We recently got the chance to have a chat with Piano based Singer-songwriter Em Hoggett where we spoke about her new EP What I Want To Say To You and how music has helped heal her.
[Please note that is interview does cover sensitive topics that some readers may find hard to read so caution is advised].
When we catch up with Em she’s just returned from Burning Man. ” The experience was incredible and something I could never have expected. One of the big surprises was the ups and downs. She tells us. “I went expecting an amazing, fun experience, which I absolutely had, but I had some real lows as well. It’s a place where you learn a lot about yourself. I made personal discoveries which I would never have made had I not gone. it’s another world. All I could think about when I was there was “I wish the world was like this”. Anything you could possibly want is available. If you want to be meditating, doing yoga, getting a massage, drinking tea – all of that is available. If you want to meet new people or learn new skills like knife throwing, that’s available. If you want to party and dance all night through to sunrise, that’s available. The people are incredible. Everyone I met was so kind, giving, loving. I found myself fully trusting strangers. I felt at total ease to share my entire life story with anyone who asked.
“There are so many workshops on human connection, consent, healing … it’s very spiritual. People have an idea that it’s just a big party. There is definitely a huge party scene, but it’s also a place of self-discovery and healing. Everyone I met was so open to a true and authentic connection … to truly make eye contact and see into each other’s souls from the moment you met. And the variety of people was incredible too. Every age, race, nationality… it was amazing. “
While at Burning Man Em got to share her own gift of singing with other people attending.
“I performed a couple of times and that was incredible too. The fact that Burning Man has no money was a huge part of the experience. I played classical piano for a two-hour yoga class one morning and watching 50 people in front of me healing themselves, feeding off my energy, and me feeding off them, it was enlightening. In the real world, we restrain ourselves from doing things we enjoy because of money. It would be difficult to commit to performing for free because we ‘have to make money’. But I realized that if I enjoy something, and it gives others joy, and it is a gift I can share with the world, why would I not do it? We have fallen into a bad habit of actively NOT doing things we enjoy because we will only do them if we are paid for them. I came away really wanting to just GIVE as much as I can.”
Em is so passionate and inspired by her trip to Burning Man and all that Burning Man her enthusiasm is contagious. it’s hard to believe that before moving to LA she had no idea something like Burning Man existed. “I hadn’t heard of Burning Man until I moved to Los Angeles, and as soon as I did, there was no question that I was going. The concept of a community based on inclusion, love, creativity and a gifting economy couldn’t be more ‘me’.”
If you want to follow your dream – do it. There are always things holding us back, but there are always ways around it. If you truly want something, you can create it. Follow your dream. Just do it.
Em has loved music since she was a young child and has played the piano since she was 4 years old. “I was a classical concert pianist as a child, and have a lot of proud moments and achievements from that part of my life, such as playing with Lang Lang at the Royal Festival Hall when I was 13. I also have two diplomas (degrees) in classical piano that I received when I was 11 and 15.”
Em began writing songs at 13 while attending a performing-arts high school in London. She attended the Purcell School of Music in England for two years to train as a jazz singer and study music technology and producing. Although awarded a scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, Em pursued her passion for acting and moved to New York in 2015 to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Em was raped when she was 16. But she didn’t tell anyone what had happened for a long time. At 18, after an amazing first semester at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Em suddenly felt depressed when she returned home to London for Christmas. In returning to the place where the attack happened, so did her memories. She hoped that feeling would fade on her return to New York. It didn’t. After successfully suppressing the rape for years, it suddenly took over her life. It consumed her thoughts by day and haunted her dreams at night.
“I moved to New York at 18 and, two years later, moved to Los Angeles. I’ve always been independent, so it wasn’t hugely daunting, but there were definitely difficulties. It was amazing to be thrown into such a different culture at such a young age and dictate my own life. You learn a lot from being alone and away from family and friends.”
Em had faced some heartbreaking struggles in the UK, so being able to move to the States was a chance at a new start.
“The day I found out I was moving to New York was one of the most emotional times of my life. I had a difficult adolescence and, for the first time in years, I felt like I may have actually been able to be free of pain. The move was especially meaningful. Not only was I following a dream, but I was starting fresh, free from the pain I had endured in England. It took that distance to accept what had happened. I don’t think I would’ve come to terms with the rape when I did if I’d stayed in England. Sometimes it takes distance and feeling safe for something to resurface.”
