Last week I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down for a chat with Emma Moore. Emma is a woman after my own heart – just a girl from the north west who grew up obsessed with Shania Twain. It was so much fun to hear Emma’s take on those classic albums, as well as her insight into songwriting and great advice – and of course, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask what made her country!
Let’s start with an introduction – tell me about you.
I’m in Blackpool – that’s where I was born and raised. I’ve travelled a bit, I was in London for last year just songwriting for the entire year, I went down and did a Masters in it so I got to completely focus on that. But I’m back in the north west.
I got into music the same way most people do, just what my parents were listening to when I was little and for me that was a lot of Tammy Wynette, Patsy Cline, and Lorrie Morgan, because I’m a 90s kid. We had Reba on, we had Dolly, Faith Hill – I think I would’ve been about 7 or 8 when Dixie Chicks released Wide Open Spaces and Shania Twain released Come On Over, and they were the iconic albums that I obsessed with as a kid.
IS there one song you remember hearing that turned you into a country fan?
I think one of the earliest was probably Blue by LeAnn Rimes, I remember listening to that in the car when I was really tiny. I remember being really small and listening to that and I loved the sound of it, the melody – I didn’t understand what the song was about, I was way too young to have any idea about lyrics but the sound of her voice was captivating to me and the bluesy feel… although I had no idea what blues was or what country was. But I still get excited singing that song now.
I remember we always used to play Shania Twain’s earlier albums – Shania Twain and The Woman In Me – and when I was a really small kid I used to sing those songs so seriously although I had no idea what those songs were about.
With all that said then, is there one song or artist who steered you towards making country music?
I wouldn’t say there’s anyone that I try to sound like, but I didn’t realise there was new country music being written until maybe five years ago, because we lost CMT and I was in my musical theatre era, and then I heard Miranda Lambert. I just found Mama’s Broken Heart somewhere on Youtube and had no idea why, I don’t know how I came across that song but I was like, ‘oh my god this chick is amazing.’ Her album Platinum was about to come out or had just come out, and all of a sudden, I was like ‘OH, there’s more than just these ten 90s albums that I’m still playing on repeat 15-20 years later!’ So [Miranda Lambert] kind of opened me back up to the new country music that was being written, it just didn’t go anywhere, it wasn’t being promoted over here, we kind of lost that connection with it. So that was really kind of pivotal.
And then I would say Brandy Clark is the one that made me fall in love with songwriting as a whole. I was always very artist-focused and never really thought much about writing my own music, that kind of happened accidentally. And it just happened that everything I wrote had this country feel to it – it was obviously those early influences coming out without me even thinking about it.
Five songs that defined your country journey:
Tell me about your songwriting process.
It hasn’t changed an awful lot and it probably should have after uni! But I like to constantly be writing – in my room now I probably have about 12 notebooks dotted around, and my phone is full of notes. And I found all of these notes I’ve written on, tiny scraps of paper and cloakroom tickets with bits of lyric on. I have to keep constantly writing any little idea down and when I get some time to sit and play guitar or piano – usually guitar, I write a lot more on guitar – I’ll just try to get into the mindset of some of these notes or put myself back into a situation where I was going through whatever is on the paper. And then I’ll just play around in different keys and different chords and try and match the feeling to the chord and the tempo. And just go from there – it’s not an overly technical way of mixing everything together.
I like to leave a recording going and I’ll just play lines over and over until I settle on a melody that I like and I usually end up writing verses first. I like writing verses because that’s where all the story goes and the detail. I find that a lot easier than trying to write a chorus.
Sometimes it’s really quick, you can write a full song in a couple of hours and it just pours out of you, and then it’s either done or you go back to it a few days later. ‘This isn’t so strong, maybe we should move these words around, there’s a better way to say this’ – or sometimes I’ve just left it. And then I’ve had songs that I’ve written over a year or two, where I’ve had this little section that I’ll go back to where I don’t know where the story should go or where I want it to go or how it should sound, so I’ll just go back to that.
I just keep everything, even songs I know are terrible or that don’t seem very ‘me’, I’ll keep them and I go through them every now and then, you never know when you’re gonna want it for a co-write or steal one line from it to give you a whole new song.
However you write or whatever you write, I think it’s good for you, no matter what you do, whether you write poems or lyrics or songs or stories, even if no one hears them I think it’s a good thing for you to do as a person. It’s so good for you.
This lockdown period seems to bring about quite a divide between those who are finding it good for their creativity and those who aren’t – how are you finding it?
I change my mind daily! I’m quite used to spending time on my own so that’s not been too bad, although I’m used to being able to at least go outside a little more and go to certain places. And then I have days where I’m super creative and I just wanna write and try and make music and learn new skills… and some days I’m like ‘what for? I have no idea when I’m next gonna be able to gig.’
