Australia-born Emily Soon is a smooth-as-butter vocalist and songwriter, whose dedication to her art is evident now more than ever in the wake of these strange times.
Taking things day by day, the Tracy Chapman-esque folk vocalist intends to remain completely transparent with her beloved niche group of fans as we trudge into a new normal.
When asked how she is managing as the bulk of artists hop on the wagon of live streaming, Soon had an apt, humbling response. “Despite being physically separated, I’ve never felt more connected to my online audience. Because of the uncertainty of everything going on, I’ve jumped into things a bit faster than I usually would and felt less ashamed to look a bit idiotic in the process, which perhaps creates more of an open dialogue in my little musical community.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Hailing from Melbourne, Soon’s single, “Love is the Loneliest Place,” and its paired strings version that released just yesterday is available on all listening platforms.
Speaking to the matters of the heart and soul, Soon pays precise attention when writing about the wanderlust of travel, the growing pains of independence, and the complexity of human emotion. The Malaysian singer-songwriter can be found staying true to herself and her fans – she won’t allow the current storm to sully her creativity or her connection with her dedicated listeners. What better way to debut her single on finding companionship in the darkest of times, than now?
Ranging from stripped-down acoustic guitar and her flowing vocals, to a more amplified headbanger like “Good Help is Hard to Find,” co-written with Henry Wagons and reminiscent of “A 1000 times” by Hamilton Leithauser, Soon maintains a calming perspective on the complex world we live in.
We had the pleasure of hearing about Soon’s experiences as a musician Down Under, the culmination of her most recent single, and how she’s staying inspired.
What was your introduction to writing and playing music, and who or what inspired you to do so?
I loved performing around the house from a very young age – I was definitely an introvert at school, but at home I felt more comfortable and free to be expressive. Neither of my parents are musical, but they enjoy listening to it in their leisure time. Growing up it was mainly classic pop around our house – Carole King, The Bee Gees, Michael Jackson, ABBA. I took piano lessons from about 6 years old and taught myself guitar during my teens. I didn’t feel pressure to play music from my parents or teachers, so I naturally developed my own desire to want to play, and eventually write. When I first got into songwriting, I was listening to a lot of singer-songwriters like John Mayer, Missy Higgins, James Bay, Ed Sheeran, Coldplay.
Is there a diverse local music scene in Melbourne, and how might it compare musically to the rest of Australia?
Definitely. There’s a lot of talent in Melbourne across all kinds of music. I have friends involved in the folk, musical theater, jazz, pop, electronic, classical music scenes – the list goes on. I think it’s a by-product of the city being the artistic and cultural hub of Australia, so musicians tend to gravitate towards it as a place to base themselves. I find that original music is more prominent here compared to other Australian cities, or at least easier to seek out if you’re a listener.
If you were trying to make a case as Melbourne being one of the great cities of the world, what would you say about it?
As a keen traveler, I’d say that living in Melbourne keeps me open to worldly experiences as it’s a real melting pot of different cultures, which is also one of the reasons why I love returning home – the cycle of discovery is constant and that ‘travel bug’ is always being fed in some way.
Last year you released “Good Help is Hard to Find” with the help of Henry Wagons that saw you tour some of Canada and the U.S. What was that experience like and where exactly did you go?
I spent about six weeks in North America, mainly to collaborate with some friends in various cities – I visited LA, Nashville, Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle and Portland all up. So, it was a bit of life, a bit of writing – the two kind of go hand in hand for me. I played a show in Toronto and attended a wonderful folk music conference. Both of these really reinforced how much I love sharing my songs, connecting with live audiences and other artists.
A handful of weeks ago you released your emotional guitar-driven ballad “Love is the Loneliest Place.” What was the primary inspiration for this song?
The initial spark of inspiration came from reflecting on moments I shared with a close friend after a rough break up they went through. The line ‘I heard you cry in the night when you couldn’t sleep’ sums it up best. It still gets me each time I sing the song.
And on April 17th you’ll be releasing a string quartet version of the song. What made you want to re-release it that way?
A combination of things. I had wanted to collaborate with Invictus Quartet for a while, and we had a show coming up at the Melbourne Recital Centre. As well as that, I was keen to record something acoustically – when I play live, for the most part it’s just me and my guitar. The first songs I had ever recorded were acoustic, but I think my writing and performance have strengthened a lot since then. I wanted to document and celebrate that progression.
Can you talk about the recording and production process and who was involved?
The strings version was recorded for the most part in my lounge room, where the song was written. It was really special to invite others into the space and re-interpret the tune with fresh ears. Jordie Lane (an incredible singer/songwriter in his own right!) produced the session – I’ve really enjoyed working with other songwriter/artist/producers lately and they’ve been able to bring out the best in my nuances without overworking a performance – and Isaac Barter engineered. That day we recorded a fair few live takes with Invictus Quartet – Rebecca Wang, Nyssa Sanguansri and Annika Cho (unfortunately Jin, their violist, was touring at the time). Jordan Lehning tracked the viola part in Nashville with Kristin Webber before mixing. I was really glad with how it worked out, because I had talked to Jordan and Jordie about the project separately when I was in Nashville last year not knowing that we would all end up collaborating together.
What have you been doing/what do you plan to do to maintain momentum for your releases during this dreadful pandemic?
I’ve been dipping my toes into the live streaming world, which has been fun. A few gigs have been cancelled so I’ve had to come up with alternate ways to share the releases from home. So far I’ve found the whole thing surprisingly positive – despite being physically separated, I’ve never felt more connected to my online audience. Because of the uncertainty of everything going on, I’ve jumped into things a bit faster than I usually would and felt less ashamed to look a bit idiotic in the process, which perhaps creates more of an open dialogue in my little musical community.
Do you have tentative musical plans, maybe like a tour, for when life resumes back to normal?
Yeah, I’m hoping to do a bit more regional touring around Victoria with my friend Ben Langdon when things open up again. I also had plans to head back to the US for another writing trip, as well as a more extensive tour around eastern Canada. So we’ll see how things go!
What is your ultimate yet attainable goal as a musician?
I honestly just really want to have a long term career in music. One where I constantly challenge myself professionally and personally to grow, empathize and share genuine experiences. I feel like my creativity has influenced and documented some really positive and important change in my life over the past few years. If I can continue to viably do that alongside everything else that life throws at me, I’ll be happy! Oh, and I should really get more songs recorded, haha.