Chocolate-gold tresses reflected sunbeams as I strolled into the Berry Hill café as a newcomer. Upon embracing one another and grabbing a table, I soon realized that getting to know Emma Klein would be a delight. And that it was.
Riding the wave from her touching journey as an American Idol contestant, to playing keys and eventually opening for the iHeart Radio talk-show host, Bobby Bones, vocalist and songwriter Emma Klein is set to release her EP this year that is sure to tug at the heartstrings of R&B, country, pop, and soul music-lovers far and wide.
Hailing from Bel Air, Maryland, the songstress made her mark on the commercial voice program at Nashville’s Belmont University both in and out of the practice room. With the perfect combination of soulful-rasp akin to Tori Kelly’s and a genuine approach to her lyrical writing (no matter the topic), Klein’s music will undoubtedly be stuck in your head- if not already.
Klein and I shared laughs over coffee as we confessed our similar binge-watch list, and the headache that it is to be a perfectionist with your test scores, while also laying a solid ground as an aspiring musician at Belmont.
Happy belated birthday! Without telling us what you wished for, do you have any goals/intentions set for this year? Ownership over relationship. I’ve always allowed outside opinions to influence me very heavily. When I was little, I thought I was a people-pleaser. Do you know what the Enneagram is? I’m a 9, and they’re the peacemakers. [Type 9 personalities] kind of morph their personality to who they’re around because they want to relate to everybody and connect. I started to let that happen to my relationships a lot; like worrying that people are going to have an opinion about my relationship, specifically, with my faith. So rather than feeling ashamed by that, just realizing that’s my relationship with God, and [I’m] working independently with that. That honestly goes into my musical intentions too. I’m writing with new people every single day, and it’s just a lot of personalities. In writing rooms, I’m really tempted to shift my opinion towards what I think they would like. So [setting goals have] been good for that, too; staying true to my own opinions and values and taking ownership over that.
What’s one song, by any genre/artist, that most closely depicts how you’re feeling right now? Oh! That is such a hard question. Yesterday, at the end of yoga (on my birthday), they were playing “Landslide.” And I was like “Shit! I’m getting older, too.” (laughs.) Today, I was feeling more like “Golden Hour,” by Kacey Musgraves. Just happy and chill.
Because it’s impossible for me to pick just one, what’s your favorite café or bar in Nashville? My favorite café is Sam and Zoe’s, and my favorite bars are Dino’s and Pearl Diver.
If you were a scent, what would you be, and why? My first inclination was like a vanilla-honey, but my second was sunflower-something or other.
How old were you when you picked up your first instrument? I think I started playing piano when I was seven, but started singing when I was five.
If you were an accessory, what would you be? Earrings, honestly! Gold hoops. I would like to be gold hoops.
Favorite part about touring with Bobby Bones [& the Raging Idiots] and Walker Burroughs? That I got to tour with Walker. It was the best! I’m just so happy that I had him. I realized that touring is great for a lot of reasons, but it also can be very lonely. If I hadn’t had Walker, it would have been a lot harder. And meeting Bobby’s fans. Connecting with them and being able to catch up with them, still, is awesome.
Hobbies outside of music? I love to go on walks all the time. I journal a lot, and I like to loom. I bought a kit from Wal-Mart, and I taught myself to [loom] on YouTube and it is so easy and so fun! And I like yoga, hanging out with my friends. I do a lot of non-musical writing, too. Short-stories and stuff like that, poems.
One piece of advice you’d give to anyone going to music school, or college, in general? My immediate thought is: figure out what success means to you, then just let that define what you do. You’re going to feel like a small fish in a big pond if you don’t know what your purpose is, and purpose takes a long time to find. For me, success – when I first entered music school – wasn’t defined clearly. I just thought, “Well, I need to do a million things, and I’m so behind the game, and this person’s great and I’m not,” rather than being able to be like, “Okay. Realistically, I want to write songs. I would like to have people that enjoy listening – even if it’s just ten people – to my released music.” And being able to afford a comfortable lifestyle, having a family one day through music and writing [is the goal]. So, no longer did it feel like I was in this competition; it felt like I was just trying to learn how to best serve my purpose. Even in the music industry now, a lot of people expect you to be competitive (and I can get in my head about comparison) but at the end of the day, I am notanybody else other than myself.
