café and some good sleep I’m pretty happy wherever I am.
Lastly, is there anything you’re manifesting for 2023? On top of what already looks to be a very exciting year ahead!
I’d like to buy a boat, and maybe go on a trip to the Redwood forest with my mom. I plan to make more music. I’d love to collaborate more with artists. Beyond that I don’t really know. I try to go with the flow of life. So far it’s had some sweet surprises.