I’ve been trying to plan my next album for so long and I was just at the beginning process of that but now I’m like ‘I don’t know how I’m gonna pay for that’ – so it’s hard to motivate yourself to want to write and to think creatively because I don’t wanna sit on songs for two years, or by the time I get the money to record this I’ll want a whole new bunch of songs because I’ll be in such a different place. It’s so strange and just the uncertainty of it all is hard for everyone I think.
So you talked about how your songwriting process hasn’t changed that much – even though that hasn’t evolved, how do you think your music has evolved?
Oh it’s definitely grown. I think the way that I write is the same but I think about different things than when I used to write. I used to have this – I don’t want to call it a problem because I don’t think it is a problem – but this issue around the truth because I always wanted songs to be 100% truthful. I think studying it and concentrating on it so much allowed me to realise the difference between ‘authentic’ and ‘truth’.
I used to have bad lines in a song because that’s what happened. I used to be a slave to the truth – ‘it didn’t really happen that way’ – and then somewhere along the line it clicked, this is not an autobiography. You’re not on a lie detector test. You are allowed to be creative with a story. For me, the emotional truth is more important. To evolve details and embellish details to make them into a well-crafted song is okay, and I used to have a really big problem with that.
Even little examples like – I wrote a song where age was quite important, and I’m 29, but in the song I wrote 31 because that fitted with the lyric and the rhyme and the metre of the song. Me a year ago would’ve had a really big problem with that. But it doesn’t change the song.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I don’t think so! Such a boring response, I’ve pretty much spent all of my life working towards music, never really wanted to do anything else. Although I have discovered this week I can make a pretty good cookie! I’ve never baked biscuits before, my first attempt went very well, so maybe I’m secretly a great cookie baker.
What is one talent you wish you had?
I wish that I could read music super well, and so effortlessly like I see so many musicians do. It’s just something I never really put enough effort into learning. I can read the basic notation, but it’s so boring to learn. I wish I could just look at a page of music and know what it all meant.
What is your favourite song to perform?
Oh that’s such a good question! My favourite cover is either Let ‘Er Rip by Dixie Chicks or American Scandal by Ashley McBryde. That’s my new one and my old one that I absolutely love. I think my favourite [of my own songs] would either be Waiting For You, which is the new one, because it’s so intimate and ever since the first time I played it, people just go silent. It doesn’t always happen with your own original music but there’s definitely just an atmosphere when that song gets played, I love that interaction. And then Trouble – so if I do a full band show, 99% of the time we will close the set with Trouble. It’s a really easy, easy-listening song, really simple, and there’s a long guitar solo at the end which both of my guitar players split, so they both get to have their moment. That’s always really cool. Usually that’s the one most people like singing along with, it’s just a really nice way to end a show, it’s a lot of fun.
What song would you most like to perform, but haven’t?
That’s a GREAT question, I’ve never been asked that before! We’re working on one of my favourite Brandi Carlile songs, I’m obsessed with her – as a band project, we’re doing Pride and Joy. I just wanna save it until we’ve got it so perfect.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
I think all of the people who say ‘just stay who you are’, don’t try and chase what you think people want. That’s been said by a lot of people so I couldn’t give you a specific name. But a lot of people mention that. You know, Ashley McBryde was one who was constantly told ‘no’ by labels, you know, lose weight, straighten your hair, be more girly – and it just wasn’t who she was, or is. And after like, 11 years of struggling, she got signed and adored by everyone because she’s who she is.
So all of the people like that, who say ‘don’t try and guess what everybody wants’ because 1. You’ll get it wrong, 2. It won’t be true to who you are, and it’s just never gonna work out – just be you, and be you loudly.
So many! I think Brandi Carlile is top of the list at the moment. I just don’t know how I would be trying to sing around her, I think I’d just be a complete mess! Yeah, Brandi Carlile or Brandy Clark.
Pineapple on pizza: I don’t hate it, wouldn’t be my first choice.
Best biscuit in the tin: I like the crunchy crumbly ones like cookies but they’re coated with chocolate on the back. I think Fox’s make them.
Tea or coffee: I like coffee in the morning and tea throughout the day. I couldn’t pick, I love them both. Such a caffeine addict.
3 items you never leave the house without: My phone, lipbalm, chewing gum.
Would you rather hug Voldemort or Gollum: Voldemort, I think.
What colour is your toothbrush: white and blue
If there’s a spider in the house, do you kill it or set it free: no, I scream, cry and shout my dad!
I’ve an acoustic version of Waiting For You which came out on Friday 17th [April], and then I’ve recorded some acoustic videos in January that I’m going to stagger the release of. A lot of it is playing by ear, I’ve just had a tour cancelled – we’re still talking about it trying to put dates in and put the tour together. And then writing for album number 2!
Message for fans:
Just look after yourselves and each other, that’s all we can really do at the minute. Try and listen to your favourite music. I’d copy Ashley McBryde’s advice and pick an album you love and listen to it start to finish, in order just throw yourself in and lose yourself in it.