Success is icing on the cake for Emmy
HONG KONG émigré Emma Lee Moss, aka Emmy The Great, was hailed by some as the future of music following the release of 2009’s awesome First Love. But the girl with the self-confident pseudonym says she’s steering clear of reviews of just-released second album Virtue, feeling there’s nothing to be gained from reading them.
“I’ll be freaked out if people don’t like it, but either way I won’t know the extent because I won’t have read the reviews,” says the London-based 27-year-old, speaking ahead of her visit to the Pleasance Theatre tomorrow.
“I’ll read live reviews because if I get a bad review because of a certain thing, I can maybe change it – if I agree.”
Moss’s first album was a deeply personal record and again, on album number two, she spills out her heart.
But while the songs on Virtue cover a period in the singer’s life that saw both the planning of a wedding and the break-up of an engagement, she says it would be wrong to call her sophomore effort a break-up album.
“It’s just that to call it a break-up album would be sort of romanticising something that didn’t feel romantic to me at all,” she says. “It was an odd and nasty thing I wanted out of my life.
“I’d written half of an album and then I was like ‘well, it’s very general and I don’t know where I’m going and worried it’s a bit kitsch’. Then this happened and the whole thing was written very soon after, then we went to record it.
“Usually when we go away to record, I’m like ‘I miss home and I’m not sure this is what I want to do’. But this is all I had. I was like ‘I don’t live in my house any more, I can’t afford to live on my own, my ex is somewhere very far away. I don’t even know who he is any more. My parents have moved back to Hong Kong and this album is all I’ve got’.
“I threw everything into it and I think it’s better for it,” she adds.
Moss might not want to call Virtue a break-up album, but it clearly helped her vent her feelings.
“It’s weird,” she says. “It’s kind of like a display case. I was trying not to be too personal because I’d written a break-up album before and I kind of feel like I already used my get-out-of-jail-free card on that one.
“So I was trying not to make it too personal, but I had one very personal song and when I sang it during the recording process I remember being so sad that I didn’t think I was going to make it through the day. But after that it was all over, and now, when I listen to that song, I’m like ‘oh, look, that’s when I was sad’. I’m very detached from it now.”
As assured a debut as First Love was, Virtue sees Moss take giant strides forward as a lyricist.
“First Love is an adolescent record for me,” she agrees. “I’ve been very adolescent for a long time, since I was 13, right into my 20s and hurtling towards my 30s.
“I just grew up as a person between the first and second record – I hope – and I hope it reflects in the music.”
Growing up as the only Western kid in a Chinese school in Hong Kong taught her to stand up for herself, which is something that stood her in good stead when dealing with record label bosses who proposed collaborations with “hit-factory songwriters”, and urged her to put a few more choruses in.
“I ended up being really depressed and confused, and almost tried to quit,” she says. “But then I remembered a lot of my favourite artists had had to strike out on their own.”
Despite having two excellent albums under her belt, Moss says she’s not entirely sure how long she’ll keep making music.
“I’m still deciding what I want to do with my life,” she explains. “I wonder if I should be a musician because music isn’t my whole being – I don’t care about the Rolling Stones and The Beatles.
“Books are my thing really and I’ve wondered about going into publishing. But if my music is pleasing others then that’s great, and it feels like the right thing to be doing now.”
Moss and her band have played some memorable gigs here over the years, and they always look forward to visiting Scotland.
“We love playing up north,” she says. “In fact, we love playing anywhere you can reach on the M6. We love Glasgow and Edinburgh.”
Emmy The Great, Pleasance Theatre, tomorrow, 7.30pm, £12.50, 0131-650 4673