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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Emily James Talks ‘Happy For Me,’ Staying Present, And Dream Collaborations

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Emily James Talks ‘Happy For Me,’ Staying Present, And Dream Collaborations

Emily James sits on the ground. Graphic showing that the article contains an interview.

We have been loving Emily James’ new single here at The Honey POP, so much so that we just had to jump on the opportunity to interview the ‘Happy For Me‘ singer herself. Emily James has an ever-increasing fanbase for her gorgeous music, and after releasing her EP Illuminate last year, she shows no signs of slowing down. We’re sure that before too long, the whole world will be talking about Emily James because her talent and creativity are never-ending.

Whether you’ve been on team Emily James for a long time or if you’re learning about the LA-based singer-songwriter now, this interview is for you! We’ve got the lowdown on everything from her songwriting processes to her dream dinner party dates as well as what you can expect from the year ahead for Emily. It’s such a fun interview, and we’re so excited to see where Emily goes next!

Image Source: Lindsey Byrnes, Courtesy of Nettwerk Music Group

Make sure for top-level enjoyment of this interview you’re streaming Emily’s latest single, ‘Happy For Me,’ as you read! Check out the song here!

We absolutely love ‘Happy For Me,’ and the idea of wanting to overthink less and be more present is something a lot of people will also relate to. What was the main inspiration for the song?
Thank you so much! I really appreciate you saying that. The main inspiration for ‘Happy for Me’ was me getting frustrated at myself for letting all of my useless worrying get in the way of my own happiness. I started to realize that I was getting stuck in my head so much that I wasn’t really experiencing the present moment, and if I kept that up, a lot of my life would pass me by without me even noticing. I won’t lie and say that I’ve now magically fixed all of that and that I have it all figured out (lol) but I’m much more aware of it now and definitely feel like I’m shifting into a better place.

‘Happy For Me’ covers some serious topic content like anxiety, but it has quite an upbeat and uplifting sound to it. What is the most important message you want fans to take away from the song?
The main message I hope listeners take away from ‘Happy for Me’ is how important it is to take care of yourself. There’s a moment near the end of the music video where you can see me pouring champagne into the glasses of my imaginary party guests, which is meant to say, when you fill up your own cup, you’re able to fill up other people’s as well. There’s so much tragedy and so many hardships that we witness and experience every day, and I think the best way that we can help the people around us is to check in on ourselves first. Find the little things that keep the light burning inside of you and hold on to that as best you can.

We love all your old YouTube covers, but it’s amazing to see you put out your own music! What was it like transitioning from covering other people’s music to creating original content?
Thank you! I’ve been writing original songs since I was about 10 years old, so the YouTube covers actually came later. It was just kind of another creative outlet for me, and a way for me to experiment with taking a song I loved and making it my own by changing up the melodies or vibe of it a bit.

A common thread in your songwriting is that you are able to paint a very visceral image, and your lyrics strongly convey your emotions. Some people start with instrumentals, others with lyrics, but what is your personal songwriting process like, and does it differ from song to song?
My songwriting process definitely differs from song to song. It also changes based on whether I’m writing alone or collaborating with other writers and producers. My favorite way to go about it though, is I’ll play around on piano or guitar until something catches my ear, and then start mumbling out melodies. The words will kind of start forming from there, and I won’t really know what the song is about until I have a few coherent phrases strung together. I love this way of writing because I feel like my subconscious is speaking for me and revealing the thoughts and feelings in the back of my mind that I wasn’t necessarily aware of.

Are there any songwriters you draw inspiration from when you’re writing?
Absolutely. I have my classics – Adele, Stevie Nicks, Bob Dylan, Taylor Swift (duh) – but I’m always drawing inspiration from whatever I’m listening to at the moment. I’m a huge Julia Michaels fan- I love how conversational her lyrics are and how she finds ways to include words you wouldn’t normally think to use in a song. I’ve also been on a big Miguel, and Frank Ocean kick lately.

You also have some really creative and stunning visuals in your music videos, there’s a distinctive aesthetic within each of them that you can tell it’s an Emily James video. We know you directed and edited the ‘Happy For Me’ video. Are you heavily involved in the creative process for all your visuals?
That’s really cool to hear, thank you so much. Yes, I like to be very involved in the creative process for all of my visuals. A lot of the time when I’m writing the song, the music video will be simultaneously coming to life in my head, and I have a pretty clear image of what I want that to look like. I tend to associate songs with a specific color and texture in my head, so that will kind of dictate it as well. I do really love working with other creatives on the visuals too though. I think collaboration is such a beautiful thing, especially when someone brings an idea to the table that is something you would have never thought of before, and you can combine forces to make something totally unique.

