Emily Green is no stranger to the power of ultimatums. For the singer-songwriter behind the single ‘My Kinda Swag’, an anthem whose incandescent hook and surround-sound chorus is bound to spark joy in the hardest-hearted pop music cynic, few questions have proved as revealing as “what would you do if you had a year to live?”
“Since I was young, I’ve always loved telling stories,” laughs Emmi, who trained as an actor and dancer before writing songs for artists in Berlin, New York, LA and London, including Little Nikki and Leona Lewis. “One day, my mum asked me ‘what would you do if you only had twelve months left, would you still write for other people?’ And then I realised I wouldn’t and that it doesn’t matter if my voice is good – all that matters is that I have something to say.”
Emmi, who was born in England and grew up in Perth, Western Australia via Alice Springs and Papua New Guinea, has since made a habit of honouring her own vision – even if it meant delaying chances for a big break. She decided to fund her own videos and release her music on Youtube and Soundcloud instead of drawing on existing industry relationships. Luckily, it wasn’t long before her heartfelt lyrics and addictive harmonies started to work its magic on listeners.
“I’d worked with labels previously but I wanted to do it organically, create my own world and put something out there myself,” explains Emmi, who grew up listening to gospel and whose freewheeling musical influences run the gamut from Nina Simone to Tupac. “I was working five, six jobs when I started. It was such a big challenge to get heard on the Internet as an independent artist and put videos on credit cards. It was my own risk and my own money and I had no idea if it was going to work. But then the blog world started supporting me and Apple and Spotify found my music and put me on feature pages. In January, BBC Radio 1 picked up ‘My Kinda Swag’. Things just started happening.”
Although Emmi, who radiates the kind of energy and optimism you wish you could bottle, is blown away by the early response to her music, one endorsement in particular still has her floored. In October last year, Taylor Swift advised fans that there were five songs that would make their lives more awesome: Emmi’s track ‘Sleep On It’, whose urgent bass and plaintive lyrics are an electro-pop ode to the last days of a relationship, was included in the now-viral list.
“It was amazing as it was my second song out!” marvels Emmi, who will spend the next year touring Australia, the UK and the US. “I’ve always been such a Taylor fan – I have so much respect for her as a businessperson and a songwriter. I still don’t know how it happened. I thought it was a hoax. She misspelt my name in the note and I actually thought: do I change my name at this point?”
But Emmi isn’t about to let the hype that’s started to mount around her work sway her devotion to her personal path. “‘My Kinda Swag’ was recorded in five hours and it became an anthem for all the good people in my life and all the qualities that impress me,” she smiles. “No one knows how to make it as an artist but the key is to keep going and to remember why you’re doing it. It doesn’t matter who likes or doesn’t like what you do. For me, with all my insecurities, the only way I can be a musician is to have a clear purpose. Success is only arbitrary.”