Emmy The Great
Emmy the Great’s debut album First Love will be re-issued on vinyl on June 14th, preceded by a UK-wide tour to mark its tenth anniversary. The album will be accompanied by new liner notes by Emmy.
It was an era of Myspace and indie-bands with strict haircuts. A handful of scratchy demos in home-made packaging began appearing around London venues, on tube seats and in between pages in second-hand bookstores. These were the first recordings by Emmy the Great, born Emma-Lee Moss. Emerging as part of the early-2000’s London singer-songwriter boom, she soon established herself as an original voice, her songs made of long, lyric-heavy stories wrapped around acoustic guitars barely played in tune.
First Love, recorded in Lancashire in the late spring of 2008 and released the following February, came to soundtrack an innocent age of early Internet. A break-up album, it channeled a young woman’s heartache through fictional vignettes, set against pastoral scenes – an imagined English landscape, green and hopeful that Moss describes as ‘the England of my dreams’. The first single, We Almost Had a Baby, told the story of a lingering connection between ex-lovers, backed by sha-lala girl-group vocals. Meanwhile, title track First Love was a homage to Leonard Cohen named for a Samuel Beckett novella – the ultimate expression of her penchant for literary allusions and the dropped names of musical heroes.
Spreading slowly through word of mouth, it eventually ranked number 7 on the New York Times Albums of the Year in 2009, earning cult status with audiences around the world. It was self-produced and self-released, setting the tone for Moss’ career, in which she has continued to defy both convention and expectation. She continues to release albums, while also working as a journalist, composer, and radio presenter. In 2017, she gave a TED talk about translating her songs into Cantonese and Mandarin.
Says Moss, “The year that First Love came out was another time for women in music, it was another time for artists of colour. I battled with myself and with the industry to make the music that sounded right to me, and, while some people got that, others told me it would never work out.”
“When I released the album, it was a leap of faith. Over the years, there has been a steady stream of people telling me that leap was worth it for them. The fact that it continues to mean something to these audiences is, to me, the highest accolade. Today, I can still listen to First Love and hear the voice of the young woman that I was, and feel pride and compassion for her. Sometimes I want to reach back and tell her that everything will be OK in the end.”
As she writes in the liner notes: ‘First Love brought us to Japan, it returned me to Hong Kong, my birthplace. We ate new foods in new places, and met people in each town who would always return to see us whenever we passed through. And now that life has shifted several times ever since, I will always be glad that once, in a wet spring before a carefree summer, I took the time to make a record of who I was.’
Moss says, “During the recording, I told someone that I thought the mark of success was longevity.’If I only I could listen to it in ten years,’ I said, ‘and still feel proud.’ I can’t believe it happened.”
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