In the ‘Happy For Me’ music video, you’re sitting at a table dressed for a party. If you had to fill that table with your dream dinner party guests, who would they be and why?
Wow this is such a hard question for me. What’s my limit?! Definitely Michelle Obama. I would love to have a conversation with her and I feel like in just 5 minutes she would alter my brain chemistry forever. Adele of course; she is the person who made me realize I want to write songs for the rest of my life. And she’s hilarious. Jonathan Van Ness. I think we would be best friends. Greta Thunberg; I am in awe of her and so inspired by everything she’s doing to help combat climate change. I could go on and on but lastly (for now) I’ll say Meryl Streep. I really admire the way she holds herself and would love to squeeze all the advice I could out of her.

Image Source: Courtesy of Nettwerk Music Group

We also have to ask because the video looked like so much fun to film. At The Honey POP, we like all things sweet; what was your favorite sweet treat on the video shoot?
I mean, I pretty much demolished that cake, HAHA. I’m usually not a big vanilla cake girl, but that one was pretty delicious. The giant cupcake was also really good. I’ve gotten to do some very fun things in my music videos (jump into pools with all my clothes on, get rained on, cover myself in paint, blow bubbles, and dance around at the beach), but this one was easily my favorite one to film yet. It was just such a blast to totally let loose and go crazy. I would 100% do it again.

You’ve collaborated with some amazing musicians, including Ben West and Justin Lucas, to name but a few. Are there any artists you’d love to collaborate with in the future?
Too many!! FINNEAS would be a dream. Leon Bridges- his voice is like butter. James Blake, Bruno Major, again, Julia Michaels, Megan Thee Stallion… Ms. Taylor Alison Swift…

One of your songs ‘Cannonball (Midnight Mix)’ was recently featured in a recap for How I Met Your Father, which has quickly become an iconic TV show. What’s it like to have your music associated with shows like that?
It’s amazing, I mean I grew up watching Hillary Duff on TV so to see her face on screen with my voice singing in the background was pretty wild. I’m really grateful for that opportunity.

We thought the ‘Cannonball’ remix was so fun. Can we expect more remixes in the future?
I’m so glad you liked it! For sure, I love doing alternate versions of songs, whether it’s a remix or a stripped-down version. I think it’s really cool to show all the different lives and aesthetics a song can take on based on the kind of production you dress it up in.

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If any of our readers are unfamiliar with your music, what 3 songs that most encapsulate you as an artist would you recommend they listen to first?
This feels like picking favorite children. I would probably go with ‘Brooklyn,’ ‘Cannonball,’ and ‘For an Evening.’ Sonically, they’re all pretty different from each other, but they share a common thread of telling a story and painting a picture for the listener to get wrapped up in. I’m also a big fan of harmonies, so you’ll hear that in all of those.

2022 was a big year for you, with multiple songs hitting the 1M streams mark, performing for the TWLOHA benefit, and being featured on Ones To Watch Lists! Are there any specific goals you want to cross off your bucket list in 2023?
Ooh… I definitely want to play more live shows in 2023 and work towards touring. I haven’t done any touring yet and it’s something I’ve been dreaming of for a while. Other than that, I just hope to be able to reach more people with my music and help them feel better in some way.

Image Source: Lindsey Byrnes, Courtesy of Nettwerk Music Group

Lastly, other than the incredible ‘Happy For Me,’ are there any other fun projects your fans should keep an eye out for this coming year?
Yes! Lots of new music coming this year and more fun videos on the way 🙂

Emily is a girl after our own hearts. A dinner party with Emily James, Adele, Michelle Obama, and Jonathan Van Ness? Where do we get an invite? We’d sit in a Ticketmaster queue for hours for that party! We’re also manifesting that Emily James and FINNEAS song because that’s a dream collab right there.

We can’t wait for Emily’s new music, but in the meantime, we’re happy for us that we get to stream ‘Happy For Me!’ Let us know your favorite Emily James song in the comments, or drop us Tweet @thehoneypop. You can also find us on Instagram and Facebook!


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