When first listening to newcomer Emily King belt out stories of love, loss and life, you might not expect these topics to flow from the mouth of the 21-year-old ingÃ©nue. But what the NYC-born and raised singer/songwriter lacks in age, she more than makes up for in talent. While most of her peers croon about the fast lane and party life, King, the daughter of jazz musicians, takes the high road by tackling more substantive issues on her debut album East Side Story (J Records). Her first single, “Walk In My Shoes,” —an ode to industry struggles and maintaining individuality—gained her favorable reviews, and spots opening up for Floetry, John Legend, and Common. With her hauntingly beautiful voice and relatable tales of heartbreak and triumph, King is definitely one to watch.
Clutch: Both your parents were musicians/singers; did they help you with your project? Also, what is the most important thing they have taught you about this industry?
Emily: Yes they have definitely helped me. They’ve taught me to stay focused on always getting better at my craft, and to only do what feels right in my heart.
Clutch: Your personality is so grounded, and you seem to possess a very laid back, roll-with-the-punches attitude. Is that a hard thing to maintain in your life?
Emily: No—it is one of the easier things :)
Clutch: Listening to your album, you can really feel the emotions you’re trying to convey…does that come easy for you?
Emily: I’ve always been one to be open with my emotions, but music allows me to amplify them in a more controlled way. It’s a beautiful thing.
Clutch: Is there a message you are trying to get across with your music?
Emily: A message of peace and unity.
Clutch: Do you feel pressured to have cross-over appeal from your label?
Emily: I try my best to ignore things like that. I create music that I would love for all people to enjoy.
Clutch: The song “Colorblind” touches on your interracial upbringing. How does growing up immersed in different cultures impact your songwriting?
Emily: My experience growing up has really broadened my appreciation for people. It feels very natural for me to write from many different perspectives, stories, and feelings.
Clutch: When did you first pick up the guitar? If you had to chose one over the other, which would it be—playing the guitar or singing?
Emily: I started playing the guitar at about 16. I love them both!
Clutch: Is there a special meaning to your album title East Side Story?
The title actually came about in the midst of a brainstorm between some friends and I. I thought it was a cute twist on West Side Story and a would set a good tone for my debut.
Clutch: Your remake of “Ain’t No Sunshine” is very soulful—and I’m sure many women can relate to the subject matter as well! How did you come about recording it?
Emily: It was my manager’s initial idea. I had been a fan of the song prior to that but recording it was even more pleasurable. It sat for a while and the we came back to it and eventually it made the album.
Clutch: You definitely have an old soul that comes through in your music, which helps you convey the realities of relationships. Where do you find inspirations/ideas for your music?
Emily: I find them in my own life. Some are obvious and others I have to search for.
Clutch: When did you know music was “it”; the thing you knew you were meant to do with your life?
Emily: Early on, I used to watch my folks on stage and knew there was no other option.
Clutch: Is it hard to date when you work in this industry? Are you seeing anyone special at the time; any muses for your music?
Emily: I think it can be challenging to be with someone when you can’t physically be there because your on an airplane most of the time. I’m very focused on my music now more than anything.
Clutch: What’s one thing many people don’t know about you?
Emily: I’m a robot. :)
Clutch: As an artist you’re typically working two jobs—creating the music you love, writing and just being creative with others who share your passion. And then there’s working on the “image” you have to uphold to please the label (the events, the signings, the schmoozing, etc.). How do you deal with it all?
Emily: I’ve grown to enjoy dressing up and wearing makeup and these type of things. But I still don’t like to take myself too seriously. I’d rather focus on making the world a better place.
Clutch: It’s a Friday night and you have the evening off to kick it with friends. What’s in your clutch when you go out?
Emily: Lip gloss, a metrocard, and hopefully a bit of cash for a late night snack!