As the nights draw in, it seems that our music tastes shift as well. The songs that defined our summer are replaced with more reflective fare and if you’re looking for something that falls perfectly into this category, look no further than Emilie & Ogden‘s debut record 10,000. AMBY had the absolute pleasure to see Emilie Kahn’s support slot opening for Half Moon Run and caught up with her to discuss her fondness for Taylor Swift, carrying her harp Ogden around Europe, and what it actually takes to produce such a personal record.
AMBY: Welcome to Manchester. How has the tour been treating you so far?
Emilie: The tour has been a strange and amazing journey so far. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s been so worth it to get to share the stage with Half Moon Run every night. Plus I’ve gotten to discover some beautiful cities over here and meet some great people.
AMBY: Your debut album was released earlier this month and it is a truly wonderful, beautiful record. With a record so personal, what are the feelings you experience as the release date approaches?
Emilie: Thank you for the kind words. It’s pretty incredible to realize my music is reaching people all the way over here in the UK and I definitely hope people here will connect with it on a personal level.
AMBY: The record is a magical mix full of intimacy and yearning. What did you intend to create when you went into the studio and has it panned out the way you hoped?
Emilie: I did want to make music that was quite intimate and honest and I’m glad to hear that’s what came across. It maybe turned a bit poppier and more orchestrated than I had originally imagined. The songs always take shape first with just my voice and the harp and then you get into the studio and you’ve got so much to play with, sometimes you have to stop and take a step back. But as long as the original intention came across I’m happy.
AMBY: You’ve worked with Jesse MacCormack for a long time. Can you describe in layman’s terms his role in the process and the effect he has had on the record?
Emilie: I would bring Jesse the heart and soul of a song and he would sort of build the flesh around it. I think the music would have remained much more acoustic and stripped down without him. He definitely had a big part in shaping my sound.
AMBY: What other production factors did you obsess over in order to create the record?
Emilie: My main obsession was with my voice coming through; I think the singing sort of drives the songs and is the most important element in telling the story. At one point we scrapped all my vocals and went out to the country to redo them and that time around we did most of the songs in one take. That’s when we sort of just embraced the imperfections in my singing that can actually be very humanizing and I think make the vocals feel more intimate.
AMBY: How do these songs and your performance differ in the live environment?
Emilie: The songs are maybe a bit more stripped down than on the album, but for me the way they come across always depends on the energy from the audience. I like playing to a crowd that’s curious and engaged and having that breaths new life into the songs.
AMBY: There’s the cliché that the tortured artist is able to create better art. Were you in pain when you created 10,000?
Emilie: [laughs] Yes I am for sure a tortured artist and I think I do my best writing when I’m emotionally distressed and I’m not sure that will ever change. But who knows, maybe one day I’ll write a happy song.
AMBY: I love your cover of Style. What was it about the song that led you to want to re-imagine it in your own ‘style’?
Emilie: I really like pop music and Taylor Swift and when the song came out I was going through the same sort of situation described in the lyrics. I wanted to strip it down and bring it back into my world and surprise people a little bit at my shows.
AMBY: What’s your favourite cover of all time?
Emilie: I really love this cover Lorde does of a song by The Replacements called “Swingin’ Party”- she strips it down and taps into the soul of that song.
AMBY: Which song that you’ve written are you most proud of and why?
Emilie: I think looking back at the album now, I’m proud of it as a whole and I can’t really choose one song. Besides, I think my best work is yet to come.
AMBY: The harp possesses esoteric qualities and I was wondering if you could explain what is so special about Ogden.
Emilie: For me the harp is the only instrument that really affects me emotionally; you just play one string and all the strings resonate sympathetically and create so many overtones, I find it overwhelming.
AMBY: Considering your choice of instrument, there are the obvious and probably quite tedious comparisons with Joanna Newsom, but I was wondering if there are other musical heroes who have influenced the record.
Emilie: As a teenager I was listening to a lot of female indie singer-songwriters who definitely shaped what I do now. I was pretty obsessed with Feist and Emily Haines to name a few.
AMBY: Considering the cumbersome nature of the instrument, touring must never be easy. Have you had a moment that you would describe as a Spinal Tap moment on the tour so far?
Emilie: My harp isn’t so bad since it’s a smaller one, but we did have to take it on a crowded train between Paris and Frankfurt and ended up having to store it in the bathroom, which had a lot of passengers getting angry with us in German which we couldn’t understand.
Thank you Emilie & Ogden, for giving us your answers!
Interview by Iain Fox | @IainFoxPhoto