There has been a lot of talk in the industry lately regarding the not-so-balanced scales when it comes to being a female artist. For L.A based singer-songwriter EMM, it feels like a battle she's been fighting for the entirety of her career, with the glimmering hope that one day the scales will move again. But if there's anything we've learned over the course of history is that change rarely occurs without solidarity. So on this International Women's Day, EMM shares an exclusive playlist close to her heart, showcasing all the badass women making strides in the industry today.
A quick skim over the list of women here should bring one word to mind: courage. It's what spurs on the self-produced compositions and emotional vocal performances, but more importantly, it's what allows these artists to drop the pretence and share their personal stories with the world. A concept she herself adopts freely, openly sharing her own dark moments in her music and public posts alike. "I think so many artists feel they're being empowering because they just speak about positive things all the time," she confesses to me over an insightful phone conversation. "It's so hard for people to be vulnerable, but think of how much more it means to someone else to hear you talking about it, and say 'yeah I'm depressed, but...' and something positive versus never talking about [the struggle] at all."
Being brutally honest has never seemed like a brand strategy or a practiced method to her, either. She released her 2016 bedroom mixtape Burning In The Dark while battling depression and suicidal thoughts, a story she never shied away from revealing to her fans. It was simply the only way she knew how to fit inside the confines of a budding pop artist. Even if it meant sacrificing momentum for her own peace of mind. "For me, impact is so much more important than being huge. If I have to grow a little bit slower but I get to have way more impact that means a lot more to me than if I have 20 million followers but I'm saying nothing of substance because I'm too scared".
Of course, practicing authenticity in an industry that is filled with endless board room talks about which person you should market to your audience isn't an easy task. She begrudgingly recounts managers who have tried to change her hair colour, weight, and the way she dressed. It's not a new revelation by any means, but one that makes true trailblazers stand out, even more, when they finally come along. "As an artist, Beyoncé literally taught me how to love myself. She was a voice of self-worth in my world when no other woman was," she launches into a list of her most revered idols, excitedly adding, "Christina Aguilera during her 'Stripped' era was highly influential on me, just her courage and lack of body shame. She was just someone who didn't give a fuck and I thought that was so empowering when I was young." But true to her inclusion of female artists of all kinds, she saves a one-of-a-kind icon for last. "I just saw Linda Perry on the street the other day," she gushes over the former 4 Non Blondes lead singer and successful songwriter and producer for acts such as Aguilera ("Beautiful") and Pink ("Get The Party Started"). "I chased her down. She was one of the first women I could look at that was a producer and be like 'oh there are women who produce music and are amazing'. I fangirled so hard."
The most promising part of any women's celebration—international or not—is the acceptance of each other. Successful women supporting other women. It's a trialing process at times, but with voices like EMM's in the mix, I have full confidence that soon it will fade from being a topic that needs any discussion, and become a simple reality. If you want to hear what she had to say about a few of the women in her playlist, read on below.
Kate Vogel— "Rain"
Kate Vogel is a phenomenal up and coming artist out of Nashville. She writes with so much courage about topics most artists would never be brave enough to cover. So many of her songs have brought me to tears. I think she has the potential be a huge star.
Reol is an incredible Japanese artist and does all her production. She's insanely talented and absolute goals for all producers, everywhere.
Diana Gordon— "Wolverine"
Diana Gordon is legendary. She's written smashes for Beyonce and so many others. Her voice is gorgeous and I love the rawness in her lyricism.
ZOË— "Vulnerability Hangover"
ZOË is my favorite co-writer. We write a lot of my music together. She sings a lot about mental health in her solo work and is so honest about her life, which I really admire. She's also an amazing producer and engineer. I think she will become one of the biggest pop songwriters in the world.
Jade Novah — "All Blue"
Jade Novah is one of the best vocalists I've ever met. I had the pleasure of working with her live and was so blown away. As a fellow indie artist, it's so inspiring to watch her fanbase grow so organically and so fast.
I came across BAUM last year. Her song "Fuckboy" has been stuck in my head ever since. I love her melodic sensibilities and I love how the concept of "Fuckboy" puts her in the position of power in the relationship.
Lari Basilio— "Not Alone"
Lari Basillo is a world-class guitarist. I had the pleasure of performing with her and have been hooked on her solo albums ever since. Her writing is so beautiful. She's the best guitarist I've ever met, and an incredibly kind person, too.