Interview: Second Love was like a carrot according to Emmy The Great

Emmy the GreatVia the wonders of Skype and the multitasking abilities of Emma-Lee Moss, DrunkenWerewolf is delighted to bring news and thoughts on the latest Emmy The Great album, Second Love. While this interviewer is busy dealing with the prospect of interviewing an artist who does a fair share of interviewing herself, said artist is in a cafe in Brooklyn, preparing for an upcoming gig in Portland. She's being a proper person, getting some life admin done while simultaneously completing the minor task of answering questions from across the Atlantic.

Second Love, which was finished back in April 2015, follows quite logically from 2009 debut, First Love. The small matter that her second album was called Virtue, rendering Second Love an ironic name for a third album, is one of the many issues we tackle: “The title is a bit of a joke, it’s like referencing your back-catalogue when you only have two items,” she says with a tinge of cringe in her voice, like when you try to explain an in-joke to a third party.

Second Love is like a recording of a process. The whole thing was such an experience. The album to me is just a funny by-product that I’m so proud of, that just popped out at the end. Previous to that, the album was this formless thing that I was chasing and chasing. In the process of chasing, my life sort of happened. It was like a carrot.”

Immediately regretting the decision, we indelicately suggest that this made Emma a donkey in her own analogy. Fortunately she laughs in agreement.

In an album full of paradoxical lyrics, Emma cryptically explains the difference between First and Second Love: “I feel like the same person but in a different stage of life, where I feel like a different person, but in the same place - if that makes sense.” Yes, it does! (Well, sort of.)

Like First Love, this latest record is lyric heavy, and so it's interesting to hear where this love of words began: “I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer. When I was a kid I used to do my older babysitter’s English homework for her. When I was about 10 I had a house newspaper that I’d distribute round to my parents and my sister. Writing songs just became this obsession of mine and I think it’s because they are like little short stories in some ways.”

Music critics have pounced on the technological slant to Second Love. For Emmy, she isn’t seeking rebellion against the 21st Century, but looks at use it as a prism to view modern life through, with the thrust of the album being “about an honest life that’s happening now, in this time where technology is unavoidable.” Delving deeper, “The album started out being about technology because I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to write about. I was looking at pictures of structures on the internet, but the more I wrote about those things, the more I realised that there wasn’t anything to say about dead inanimate objects for me and what I wanted to write about was what I think pop music is perfect for - which is love – a sense of connection. The themes are universal whether we have iPhones or actual messengers on foot.”

Later on she reiterates “I love technology” but does hate “aggressive, yet secretive marketing... and massive corporations.” The conversation gets pretty existential and she forlornly adds “we’re pretty much rimming dystopia right now.”

The observation that her work to date has been a story of heartbreak is a valid one. However she moderates this with the fact that “heartbreak is quite a big thing that happens quite a lot sadly.” It’s clearly not her only preoccupation though, as album three ably proves.

The song "Shadowlawns" addresses a street that she once lived next to: “It’s sort of like a conversation with LA, the people I left behind,” while "Swimming Pool" was “the last song I wrote before I left LA,” which might explain why it drips with a rich, sunlit Del Rey-style haze.

“My head was so unclear when I finished the album. I just gave it to [author and filmmaker] Jon Ronson, and was like ‘what do you think this was about?’’. The [liner notes are] really an important resource for myself, in seeing what people from the outside thought as I was making it. He told the story in a way that I could never have.”

After a period of time to digest her own music Emma is now clearly on top of what she was trying to say, even if she needed Ronson’s help to clarify exactly what that was. Second Love is an intelligently contemporary release as Moss continues to chart and explore her life and times through her music.


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