Songwriter and artist Emiko’s brand new single Simple Love comes out later this month. We recently reviewed the new song, and it’s stunning – well worth setting a date in your diary for. Following this, Emiko kindly took part in an in depth interview with us – we asked her all about her songwriting process, the power of music, and the importance of playing live shows. Here’s how it went..
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Hi Emiko, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us! The new single Simple Love is due to be released on January 17th. How did the song come to be – what came first in the writing process in terms of the idea, the lyrics, the melody?
Hey hey! Thank YOU so much for taking the time! Yes, Simple Love is coming soon!! The song came to be in a very unusual way for me. I was sitting at my piano one morning and came up with the intro and I couldn’t stop playing it. I played it over and over again and I didn’t know what it was going to be, exactly. I started singing the words – because I write words and music simultaneously – and the opening line, Before you were here, I knew you were listening came out of my mouth. Then I knew, it was a song about my son.
I had been on a love song kick for a while where that’s all I was writing and I had been thinking for days about how to write a song that wasn’t about ‘boy meets girl’ or ‘girl meets boy’. And when that first line came out of my mouth, I realized this WAS going to be a love song – but not the usual kind. This was about the simplest, purest form of love there is. From mother to child. And I couldn’t really control it. The words just started flowing.
At its core, it’s about the the first night my son and I spent in the hospital together when he was born. If I didn’t tell anyone, they’d never know and I think they’d just assume it was about romantic love, so it’s masked well, haha! But it’s about an indescribable change that I felt in my heart when he was born. This unbelievable love that I still am finding out about every day.
The piano sound on the new song is instantly appealing, it’s beautifully performed and also notably ‘new’ sounding. It can be difficult to put together a chord progression or riff these days that sounds completely original, particularly without sacrificing how effective the music is in conjuring up certain emotions. This is something you seem to have mastered.
Where in the writing process does the instrumentation come into play, and is it a matter of the first ideas to fall into place make the final cut, or is there a trial and error process to work out what sounds best?
Well thank you very much! To be honest, and this may sound disappointing, the truth is, I write what comes out and that’s pretty much it. There’s a bit of an editing process with some songs, but not all of them. With Simple Love, the piano intro sort of lit my fire and once I opened my mouth, the whole song just came out. It was like it had already been written inside me and I just had to commit it to paper.
My producer, Ric Cabot Podmore, is known for his extremely high standards and quality of work. I was honestly a bit nervous to send the track to him as it was in its original form – I knew there was some work to be done on it but I didn’t know what. Ric and I went through three or four versions, experimenting with re-arranging verse lyrics, he had me write and re-write a bridge – things like that.
It’s something that took a tremendous amount of trust on my part as the artist, but I have to say it also took a tremendous amount of respect and balance for the song on his part as the producer. In this sense, he was not just the right choice for the song, he was the only choice for the song because I knew he wouldn’t allow any sacrifices to be made and no corners to be cut; he never let up on it and his commitment to the song was and is unwavering. We both knew that the song needed to fly a certain way, with a certain truth to it, and I’m quite happy to say that it’s doing just that!
Have you performed the song live yet, and if so – how did it feel to sing it live and what was the audience’s reaction to it like?
Truth be told, I’ve performed it a couple of times – mostly in my living room and my studio on Facebook Live. I played it once at a show but after that, the decision was made to keep it closer to the proverbial vest until its release, which is something that is normally really hard for me to do! The reaction so far has been people bursting into tears – which I’ll take a compliment! It’s a very emotional song and I know it’s affected people on deeply personal levels. I’m actually really honored, if I can use that word, that people are so touched by the it.
How important is live music to you as an artist, and what can people expect from your live shows – is there a full band set up, or are there occasional opportunities to see a more stripped back, acoustic show?
Live music is VITAL as an artist – more vital than a lot of people realize. It’s not just a way to promote music and make money (which I know has been the talk of certain parts of my industry for a while) – for me, it’s about being able to CONNECT with people and share a moment in time with them. That’s the human experience. I play in every way I can – solo, a full band, acoustic, whatever the show calls for, I do it. It’s more important for me to participate in a connection with people than it is to be married to a certain configuration of my band, but we do it all!
What is it about music and writing songs that captures your attention? Are you passionate about singing and performance in general, or does it mean more to you to express your own beliefs and thoughts by writing original, unique and honest songs?
Wow! That is a ridiculously good question. Hmmm…. I need to think about this for a minute!
I’ve been writing and playing music all my life. I don’t really do anything else so I’m not really sure. Music to me is like breathing or blinking. I just do it. I don’t love to breathe (per se) but I couldn’t live without it. It’s part of me. In that sense, music is exactly the same for me.
