No Fam? No Fear! Why Going to a Festival Alone is Just as Fun
June 20, 2018
June 20, 2018
It is late November in Arizona and Emma has just gotten off stage after her energetic performance at Global Dance Festival in Tempe. The dusty desert air is wreaking havoc on her respiratory system causing her to sneeze almost uncontrollably. Any other musician would have called off the interview right then and would have been justified in doing so. Instead Emma smiles and ushers me back stage, sits me down on a white leather couch, and in a thick Australian accent offers me liquor. She looks as though she could be on her way to a magazine photo shoot in her chic leather jacket, skin tight PVC pants, and her Pinterest-inspiring light pink hair. While so many in the music industry we encounter are either jaded or are putting on an act Emma exudes pure appreciation and excitement for her craft. Regretfully, I decline the drink and we sit down for a nice chat.
Relentless Beats: “How did you get started singing? Where did your vocal career start out at?
Emma Hewitt: “You know I always wanted to sing since I was even like 4 and 5 years old. I remember saying to my parents when they would say ‘what do you want to do when you grow up?’ I’d be like: A singer. ‘No ok but what do you want to do for your real job?’ and I be like: no, no, no, a singer, listen to me! But I started singing like blues and rock bands and I was like 16 and I was actually in this small town in Australia. We were in a blues band and we used to do like biker gigs and stuff you know. Like the biker club houses and all the really rough pubs in Australia but I loved it, I was like 17 years old singing in front of a blues band and it was great. Then I went on to pop music, and rock music for a for a while and eventually found my feet in dance music.
RB: “So you didn’t start out in choir classes or church or something?”
EH: laughs “Oh no, no I’m the other way round, I was in the biker clubs in Australia singing in a blues band. And this is where I learned to drink whiskey before I would sing, warms the voice up or whatever. All the rock guys would be like ‘drink a bit of whiskey before you sing it will warm your voice up.’ Doesn’t really fit with the dance music but I still like to be safe you know. A little bit of rock mixed with dance is nice.”
RB: “Who was your blues influence?”
EH: “To be honest I never really grew up listening to blues. It was always more like country rock kind of music when I was younger like listening to bands like Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles. I learned to sing harmonies, I taught myself as a kid driving around Australia doing road trips with my dad hearing The Eagles on the CD and learning to sing the harmonies myself to that. So you know that’s why I love like old American music. I really kind of made me learn to sing I guess. My biggest influences were like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Obviously is doesn’t come through in my music but I love the way that kind of music could capture the feeling.
RB: “That actually leads into my next question: A lot of the best songs in the world are inspired by those really strong emotions like love or hate or even despair. When you are writing a song what really inspires you? What are those emotions that grab you and get you to write those lyrics?”
EH: “I’m always inspired by real life and I’m usually inspired by memories that are very very nostalgic. I’m inspired a lot by my high school years days gone. Like going back to those times often and try to remember those people as much as I can. I feel like Facebook and things like it have ruined that to an extent because the mystery is gone now you know. There are people who you think ‘what happened to this person?’ and you remember them being so much then you look on Facebook and you are like ‘oh nothing.’ But, I feel like I don’t have interest in what those people have become now I’m more interested in remembering them as they were in that particular time and place and that evokes a feeling of like when you were just finishing school and anything was possible. I just go back to that feeling as much as I can and try to capture that feeling within the songs. And that leads back to the inspiration actually. Bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam I feel like in that part of my life they also captured that feeling. Even though musically I may not be inspired by them, I am inspired by that feeling.
RB: “It’s so true, and here is the worst thing about it is that when you have those emotions you look back on that boyfriend or girlfriend that broke up with you and it is such a terrible feeling but wait; I’ve got these great lyrics now! It’s weird that pain can cause something good.”
EH: “Yeah, and I think there was that really unique period of time when you were maybe like 16 or 17 years old when you felt everything for the first time. So everything was stronger but now you are used to pain, or people breaking up with you and used to whatever happens. You can deal with it. Back then it was all the firsts and it was so heartfelt and so life changing so that even one little thing, one day would remain with you for the rest of your life. I always try to go back to those memories and try to remember them as much as I can and put them into songs as much as I can.
RB: “Its like you don’t have a callus built up yet on your emotions.”
EH: “Yeah you aren’t immune to it at all.”
RB: “That must sound terribly cynical.”
EH: No, it’s true it happens to us as we get older. We are like ‘yeah we’ve experienced that a million times’ it doesn’t feel as much anymore I suppose.”
RB: “You talked about riding around with your dad listening to music so you guys had that kind-of bond sharing that. Was there any album when you were growing up that your parents hated and didn’t want you to listen to and had to sneak around to listen to it?
EH: “Actually there was an Australian band at the time, and I don’t think anyone else would know them, but a band called Tumbleweed. They were a big stoner band and I was like 15 listening to them and going to their concerts and stuff. They were huge stoners, really long hair, the songs were great but they never really made it outside of Australia. My parents would say ‘what are you listening to these stoners for? Thats going to encourage you to do drugs.’ But that were singing about things that were real to me at 15 years old and things going on at that time so it mattered to me then.”
RB: “I’m definitely doing a YouTube search of them when I get home now so I can know what the ‘bad girl’ music sounds like.”
