Over the course of three years, people’s lives can change drastically. Often times it’s only when we look back that we notice how our routines and relationships have evolved. Emmy the Great, the moniker of Emma-Lee Moss, made this realization as she started to work on her follow-up to 2012’s Virtue.
Moss originally set out to record an album about technology and the future, but it wasn’t long before the present become much more pressing. As she used modern devices to write about love and life, she began to take stock of how much her own life was changing.
In three years time, she’d moved from London to Los Angeles, and then once more uprooted and headed to New York. She sustained her musical ambitions by working as a music journalist for Vice and The Guardian. All the while, she quietly analyzed her ever-changing surroundings and personal situations, recording those observations on a laptop whenever she found the time. That led to sessions in over 30 houses across the country as she slowly pieced together new material that recollected the array of experiences she’d had over the last few years. Now, she’s sharing her story with her third record, Second Love, out March 11th, 2016 via Bella Union.
Moss’ latest single, “Dance w Me”, revels in the pensiveness that birthed the album. Muted synthesizer twinkles bounce beneath subtle guitar chords and Moss’ soft vocals. It’s only when the song hits the chorus that the song breaks out into epic strides of vocals samples and louder drums. It’s a major contrast to the subtlety of the verses, create a sense of forward movement that’s been apparent in her own life over the past few years.
Listen in below.
In a Q&A with Consequence of Sound, Moss answered a few questions about the creation of Second Love. Below, see what she says about her motivations behind the record, how moving so frequently affected her writing, and how “Dance w Me” is a perfect first preview for the rest of the album.
There was only a two year gap between your first two records, but you’ve had four years between Virtue and now. Why the longer space, and how would you say your songwriting has grown/changed in that time?
Both this record and the EP from earlier this year were finished a year before the were released, but because of issues like contracts and release schedules, they ended up coming out much after completion. With the album, Bella Union had so many (amazing) releases this year – not to mention TWO Beach House records – that they’d already had lined up before I finished mine, I don’t think it would have worked to put my record out during the same period. They couldn’t have given it as much attention as they can now.
The same thing happened with my first album, which came out long after the EP before it. Sometimes the mechanics of releasing a record pushes back its release, which feels incredibly frustrating when it’s your record, but after a while you appreciate the space to think about the ideas. I had a lot of time to live with Second Love and think about the themes, and I think I’m much clearer about what it means because of that.
My songwriting has become more enjoyable since my last album. I’ve learned a lot about how to record and I’ve worked with a lot of people – including writing and producing for other musicians – and it’s shown me that songwriting can be this fun process, sometimes even sociable. I think I’ve learned to think more simply about songs as well. Working as a journalist has helped me get a lot of my words out without having to try and put them into a song, and getting better at playing instruments means I can express myself through music now too.
Beyond lyrically, how has your sound progressed musically? What will fans be surprised by when they spin this new LP?
Maybe not, because they might have heard the EP, or seen the live show over the last 1.5 years, which has been quite faithful to the style of this new record. There’s a lot of electronics, and sample based stuff, like on the EP, but maybe if they feel surprised it will be in the other direction. I was hoping that this record was somehow just as personal as my first bedroom recordings, and maybe if people are expecting a pop album they would be surprised by that intention.
In the interim, you also relocated to the US, moving from London to LA to NYC. How exactly did these new cities impact you as an artist and the album you created?
LA opened me up. My first summer there was this serendipitous time where everything seemed to come together and everything I saw was brand new. I was making pop music then, using a very quick process. I knew it wasn’t how the album would sound, but it was definitely something I needed to do. It reflected the freedom of that time. New York brought me back to reality a bit. I think New York is probably the realest place I’ve ever lived. Any efforts at self-delusion you might have are kindly pointed out by passersby or the person who stole your Uber. I struggled when I first moved here, for a long time, and that was incredibly helpful for the album. If I had stayed in LA every song would have been called “Feeling Super Chill”.
Where does the title, Second Love, come from and how does it connect the themes on the record?
I spent at least two years with my head down, working on this record, completely obsessed by it… When it was finished my whole being felt completely different. I realized that in that time my life had changed, the world had change. I wasn’t even in my twenties anymore. I felt like, at some point, I’d crossed a border without noticing. I was also thinking about my first record, First Love, and how this felt closer to that record than Virtue. It felt like First Love, but in the new reality I’d entered.
After I named the album, one of my friends reminded me of Mike Love’s solo album names: Mike Love, Not War, Unleash the Love, and Looking Back with Love. I like to think that my album names will be coming up alongside his in Google searches.
What about “Dance w Me” in particular? What were the impetus of writing that song, and how does it fit within the record as a whole?
That song is one of the ones that came to me as I was doing the thing in the song, if that makes sense? It popped into my head in the middle of this eventful night out, and I couldn’t shake it. A couple of weeks later I was in my friend Simon’s apartment and I asked if we could record something. This recording of the song has a lot of the features from that first spontaneous demo. It also has a lot of my friends’ voices on it. You’ll hear Beth and Kristen (aka Du Blonde and O Karmina) laughing about something with Dave (McCracken) during the guest vocals sessions they were in on, possibly Gabriel (Bruce) as well, who was there. You’ll also hear my dear LA housemate and members of her family saying “Dance with me,” which I recorded at my Leaving-for-New-York dinner. I think I also accuse someone of looking at their phone too much. It was important to me to keep all these moments of chatter across the record, because to me they were the moments that actually made this album worth finishing, in the end. I made so many lasting relationships through this album, I wanted to insert them into the music, like code.
Moss will be previewing the new material ahead of its release with a short tour across the U.S. Consult her schedule underneath the Second Love tracklist.
Second Love Tracklisting:
01. Swimming Pool (feat. Tom Fleming)
02. Less Than Three
06. Social Halo
07. Never Go Home
08. Dance w. Me
11. Part of Me Lost in You
Emmy the Great 2016 Tour Dates:
02/23 – Boston, MA – Cafe 939
02/24 – Brooklyn, NY – Baby’s All Right
02/26 – Philadelphia, PA – Boot and Saddle
02/27 – Washington, DC – DC9
03/01 – Portland, OR – Bunk Bar
03/02 – Seattle, WA – Barbosa
03/04 – San Francisco, CA – The Chapel
03/05 – Los Angeles, CA – Bootleg Bar