If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Either sushi, if I could switch up the rolls, or eggs. Because you can make them every other way. Versatile! (laughs).
What are your favorite spots to jog or walk in, in Tennessee? Sevier Park, if you’re trying to run into dogs or cute babies, and Radnor Lake.
What’s the last show you binge-watched? It was either You or Love is Blind. [Love is Blind] is so stupidly good. I hate it, but I love it. (laughs).
Describe your current mood, in terms of weather: I really just always want it to be sunny. I think that’s just always my inner-mood. But I’m so heavily influenced by the weather that when it’s raining outside, it just feels like there’s sunshine in my heart that’s just crying…it’s always sunny in here though (motions to her heart). (laughs.)
Top three albums on a desert island? Continuum by John Mayer, To The Sea by Jack Johnson, and (ponders.) probably Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder. Because you would just need something to dance to!
What’s something that most people don’t know about you? Probably how much I over-think things. I have a lot of friends who say, “Oh, you’re always in a good mood,” but still I will have an intrusive thought and think about it for so long, or I can’t be in a social setting without thinking about every single person in the room. It makes me so exhausted.
What’s your favorite thing to do in your hometown of Bel Air, Maryland? Go to Yoga Centric and get Boba Tea.
What’s been your proudest moment in music so far? Signing my publishing deal was very exciting — that was two months ago. It’s so funny though, because the signing part was so anticlimactic. I had been so excited for months and you just get there and like, put your initials on twenty pieces of paper and you’re like, “Great.”
And when people told me that I was a good enough writer by myself, to be signed. There were like five moments on tour with Walker, whether it was on [American] Idol or with Bobby [Bones and the Raging Idiots], where there was just this crazy crowd and we’d just have this moment of looking at each other and looking out. What a gift, that I’m allowed to be up here!
If you couldn’t be in music, what career would you find yourself in? I’d love to be a therapist. Maybe when I’m fifty or something, I’ll start doing counseling for musicians in the industry.
What’s the last book you read and/or movie you watched? Well, my issue is that I read seven books watch seven shows at once. I’ve been reading [Anita Diamant’s] The Red Tent. It’s like a feminist novel and it’s biblical, it’s really cool! And this book called The Universal Christ [by Richard Rohr]. It’s about how Jesus is in everything; it redefines that Christ is not Jesus’s last name.
Favorite moment from singing with the Belmont University Beltones vocal ensemble? Probably when we won the [International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella] semi-finals the year we went to New York, on my birthday [in 2017]. [The ICCA’s] used to do a thing where you can do an encore song. Beltones did “Come Thou Fount,” and it was really awesome singing with them.
How would you describe your aesthetic (whether that’s how you dress yourself or generally carry yourself)? One, I would say that the aesthetic in my mind is definitely not carried out. I wear workout clothes every day, and I don’t think that’s my aesthetic (laughs). But it’s comfy! Definitely like beachy-boho, kind of hippie, but in a Free People kind of way.
How is 2020 shaping up for Emma Klein? My calendar is completely filled with writes every day until June, which is awesome. I’m planning on releasing an EP this year, a music video for “Call It What It Is,” and I wrote a song on a retreat this past year that’s getting a cut from this band called Walker County. I don’t know when that’ll be out, but it’s my first cut!
Lo and behold, our get-together proved to be one of my last social interactions before the global storm that is Coronavirus. It’s fair to say the updates on COVID-19 have been unnerving to say the least. In the charming words of Klein on a recent humbling Facebook update, “There’s no right or wrong answer on how to handle an international quarantine!…Breathe and ask yourself what you need today…Lots of love and wash yo hands.”
Here’s to more music, more togetherness (virtually, of course), and more Netflix shows…