Energy and artistry: How Emma Louise found her creative flow

This September Emma Louise will bring Lilac Everything, her stunning third album, to Australia for the first time. A single from that record named Falling Apart was our number one song of 2018; needless to say, we’re very excited about the tour.

Ahead of those shows, we jumped on the phone with Emma to find out what she’s been up to since Lilac Everything dropped. As she tells us, a large part of the time was spent on the writing of her yet-to-be-announced fourth record – among other things.

emma louise interview lilac everything tour happy mag
Photo: Thom Kerr

Before she brings Lilac Everything to Australian audiences for the very first time, we spoke to Emma Louise.

HAPPY: You’re about to bring Lilac Everything to Australia for the first time, about nine months after the album came out. Was there some trepidation on your end about touring the record?

EMMA: Definitely, it was nothing to do with the album, I think it was… I don’t know if I was maybe a little burnt out or something, I’m not too sure but I could feel that I wasn’t ready. Actually you know what? I think it was because I was writing so much, I’ve finished writing my next album and we’re recording it in July. And when we started booking a tour and stuff, it felt weird to be touring because I was writing so much and I didn’t want to interrupt the flow of that. Now it’s perfect timing, I’ve finished writing the album and by September I’ll have the next album finished.

HAPPY: Awesome, I was going to ask what you’ve been up to since the album came out but I think you just covered it.

EMMA: Yeah, I’ve been writing a lot and also I’ve started doing sculpture, which I’ve really grown invested in it.

HAPPY: What kind of sculpture?

EMMA: I’m using clay with ceramics at the moment and also concrete, I’m doing some garden sculptures as well. I don’t really know what time of sculpture, it’s a feeling.

HAPPY: I’ve heard you call Lilac Everything quite a masculine period for you creatively. If you could label the last six months in a similar way, what would you call it?

EMMA: I mean I’m definitely in touch with a more feminine energy. It’s funny, when I was in Mexico – I went to Mexico to write Lilac Everything – I went to see this healer who lived in this village, he could hardly speak any English. And he put his hands on my ovaries for maybe half an hour, and he was like, ‘you need to get in touch with your feminine energy, you’re really masculine and you’re really out of balance’. At the time I didn’t really know what he was talking about, I was like, ‘that’s cool’.

But I’ve come to really understand that I really was not in touch with my feminine energy and I had become very masculine, and I honestly think it was because I was, a lot of the time, by myself. Basically I think I’d stopped myself from having relationships, I wasn’t open to the feminine side of myself. I think that was blocking a lot of parts of me, I don’t know. I definitely feel more feminine, and I’ve just been creating a lot, I want to keep in the flow of creation. That’s a big, weird answer.

HAPPY: No, I liked it! You paint as well, is that right?

EMMA: I do paint, yes. I haven’t really been painting lately, I’ve been doing a lot of drawings. Mostly this sculpture stuff is… I’m pretty obsessed with it. I love it.

HAPPY: Do those, I guess more physical outputs, mirror your songwriting in any way? For instance is there a Supercry era of drawing or a Lilac Everything phase with your visual art as well?

EMMA: I’d say that it doesn’t really mirror the writing, but it does really help alleviate the creative pressure, you know? I realised about myself that if I’m not making something, I tend to get quite sad and maybe a little self-destructive in a weird way, and making stuff I feel so happy, I feel so connected to some kind of force all the time. Doing the visual art really just helps me keep connected to creation and it really alleviates the pressure of songwriting, so I end up actually writing more because there’s no pressure on it.

HAPPY: To go back to Lilac Everything for a moment, can I ask how the pitched down vocals were actually done? Was it in the box or did you use a live vocal effect?

EMMA: It was done afterwards, so it was done in the mixing process by Shawn Everett, but it was literally in the last session of adding harmonies when I was like, ‘we need to pitch it down’. Tobias [Jesso Jr] was the only one who wasn’t saying ‘you’re crazy’, but it was definitely meant to be.

HAPPY: Nice, I was just wondering how you take that live. I’ve seen a few videos of you performing in a studio so I know there’s some kind of…

EMMA: Yeah, so to perform live I use a pedal.

HAPPY: Is it like singing into a vocoder where you’re meant to hit the lower note, or are you singing at the pitch you recorded them?

EMMA: It’s a formant shift, so it only changes the tone of your voice.

HAPPY: Nice. To jump back to the new album, has doing Lilac Everything with this big creative jump at the end made you open to a more experimental studio experience?

EMMA: I totally am, I don’t have any idea of what the album is going to look or sound or feel like in the end, you know I’m keeping super open and not making any decisions, just seeing what comes out of that. But I’m definitely pretty open to these things. Also, I feel like all I’ve got is these songs, and I really want it to be about these songs.

HAPPY: So whatever happens, happens?

EMMA: Yeah, totally.

Catch Emma Louise live on her upcoming Lilac Everything tour:

Thursday September 12 – Sooki Lounge, Belgrave VIC – Tickets
Friday September 13 – Corner Hotel, Richmond VIC – Tickets
Saturday September 14 – Tanks Art Centre, Cairns QLD – Tickets
Thursday 19 September – Brisbane Festival – The Tivoli, Brisbane QLD – Tickets
Friday September 20 – The Factory Theatre, Sydney NSW – Tickets
Saturday September 21 – Byron Bay Brewery, Byron Bay NSW – Tickets