Q + A With Emma Yue

Hey there, my name is Emma!! I’m a songwriter based in Naarm (Melbourne) and I own too many candles. I write songs because I feel things and want to (hopefully) make other people feel things too. One of my biggest goals in music is to help make people feel less alone in their experiences, like someone really gets them and they have an emotional outlet through my songs. I write pretty autobiographically about my life, which includes topics like mental health, relationships and identity (and sometimes which candles smell the best). 

Hi, thanks for taking the time to chat with Hear 2 Zen, what have you been up to today?

Today has been my first morning off in a horrendous amount of time, so I actually got a little bit of a sleep in and a read before my day starts (which was great because I run a bookclub and lowkey need a small refresher on the book for this month before I see them all). You’ve caught me pretty early in the day, so literally all I’ve done is had brekky (baked beans on toast, can’t go wrong) and do this!! 

Tell us about yourself, how long have you been performing/creating music for? 

My musician origin story begins mid-high school, picture peak 2015 tumblr era Emma writing angsty teenage music in her bedroom and singing them to her dog. Right as I was about to finish high school, I decided that it would be pretty damn cool to share my music, and here I am now a few years later doing exactly that!!    

Who are your greatest inspirations?  Why?

It would be rude to not firstly name Taylor Swift, I grew up on her music and I often get people saying that I sound like her, which is honestly the highest compliment to me as a songwriter. More recently, I’ve been really taking notice and inspiration of artists who share incredibly vulnerable music, because that’s the sort of music that makes me feel the most. Some of these include Lizzy McAlpine, Gracie Abrams, RAYE, Boygenius and Maisie Peters. You’ll also note that all of these artists have been women, and while that was unintentional I stand by it. We love women in this house. 

How do you create music?  Are you lyrics/story driven, or does the music/melody come first?  Explain your process.

I am a super emotional person so most of my songs begin with a strong emotion involved. Sometimes when the song takes shape it becomes about a specific event that made me feel this emotion, for example Lonely Lover is about my (annoyingly regular) experience with loneliness but also about a specific instance that made me feel lonely. Other times the music just becomes about that emotion in general and what’s going on in my heart rather than in the world. Songwriting is a form of therapy for me (Medicare please fund me buying pretty guitars and amps and a new keyboard. Pretty please?).       

What has been your greatest challenge so far in performing/creating music?

I’m a bit of a classic musician stereotype with this one but definitely the self doubt. I don’t have the most interesting or stunning voice and it can be hard to feel like I deserve space in the music scene because of it. Usually when I start to think negatively about it I try and remind myself that I’m not doing music to be the most talented singer or musician, I’m doing it to create something that I love and I resonate with. 

Tell us about your new release, Lonely Lover, how did it come about?

The song was born out of being fed up with loneliness and it was my attempt and creating something positive with this emotion that had really weighed me down for a while. It was my little way of going “hey, I don’t have to feel this way forever, and maybe I have to start being what I need for myself instead of waiting for someone else to do it”. I wrote it super quickly in the days following a night out with some friends who have known each other since childhood, and seeing their familiarity with each other reminded me of the loneliness that has come with moving countries twice and having to start over in my friendships.

What advice do you have to artists who are just starting out?

It’s so easy to get caught up in self doubt, in comparing yourself to others who might have grown an audience quicker than you or get more streams than you, in wondering what is even the point when capitalism is magnetising the divide between the rich and poor and the left wing and the right wing and people who like Taylor Swift and people who don’t, but you gotta keep your eyes on what’s important: cheese. 

I’m joking, it’s what makes you happy about creating (plus I’m lactose intolerant). 

Tell us your favourite Zen practice.

As someone with ADHD I often struggle with a lot of the general zen principles that you hear, mostly about being present and clearing your mind. Meditation and I are not friends, although I’m sure I would benefit a lot from that friendship. Things I try and do regularly are exercise and not over intellectualize my feelings and just let them be.