Emmy the Great
Interview by Holly Grigg-Spall
Images by Jan Willem Dikkers
“I began my career in an abundant time for folk-influenced
London artists. One day I’d love to sit down
and write about how that came about and the circumstances
—Emmy The Great and bands that led to it happening.” — Emmy The Great
EMMY THE GREAT
Emma Lee Moss was born in Hong Kong and moved to London, England with her family as a child. She took the name Emmy the Great in 2006 and subsequently released her debut album First Love which the New York Times ranked at #7 in a list of the best albums of 2009. In 2011 she released her second album Virtue and then This is Christmas with Tim Wheeler from Ash. She is also a writer for Vice and the UK Observer and Guardian newspapers.
Northern Irish Tim Wheeler is the songwriter, vocalist and guitarist for Ash, which also includes Mark Hamilton and Rick McMurray. NME counts their 1996 album “1977” as one of the best albums of all time and Q magazine named Ash as one of top five bands to see before you die. In November 2014, Wheeler released his first solo album, Lost Domain, regarding his father’s battle with dementia.
NOAH AND THE WHALE
The British folk band of Charlie Fink as songwriter, vocalist and guitarist. The band’s early records featured vocals by Laura Marling. Noah and the Whale has released four albums, and Fink writes and directs short films to accompany each release.
British singer-songwriter Laura Marling has been nominated for the Mercury Music Prize for three of her four albums. I Speak Because I Can made NME’s list of best albums of all time. She currently lives in Silver Lake.
Bassist for British band Wild Beasts, who have released four albums. Two Dancers was nominated for a Mercury Music Prize and featured on many 2009 ‘best albums of the year’ lists.
An LA-based Swedish composer & producer known for his work on sitcoms Community and New Girl, his score for the film Fruitvale Station, and producing the rock group Haim’s debut EP.
British author whose number9dream and Cloud Atlas were shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Cloud Atlas was adapted into a 2012 film starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry.
American novelist and short story writer Jennifer Egan won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her 2011 novel A Visit from the Goon Squad.
American singer-songwriter Conor Oberst, formerly of Bright Eyes, now performs as a soloist and runs two record labels, Saddle Creek Records and Team Love Records.
John Prine is an American folk singer-songwriter active since the 1970s. He has been influential to many musicians, including Bob Dylan. His most recent album Singing Mailman Delivers, was released in 2009.
The Knife is a Swedish electronica duo of siblings Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer. They rarely do interviews and often perform wearing masks.
British singer-songwriter Emma-Lee Moss (aka Emmy the Great) recently moved from London to Los Angeles to work on her latest EP and album. With three albums behind her (including a Christmas collaboration with Tim Wheeler of Ash), Emmy’s music is born out of the British anti-folk movement that also formed Mumford and Sons, Noah and the Whale, and Laura Marling.
The first single from the new EP, titled “S” and out January 27th on Bella Union, will be the dreamy “Swimming Pool” (listen here) featuring Tom Fleming from Wild Beasts.
Holly Grigg-Spall: So, first up, you’re now living in Silver Lake, Issue’s neighborhood, what brought you over here from London?
Emma Lee Moss: I was working with a producer who lived in Silver Lake, and when I came over for the first time I arranged to stay with some friends from London who had moved out to LA. When I got there I found out that they all lived within a short walk of each other, and then one of my best friends moved out to LA and ended up living on the same street. In the end the decision to move was just a question of not leaving.
HGS: Are you planning any LA gigs in the near future?
ELM: Definitely, it’s been a while since I toured and I’m looking forward to doing this thing that is usually such a big part of my life, in this city that has come to feel like home.
HGS: Who have you collaborated with on the new EP and album? Have you done a lot of the work—the writing, recording—in LA?
ELM: So much has gone into the making of these songs that sometimes I can’t remember everyone who has worked on them or been a part of the process. The core group of people are such an intimidatingly talented lot that sometimes I cannot believe I even know them, let alone get to work with them. I’ve worked a lot with Ludwig Goransson, who is basically the person who brought me here.
Then there’s a producer in London, Dave McCracken, who has overseen this project from the very beginning when I would bring him scrappy ideas on iPhone. He came out to LA for a couple weeks and we lived in a (for real) haunted treehouse overlooking the Silver Lake reservoir.
Neil Comber is a genius mixer who has been a huge part of the process, and I’ve been really lucky to be able to bounce ideas and get encouragement from Leo Abrahams, who is one of my favorite guitarists on earth and a really talented producer as well. We also have guest musicians on the songs who blow me away.
“When I came out here,
it was weird, like
the story of the album
was here and I’d somehow
known it all along.”
— Emmy The Great
HGS: I got to have a first listen of your new music at your music video shoot in Silver Lake—the songs seem to be somewhat California-influenced. Would you say that’s true?
ELM: Yes, definitely. The first song I wrote for the album was before I even came out to LA and it was about dreaming of the desert, but at that time I had no plans to visit California. Then when I came out here, it was weird, like the story of the album was here and I’d somehow known it all along.
HGS: You started out in the anti-folk movement in London, what do you feel brought about that feeling and style at that time?
ELM: I began my career in an abundant time for folk-influenced London artists. One day I’d love to sit down and write about how that came about and the circumstances and bands that led to it happening, cause I think about it all the time. I think it comes down to two or three albums coming out of America at the time, and a couple of London bands that had a lot of influence.
HGS: You have a column about books at WeLoveThisBook.com—what are you enjoying right now? And lyrically, who are you inspired by?
Right now I’m reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell, because one of the characters is in his new book The Bone Clocks, and I like how Mitchell reuses characters and reinforces his universe. In the last few years I’ve been inspired by Jennifer Egan’s writing, especially Visit From the Goon Squad and her short stories collection Emerald City. They’re so palatable and full of ideas, they spark off songs for me, definitely.
HGS: What’s your favorite gig you’ve seen in LA so far? Do you have a favorite LA music venue?
ELM: Ah! There are so many stunning venues, it’s ridiculous. The Greek is a special experience. I saw John Prine and Conor Oberst there in October and kept looking up at the stars and forgetting they were real. I also loved watching The Knife at Coachella.
Emmy The Great Mixtape