I do go through phases but I think when I write music, it’s about self expression – there is a therapeutic element to that, for sure. And when I perform music, or record music in the studio, it’s about creating an open channel for an honest and genuine connection with the listener. I’m a firm believer that when you perform or record, you have to be really clear on your intention because what you put into the music is exactly what the listener may take away from it.
Do you find that writing and performing music makes you feel differently, perhaps better, about the issues expressed in the songs?
As I say, there’s definitely a therapeutic element to it – sometimes it does lend a different perspective. More often than not though, what will happen is that someone will hear the song and share their own experience – their own takeaway from it, and that will give me pause and objectivity, which is often accompanied by various forms of peace.
What are some of the very best songs ever written, in your opinion, and what was it about these that connected with you so strongly?
Bleargh! So many songs! There are SO many incredible songs out there – and remember, music is so encompassing. There are pieces like Nessun Dorma, a deeply touching piece in Turnadot (my favorite opera), Arvo Part’s Symphony Number 1, Red Baron by Billy Cobham (one of my favorite instrumental fusion pieces ever), then there are songs like La Alegria by Yasmin Levy which just make me cry. But I also love King’s X, Alter Bridge, Toto, King Crimson, oh my goodness, Thelonius Monk, the list goes on and on. Ultimately, everyone who knows me will tell you it all comes down to Billy Joel for me. That’s true.
I think I connect with so many songs because I find so much to relate with – and not just lyrically. Some of these artists are instrumentalists or sing in a different language. But the fact that music can evoke and INvoke such a basic, primal feeling that crosses over language, religion, race, whatever – that’s what it’s all about.
The way the song Simple Love builds and builds is just wonderful, so powerful, and, as mentioned in our review, it’s mesmerizing, and hypnotic to listen to. What inspired this choice of structure and expression, and who are some of the artists or bands that perhaps influenced your musical direction?
Oh my goodness, thank you so much! That’s high praise! I’m not sure I can answer that question, to be honest. I sat down and started playing what became the piano intro, then I opened my mouth and it all just came out. In some ways, it all happened so fast – I didn’t even realize I had finished writing it until Ric wrote me to after he heard a snippet of it. Then I said to myself ‘Hey — maybe the song is done and is ready to be recorded!’
In retrospect, I can say that Simple Love reflects my son’s personality a lot. Granted, he’s six and also jokes that I wrote a ‘slow song’ about him and he wanted a ‘fast song’ so he can practice his Spiderman moves, hahaha, but in terms of the chord progressions and lyrical content, it really mirrors my son a lot. It’s unique, doesn’t really fit the mold of a ‘pop song’, doesn’t rhyme in the classically accepted way and isn’t really structured to the norm. It’s a really unique and special piece – one of a kind, just like him.
Will there be a longer project following this – an EP or album perhaps?
OH YES. There’s an album coming. I’m thrilled to have Ric on board for it – the songs are written and the sketches and ideas that we’ve traded back and forth make for a deliriously exciting time ahead. I’m basically chomping at the bit to get back into the studio to bring the tracks to life!
What are your plans for the first half of 2017, and when and where can people catch a live performance in the coming months?
The first half of 2017 is jam packed! Between the upcoming release of Simple Love and a fully packed concert and recording schedule, we have a lot going on. We are constantly updating the concert schedule as there are new things being added almost daily – in fact, a new show was added just yesterday! The best bet is to go to my Website and sign up on the mailing list to keep up with everything.
I make it a point, despite my manager’s wishes to get me an intern or assistant, to personally write all my own newsletters and fan blasts and I reply to every single person who writes to me. It takes me a while, but I do it! So I think that would be the best way that folks can get information – plus they can be first to hear about all sorts of cool contests and promotions that are running, surrounding Simple Love and the forthcoming album.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to your readers and listeners, about music or otherwise?
Yes, I think so. I’d like to take a moment to say thank you to everyone. To everyone who has been part of this journey and to everyone who is becoming part of this journey and to everyone we’ve not crossed paths with … yet! Saying ‘thank you’ is so important to me – and I think we really don’t do it nearly enough. So, thank you!
Thank you for the interview – and the incredibly stellar review you guys put up about Simple Love, thank you to everyone who is reading this, and thank you to everyone who is listening. THANK YOU.
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A huge thank you to Emiko for her time and her wonderfully thoughtful answers. Read our review of the brand new single Simple Love, out January 17th, and find and follow Emiko on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay updated.