Artist Interviews


By | Published on Wednesday 30 March 2011


South Dakota-born EMA, real name Erika M Anderson, made a gutsy move to LA aged eighteen, dabbling with alt-rockers Amps For Christ and releasing a 2007 album with drone-folk pairing Gowns before electing to go solo. Not doing things by halves, she set critics agog earlier this year with seven-minute album taster ‘The Grey Ship’, which was backed by an even lengthier experimental cover of Robert Johnson’s ‘Kind Hearted Woman’.

Debut album ‘Past Life Martyred Saints’ incorporates EMA’s grassroots blues influences with a loose, instinctive songwriting style that’s all husky vocals and lapping tides of distortion.

New song ‘California’ is currently making rounds on the web, fuelling anticipation for the album release on 9 May through Souterrain Transmissions. Ahead of several upcoming UK dates which commence with a headline show on 11 May at London’s Macbeth, we caught up with EMA for answers to our Same Six Questions.

Q1 How did you start out making music?
I got a red Fender Strat knockoff for a gift when I was about twelve. I think I was just born to be an artist in general, but there wasn’t any fine art in my town so it didn’t even occur to me. Rock n roll, on the other hand, was definitely part of the culture.

Q2 What inspired your latest album?
My latest album was just inspired by getting back up after I had been down for a while. I also got a chance to work on it in a sweet studio. Not a pro/rock studio, but a really nice “home” studio where I could take my time and play to get everything right.

Q3 What process do you go through in creating a track?

It’s a varied process. Oftentimes I will start with a completely improvised take and build on it in the mixing process. Sometimes I find that if I try to retrack it I can never get the original quality of the first take, the honest inflections that come out when you don’t know what is going to come next. I’m starting to explore other ways though, like actually writing a song, practicing it and trying to get a take I like! To each their own.

Q4 Which artists influence your work?
I feel like I’ve taken a lot from artier producers like Laurie Anderson and Meredith Monk. But my background will always be in pop radio. There is something amazing in every decade and because people are so exposed to it they intuitively understand what the sonic shorthand means, ie gated snare vs Brill Building plate reverb. I love to throw it all together.

Q5 What would you say to someone experiencing your music for the first time?
On first blush it seems noisy, but there are actually lots of hooks!

Q6 What are your ambitions for your latest album, and for the future?
I’m just looking to get a really solid live band together and have touring go really smoothly. I have a great band right now but we haven’t done any long tours yet. I want to get a nice routine down for that as otherwise life on the road can be a killer. After that I’d like to work with some rappers.