Five Minutes with Emily King: The Grammy-nominated artist on her profoundly honest new album

HUNGER explores the creation of the singer-songwriter’s first album in four years.

It’s been 15 years since Emily King’s Grammy-nominated album East Side Story was released, introducing her to the world through her visceral lyricism and forward-thinking R&B. Now, all these years later, the New York-bred star is still unequivocally pushing the envelope with the latest addition to her discography, and first album in four-years – Special Occasion. King’s music has always delved deep into her emotional complexities, but as time has progressed, the singer’s ability to express not only life’s struggles but its undeniable beauty has only grown stronger over time.

Special Occasion is King entering her latest evolution whilst maintaining what led to her success in the first place. Throughout the 11-track run, the artist is the most honest she’s ever been on wax, whilst she refuses to be boxed in sonically, blending soul and R&B with progressive pop sensibilities. Considering the project follows on the heels of her acclaimed 2019 LP, Scenery, which included the Grammy-nominated single ‘Look At Me Now,’ it would be forgiven for the musician to return to her winning formula. However, it’s that innate desire to progress and explore styles and sounds outside her comfort zone that has led to her longevity and maintaining her loyal following. King’s fanbase has stuck with her ever since she burst onto the scene, while she’ll no doubt pick up some new supporters off the back of Special Occasion’s strength. Meanwhile, King embarked on her solo headline tour in support of the project, which saw her reconnect with her fans as they bellowed out her new batch of ballads, marking a perfect and poignant victory lap for the artist. Here, King sits down with HUNGER to discuss the creation of Special Occasion, the importance of growth and why connection is key in the music industry.

Congratulations on the release of the album. ‘Special Occasion’ is the title track for the project; can you talk to me a bit about the inspiration behind that song in particular?

Special Occasion was born out of a tumultuous time. I think I was trying to lift myself out of the sadness that I was in, and sometimes songwriting is a good vehicle to imagine the place you’d like to be.

It’s your first album in four years; what does the project represent to you, and how does it differ from Scenery?

I think it represents a very different place in my life. I had gone through some unexpected changes in my personal life and was trying to work through those emotions within the songs. There are also some different musical choices on this record. It’s always fun for me to use a new pallet. 

What would you say have been the biggest changes in your life since we last got a full-length project from you?

There’s been a lot of changes. Some within my control and some not. The pandemic certainly catapulted all of us into a new way of life and had a lasting effect on some of our personal lives. Hopefully, I’ve grown since my last record. There have certainly been growing pains.

You’ve got your headline North American tour later on in the year; how would you describe an Emily King show?

My favourite part of the shows are the cuties in the audience. They are so much fun to watch from the stage. I like to imagine that we are having a party together, and I try to keep things fun for the most part. Every show is unique. It’s this shared experience that we have together, and singing songs with friends is always the best time.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

Panic… Just kidding! I drink a lot of water; I’ve recently been told that it’s a good thing to do as a singer, probably good for everyone. I’ve learned not to eat too close to show time, so I drink tea, pick out my outfit, and listen to some Mills Brothers or James Brown, depending on my mood. Breathing is important, so I try to take in some big inhales. Then the band and I will sing some songs together and have a few laughs before we hit the stage.

What’s on your rider?

Oranges, bananas, a little tequila every now and then, dark chocolate, extra mayo for sandwiches, pink roses, coffee, chapstick, raw ginger and a cutting board to make fresh tea.

What album has had the biggest impact on your life and why? 

There’s been several, but honestly, I’m more of a fan of songs than I am of full albums; I like to jump around to my favourite songs from artists. It’s always amazing to me when the melody, lyrics, performance and production come together to make a great record. Nat King Cole’s ‘Stardust,’ Nirvana’s ‘All Apologies,’ Michael Jackson’s ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,’ and Traci Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’ to name a few.

Now that you’ve been in the music industry for a number of years, what would your advice be to an up-and-coming artist who was maybe in your position a few years ago?

I would say to reach out and make friends with other artists and musicians who are on your scene and doing things that you respect. I find that in my career, a lot of my opportunities came from the generosity of other musicians. Support from people who understand what you’re going through as an artist, songwriter or performer really makes a difference. Don’t be afraid to connect with people.

Who are some of the artists you’re excited about right now?

Right now, I’m a big fan of Bryan Adams, and I really can’t get over how he sings with this raspyness in his voice but never misses a note. It’s so powerful, yet there’s something so romantic about it.

What can we expect from you for the rest of the year?

Hope to keep performing these songs; we are getting into a groove. It would be a dream to get to Europe and Asia as I look forward to seeing you cuties so soon.

WriterChris Saunders
Image CreditsShervin Lainez