EH: (laughs) “They might sound rubbish now to be honest. When you are 16 and you actually go to a pub in a small town in the country in Australia and see the band you were listening to, that was special for us because nobody came to Australia back then, nobody.”
RB: “I’ve heard that before. Like not enough of the big acts don’t go there, like no comedians go there so there is a big draw for entertainers to go there.”
EH: “It’s so far. Like when I was growing up we were so void of international artist that it would be… oh no!” (Behind her a bottle of soda explodes and a crew member leaps in front of the splash to save her.)
RB: “Wow he threw himself in front of it like a bullet!”
EH: (laughs) “He had my back. Cheers, I appreciate that! Anyway I’m wearing PVC that shit will not soak in. I can spill anything on this PVC. No drink is going to get through that. It’s like a wetsuit!”
RB: “I feel like everyone has to wear PVC pants at some point if they have sung on stage. So this is something I’ve noticed a lot lately; dance music obviously brings people together. I was talking to a security guard about this earlier. When you go to a show, any of the big festival shows especially you don’t see people scrapping out there everybody is just hanging out, having fun. You will see people grab random people and start dancing with them. I feel like that bringing together is represented when you guys do a lot of collaborations. Do you think that is a spirit that is kind of shared by the DJs, the vocal artists, and the producers?”
EH: “Yes, most definitely. You know it actually feels like, when you are traveling around going to festivals it almost feels like a big traveling family. It’s like a traveling circus! You meet people like say Morgan Page who is here tonight. We last saw each other a few weeks ago in Montreal and then the next festival we will be somewhere else in three weeks. You see each other again and again in different places and in different parts of the world. It is such a community spirit and everybody in dance music has to support each other. All the DJs, they can’t really play their own music, they have to play other people’s music so they all support each other. If feels like there is such a supportive vibe. Whereas when I used to be in a rock band and I felt that competition. Even the bands that were the same level as you. There was a lot of ‘this is my territory, get off.’ I don’t feel this in dance music. Even going on stage, the first shows I did this is where I knew dance music was my home. My first show I had like two or three tracks out and we were trying to do a live show. And I expected it to be like the rock shows I did. The rock shows would always be like people standing back kind of like, ‘Alright what do you got? Prove it to us.’ It took you half the show to get everybody to put their hands up or dance or clap or anything. With dance music the first show I did I walked out on stage and everyone was like hands in the air and on your side. For me I was like ‘All right, this is my world I love this!’”
RB: It gets you into it as well because now you are in the groove like “lets do it!’”
EH: “Everyone’s got the same energy in the room. Whether you are on stage or in the audience we are all part of the same experience. And it’s not like us versus them which it was in rock music.”
RB: “When you are done with the tour and you want to just kick back and do stuff that’s not music related and you just want to get away from it so that you are not being bugged by people, what do you do?”
EH: “You know the funny thing is I haven’t actually taken time off from touring in about three years. I’ve scheduled to take time off in December in January but all I’m going to do is write. So it’s all still related back to music. At the moment I feel like I need to take time off from touring because writing when you’re on the go all the time everything is just a jumble of ideas in your head. I feel like you need to stop and reflect so then those ideas can then actually become stories. You know things are just random flashing through the air once you stop you can remember everything that’s happened and put them into stories so that they can become songs. Then you can re-tell them. I need to stop for a while and re-tell all these experiences I’ve had so that I can turn them into songs. So that’s why I’m excited about doing it.”
RB: “So will you be going on holiday?”
EH: “No holidays, just some writing. But that is a holiday for me. I am going back to Australia actually where my family is and I’m just going to sit by the beach and just write songs. Just try to remember everything that’s happened in the last two years and turn them into songs.”
RB: “That says a lot about you that you can’t stop. This is a common answer with anybody who is a musician. They feel like ‘I can’t relax. If I relax I lose that momentum.’”
EH: “Yes exactly. It feels like if you have that thought for a second that, oh shit everything’s all good then it’s a catastrophe. You don’t want to feel that when you are in music. You never want to feel like anything’s ending, you want to feel like you are always progressing. Even if you take a back step for a little while, you’re turning it into something different it is still has to be a progression.”
RB: “That’s how you know you love it.”
EH: “Yeah, yeah exactly.”
RB: “So what is the next big festival for you? EDC in Vegas?”
EH: “I’m not sure, that’s like a whole year away so I really hope so. New Year’s Eve I am doing the Insomniac party in LA or in Denver. Next weekend we are doing Give Thanks in San Jose. It’s going to be great, really fun. I’ve never been there. And after that I am taking most of December and most of January off just to write. It will be like New Years Eve and then hopefully the rest of the time is writing.”
RB: “You meet a lot of people while you are on tour, eventually you are going to get star struck by someone. If there is one person you could take a selfie with, who would it be?”
EH: “Nick Cave”
EH: “Nick Cave, he’s this Australian really underground kind of like poet. He’s like talks his songs, he’s amazing. Check out his stuff, he’s got a new documentary called 20,000 Days On Earth. Really inspiring. Or Kenny Powers!”
RB: “The Kenny Powers or the guy who plays him?”
EH: “The who plays Kenny Powers! He used to live in my building but I never actually managed to catch him. Of all the people if I could just catch him, the guy who plays Kenny Powers I would definitely ask him for a photo.”
RB: Thank you so much for your time Emma and hopefully we will see you at EDC.