Emily King: Independent Freedom

Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Emily King is making her return to independence after taking some time off since parting ways with J Records.

King first started her music career at the age of 19, which was largely due to her growing up in a jazz household. She released her first studio album ‘East Side Story’ back in August 2007 at the age of 22, which was Grammy nominated for “Best Contemporary R&B Album of the Year.” Following that, she then continued to perform as an opening act for various artists including Alicia Keys, Nas, Erykah Badu, and even Chaka Khan. However, soon after, King parted ways with her label.

Three years later, the 26-year-old soulful crooner independently releases her ‘Seven’ EP in July 2011, which has been receiving nothing short of high praises, including from R&B singer-songwriter Ne-Yo. King is making a strong effort to demonstrate her return to music, and recently spoke with Singersroom on her brief hiatus, as well as becoming an independent artist again.

Singersroom: I know it was a long process in creating your ‘Seven’ EP, since it’s been a while since we’ve heard from you. What was going on in your head during this album process… from the recording/songwriting process to choosing the songs and title for the project?

Emily King: Well first thing, I was dropped from my label, and I pretty much felt relieved about that. But then time goes by, and you start to get confused. I guess that stemming from my lack of money to get into a real studio. I bought a microphone and a preamp, and I started recording in my grandmother’s closet. So I think a lot of the theme of this EP is kind of isolation. For a lot of that time, I was in a little room away from everyone else. That was a big part of the process. Another part of it was meeting other artists that really inspired me, and kind of making friendships. All of that inspired the song.

Singersroom: So was it a relief to be dropped from J Records in a sense of being able to do your own thing now, or just not have to be controlled by the label politics anymore?

Emily King: Yeah. It was what in my specific situation [that] I was happy to resign from. I don’t know… I grew up in a jazz household, with music first. Being in that situation, all of the pressure is around all these other variables that don’t involve making the best music that you can. I was always battling that my whole time being at the label. I always had to make compromises for my creativity. That’s why I was relieved because I could finally make a go for what I thought was good music.

Singersroom: In your opinion, what are the pros & cons of being an independent artist?

Emily King: Well when I was at the label, some of the really great things now looking back (I don’t know if I realized it then), was having this team of people that everyday they go to work, and they’re like “How do we make this successful?” That was definitely a pro, if that was what your team was doing hopefully. Also deadlines, because when you’re an independent artist, you have all the time in the world, or well at least I did. Things kinda get pushed back. I learned to be my own disciplinary for the first time, which was really hard. [Laughs]. There are definitely pros and cons for sure.

Singersroom: So what have you learned from being signed with a major label?

Emily King: I learned a lot about the business, and how things work. Before I was signed, I had this naïve image of everything. I remember when I was younger, I just assumed that most artists produced, wrote, and were really involved in their shit. When I got on the label, I just saw how the whole thing was like a factory. That was eye opening.

I also learned how to handle myself in certain situations, and I learned I can say “no” when I’m not comfortable with some things. I had to go through not knowing that and fucking up; I realize now that if you’re going to take a risk, it might as well be with yourself.

Singersroom: Like you said, being at a major is much like a factory. Did that ever distort your image on being in the music industry at all?

Emily King: I can see definitely how that can make me a bitter person, but there were a lot of great people that I met and a lot of positive experiences. Everybody’s just trying to survive; it’s not personal. The corporate world has their thing, and it’s proving not to work out, so we have to find alternatives. I don’t feel like I’m jaded or anything like that. I’m looking towards the future.

Singersroom: Then would you ever consider signing with a label again, or is that out the picture at this point?

Emily King: I don’t know. I’ve had offers but I definitely don’t want to repeat history. I have a lot of friends who are artists who did the whole label scene, and now are doing an indie label deal. I guess there are no rules, since people are shaping their deals in new ways. If the right situation comes along, I wouldn’t be opposed.

Singersroom: What would you say is the hardest part about being an independent artist?

Emily King: The hardest part? NO MONEY! [Laughs] That’s definitely a hard part, but it also makes you improvise and try to figure out… ‘How can I do this? How can I do the same thing on a label on my own?’ I didn’t have the big recording budget that I had with the label. It’s definitely hard when you don’t have money… Everything is harder when you don’t have money. But one thing I learned is that friends mean a lot in this world. You have to be good to people and it pays off.

Singersoom: Isn’t it more rewarding to do everything on your own in a way?

Emily King: It is! It definitely is! I think the most rewarding this is having something that I enjoy. I just want to make music that I like to listen to. That’s kinda my goal in life right now. I just want to keep doing that.

Singersroom: What’s your ultimate goal with music though?

Emily King: I’d like to be more prolific. It took a lot of time to make this, but it was a lot of growing pains and learning how to work equipment and technical stuff. Now that it’s out, I just want to keep releasing music. I want to make as much stuff as I can while I’m here.

Singersroom: [Laughs] So now with your EP out, what’s next for you at this point?

Emily King: I’m working on some more songs. I’d like to release a second batch for a full-length album. And just working with different artists… writing for a couple of artists. I’ve been with my band, and we’ve been rehearsing so we’re going to be doing some shows and the whole tour thing. I’m looking forward to that! I’m just on the grind right now.

Singersroom: What other artists are you working with at this point?

Emily King: There’s a wonderful artist by the name of Jose James, who I have been working on some music with. He’s getting started on an album, and there have been a couple of songs that we’ve been doing together. I’m excited about that.

It’s cool because when you’re with a label, everything is politics. You’re working with this artist for political reasons. Now you’re just ‘Wow we dig you. I dig your work. Let’s connect some how.’ I’ve been able to work with some amazing artists.

Singersroom: Just curious… How do you feel about mainstream music today, as far as what is put on the radio?

Emily King: Some of it I like, some of it I don’t like. [Laughs]. I don’t know… The radio is a little fad, because everything is so controlled. It’s unfortunate, because a lot of people still listen to the radio and they should be able to connect with some of these great artists out here. So hopefully that’s going to have some type of evolution in the next years. But that’s what the Internet is for… People can find it in different ways.
—— By: Interview By Connie Tang


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