“There’s a certain kind of female that occupies a space in which she’s perpetually young and girlish but also wise and worldly. Goldie Hawn is one, and so is Jena Malone. When they’re young, they’re playful but seem ahead of their years because of a graceful ease, and when they’re mature they are both judicious and mischievous; always they give the impression of being oddly, beautifully not of their age in life. This ethereal mix of capability/vulnerability resides in Emma Louise…” Beat Magazine
Being fearless is often the hardest thing for an artist to do. Surrounded by expectation and anticipation many second guess themselves, take the safe option – but not Brisbane’s Emma Louise. Just a few years into a creative career already blessed with highlights, Emma Louise is an artist not just controlling her destiny, but reshaping expectations.
And it’s a feeling that dominates her debut full length album Vs Head Vs Heart. Where some might try to stack the record with ready-made radio tunes, Emma Louise has created a collection of songs that offers so much more. Considered, focussed, unhurried and with real poise – the album showcases an artist who is determined not to miss the opportunity to do something genuine. Emma Louise knows that hitting that mark can often just take a little time and patience – case in point she spent two months in late 2012 soaking up the sights and sounds of New York City. Aside from a couple of low key shows, her only plan was to live a little, challenge her outlook and channel a new perspective on the world into her music. ‘No rush, just let it happen’ was the plan.
That time in New York also gave her room to pause and reflect on what’s been a surprising few years. It wasn’t that long ago that Emma Louise was like so many young artists writing songs and uploading them online from her bedroom in the regional city of Cairns. Then, at just 16, came her star turn in the Queensland Music Awards and everything changed. She moved to Brisbane, immersed herself in the city’s creative community, and emerged with one of 2011’s most talked about EPs Full Hearts and Empty Rooms. Tucked within that impressive debut release was a track called ‘Jungle’ which went on to be one of the stand out songs of the year landing at #23 on the national Triple J Hottest 100 and helping propel the EP to ‘Gold’ status with sales of more than 35,000 copies. It’s an effort all the more impressive given the EP was a 100 per cent indie release, earning her a ‘Breakthrough Artist’ award at 2011’s national Independent Music Awards.
While ‘Jungle’ may have been the break out song, it was much more than that one track which built the feeling that this was an artist to watch. With a live show that swings between euphoric and heartbreaking anyone that connected with her music could see Emma Louise was truly something else. On stage Emma Louise does so much more than simply run through her songs – in stripped back duo format or with her full band she sees the stage as a chance to redefine her music and bring something new every time she performs. Little wonder then she has made an impact on audiences across the country where she has played her own run of sell out shows, while performing alongside artists from Boy and Bear to Josh Pyke, Missy Higgins and Gurrumul and just about every festival on the national circuit.
And it hasn’t been just Australian audiences that have connected with her music – standout shows around the globe including sets at South by South West and CMJ New York were not only greeted by a rush of new fans, but helped secure her relationship with international labels Vertigo/Universal in Germany and the highly respected New York based Frenchkiss. Much more than just a career milestone, that overseas touring has broadened her horizons as an artist and opened a new world of possibilities.
Emma Louise is smart enough to know that having a breakout hit like Jungle brings with it as many challenges as it does opportunities. And that knowledge has never been far from her mind during the writing and recording of Vs Head Vs Heart. Produced in the Brisbane studio of Matt Redlich (Hungry Kids of Hungary, Ball Park Music) making the album has been an unhurried affair giving Emma Louise the space and time to try new ideas and stretch her imagination. Nothing was off limits. The first taste of the record came with last year’s single ‘Boy’ – a strikingly simple track that manages to straddle classic pop writing with a sense of understated exploration. The more you listen to that track, the more new layers keep revealing themselves – a theme that rings true across the whole album. Emma Louise doesn’t want to hit you over the head with big hooks, rather she wants her songs to draw you in, make you dig deeper and walk away with a lasting impression. Disposable is not in her vocabulary.
Taking yet another huge step with her most recent accolade of being nominated for a coveted Best Female Artist at the most recent ARIA awards, Emma Louise’s new adventures are certainly proving successful. The album, now with a string of radio hits (‘Boy’, ‘Freedom’, ‘Mirrors’ and ‘Pontoon’) debuted at #12 on the ARIA Album Chart and slipped into the American Top 100 on iTunes (who also featured ‘Boy’ as Single of The Week). The subsequent Vs Head Vs Heart Australian Tour was not only a behemoth to behold but also it sold out all capital city shows (often moving into multiples) and most of the regionals while her very first single ‘Jungle’ did some touring of its own and achieved Top 3 and platinum record in Italy, Top 10 in Poland, Top 20 in Germany. The song also snared chart positions in Switzerland, Belgium and Austria and will soon get a release in the UK, France and Spain, showing Emma just how small the world can be. Anything but daunted, she is approaching it all with a calm assuredness – as the world spins around her, Emma Louise is exactly where she wants to be.