The EP tackles subjects that people relate to, but are often reluctant to speak of.
Em has recently released her new EP What I Want To Say To You which tackles what she went through in her child.
She speaks candidly about what she hopes her EP will achieve. “I cannot change what happened to me. But I can make a difference in the life of other survivors and the attitude of the general public regarding rape. Of course, it is cathartic, writing the songs was very healing, but the goal in releasing them was primarily for others.”
The main goals of the EP are:
- To help survivors feel less alone. A lot of survivors feel very alone and ashamed of their feelings. I want people to feel that they are not alone and that whatever they are feeling is OK. “Anger” is a violent song and something I normally wouldn’t release, but it was important to put it on the EP because anger is a normal and healthy emotion when you have been abused. An emotion that people are often ashamed of. I really want other survivors to hear these songs and think ‘It’s ok that I feel like this. I’m allowed to feel like this. Other people feel like this.’
- To inspire survivors to speak out. I hope that hearing my story and songs will encourage other survivors to share theirs. I hope that it will help people to feel safer. If I had heard songs on the radio about rape after my own experience, I would’ve felt so much more able to speak out sooner. Rape is still taboo in our culture and that is a huge cause of the silence of survivors. I hope the songs will help people to realize that it is OK to talk about it.
- To raise social consciousness. To enable people who have little understanding of rape to fully understand the detrimental effects. One reason rape is so common is that people are unaware of the true realities of what rape can do to a person. I want these songs to make people feel what is happening, and to think, “This needs to stop.” I want the songs to inspire people to actively make a change.
All proceeds from the EP will be going to charity. “The proceeds will be donated to various charities. When I was working with Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, I interviewed the founder of Only With Consent who focuses on consent education. As a part of my work with Born This Way, I also interviewed ItsOnUs, founded by Joe Biden, and was inspired by the work they were doing. It was important for me to also donate to Rape Crisis England and Wales as, although I live in the US, I am British and I was raped in England. I wanted to donate to a charity from my home as the other two are American. ”
This EP is not only an achievement musically, but also personally. I am proud to have overcome my abuse in a way that enables me to help others and make an impact on the world. I am proud that I didn’t let it break me. I am proud to use my pain to try and make a difference for the future.
Em is such a positive force, determined to use what happened to her to help others. “If you feel even remotely able to tell someone, do it. Telling my friends and family what had happened after suppressing it for two years changed my life. I was so surprised at the support I received and speaking out truly changed my life. Once you speak out, you can finally begin the process of acceptance and healing. You come to realize that THIS WAS NOT YOUR FAULT, you have support available, and most importantly, you no longer carry a 100-ton weight inside of you. I feel so free now that I no longer carry the burden of this inside me. It is likely to be painful once you talk about it. I went through a six-month depression where I literally felt as if black smoke was coming out of my body every day. But I am so grateful for that time now, as I was just letting out all of those emotions. If I hadn’t gone through that, I would still be harboring that inside my body, and I can’t imagine how that may have affected me. Keeping these emotions inside of your body will eat you alive – get it out. If you feel like you can’t tell someone, try writing about it, singing, painting, ANYTHING at all to express. You can also contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org – and I WILL believe you.”
She refuses to let what happened to her to stop her from living her life, and her future is looking very bright and extremely busy. “I have another album ready, so I’m hoping to get back in the studio. I also have a few independent feature films lined up as an actress.”
She is also busy working on her production company. ” I met my partner, Umar Malik when I auditioned for his film. We connected immediately and I approached him with the idea of writing a TV series about sexual assault. He was instantly on board and we started writing and creating together. We share a real passion for telling stories that need to be heard and giving a voice to the voiceless. After a while of working together, forming a production company was the obvious next step. We produced the music video for “What I Want To Say To You” and will also be producing videos for the three other songs on the EP. We have two short films currently in post-production, but our focus right now is funding for the TV series. It is a powerful story that needs to be heard. ”
You can download Em’s Ep What I Want To Say To You here.
Let us know your thoughts on Em’s EP at @CelebMix!