Rewind to ten days ago, and you’ll know that ÊMIA dropped her debut EP, titled Little Secret. It followed up the incredible song and music video “If You Can’t Take The Rain“. She’s certainly a rising star with an infectious voice that we can’t get enough of, and so we were honoured when we were given the opportunity to interview her.
ÊMIA, real name Anh Le, is a Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter and producer. She’s been building herself up in the music industry for a number of years, first starting off with home-videos, to covering songs on YouTube, to releasing her music on SoundCloud. She has racked up millions of views since and that has allowed her to work with a variety of artists and high-profile labels. She’s received critical acclaim for her music, especially on her debut EP, titled Little Secret.
During the interview, we spoke to ÊMIA about her debut EP Little Secret, the song and music video for “If You Can’t Take The Rain“, how she used social media to get in contact with her collaborators, and he ambitions for the future.
Hi ÊMIA, how are you today? What have you been up to lately?
Hi hi! I’m doing great. I played my EP release show on Friday [5 July] and it was one of the best nights of my life. Recently, I’ve been going on runs in the morning and enjoying the summer mornings in Brooklyn while they’re still here. There’s a park across the street from my apartment and it’s my favorite place to listen to new music. There’s a farmer’s market on Sundays and my roommate and I buy pickles there every week.
You recently released your debut EP, “Little Secret”, how did that feel?
It feels right. If that makes sense? There was no better time in my life to let these songs go than now. I was in such a different headspace when I started writing them. Releasing this EP has been a cathartic celebration; letting go of my past to make way for my future. I feel free, proud and ready for the next chapter.
Can you tell us more about it?
Absolutely! I wrote these songs while I was attending college in Miami. Specifically, during my last two years there. Every song was written, recorded, and produced in a bedroom/dorm room of some sort. I never intended for these songs to be a collective EP, but the more I played them, the more I felt like they each represented a piece of a bigger story that I needed to tell. The bigger story being my own experience with love, falling out of love, and struggling to be strong and independent for the first time.
There are six tracks on the EP, do you have a favourite? And why is it your favourite?
“In a Second.” is my favorite. While all the other songs feel like they’re about very specific situations with a specific person, this song addresses a constant theme of my life: moving on and embracing change. I don’t like to listen to it too much. The lyrics remind me of all the people I miss and wish were still in my life, but I think that’s what makes it special. It’s about more than just one person, it’s about places, experiences, and formative eras in my life that are gone now.
My runner-up is “All I Do” because I’m extremely proud of the production. I’ve always been – and still am – quite insecure about calling myself a producer. This song was my first self-produced single that got a “wow” reaction from a few people I really respect. The track’s existence is a reminder that I am capable of creating sonic landscapes and beats that I’m proud of.
Three of the songs are new unheard tracks, “Psychic”, “Hologram”, and “In A Second”. Can you tell us more about each of the tracks?
“Psychic” was my way of patting myself on the back for dodging a bullet. I wanted the song to be a nod to my newfound ability as an adult to not dive into every potential romantic situation just because I can. Not every crush is worth entertaining. I love that I have the power to be like “yeah you’re cute, but you’re a mess. Pass!”
As for “Hologram”, I was in a very special, long-distance relationship for 3 years. While it was an important and beautiful part of my life, my entire world existed through a screen. I was going to sleep with my phone clutched to my face. When I was happy, I was the happiest I’d ever been in my entire life. But the lows were absolutely crushing. Writing this song was one of the first times that I allowed myself to admit that my situation wasn’t perfect.
“In a Second.” was a song I made with Ellis Forman – who goes by ‘Middle School’ for his artist project. Ellis made me the instrumental and I struggled for over a year to find the write melody and lyrics. Finally, when I was back home in Pennsylvania during my winter break, I had this rush of missing Madison, Wisconsin (where I lived from 8th grade until high school graduation). I wondered how my friends were doing if anyone was living in my old house and that’s when I realized what I wanted the song to be about.
Our favourite, if we had to choose, would be “Teleprompter”, as it just speaks to us, but we really love all the tracks… What made you decide to call your debut EP, “Little Secret”?
“Little Secret” felt right because I wanted to name the EP something intimate and confessional. These songs are letters that I didn’t have the guts to send. There is a “you” that I’m singing to. The lyrics are confrontational in a way I could never dream of being back then.
What did you enjoy the most about recording the EP?
I loved the freedom of making it exactly what I wanted it to be. Everything about recording the EP was a real “learn-as-I-go” type thing. There were a lot of frustrating times, but learning how to produce my own work was crucial to my growth as an artist. I loved the process of figuring out exactly how I wanted to sound and falling more in love with the world I was creating as I was getting better at creating it.
Prior to the release of “Little Secret”, you released the single and music video for “If You Can’t Take The Rain”, which we premiered here on CelebMix. Can you tell us more about the song?
Firstly, I’m so honored to have had CelebMix premiere my song and music video! I still can’t get over how wonderful the review was.
So, I was going through a serious rough patch when I wrote the song. I was considering quitting music. I was frustrated with music school. I was fed up with living in Miami. I was growing apart from a lot of my friends. I had never felt more lost and the person that I wanted to rescue me…couldn’t. Up until then, picturing my life without this person terrified me and brought me to tears. Writing this song was my way of working through that fear and telling myself that, if it ever came to it, I can make it on my own.
The song was produced by Jacopo Trifone. What was he like to work with?
Jacopo is one of the hardest working, most talented people I know. Working with him was eye-opening and life-changing. Even though it’s the last single I released, it was actually finished first. So much of our collaboration would later inform my artistry and my own style of production.
We met because he needed a song to produce as part of his master’s thesis at the University of Miami. He challenged me on aspects of the track that I never thought about before. In turn, I pushed him to make decisions that served the song. He was originally supposed to be the producer for the entire EP, but he received an opportunity to pursue his film scoring career and things didn’t pan out with us. Luckily, I learned so much from our experience together that it fueled my journey as my own producer.
What was the inspiration behind the music video?
It was based off of several conversations Jesse [Bronstein] and I had about our experiences with being with someone who was physically there, but emotionally unreachable. We wanted to capture that essence. He had already had the image of me being trapped in a glass box during blue hour. As for the “masked man” partner dance, I was really inspired by a piece that Jesse showed me called “The Lovers” by René Margritte. It’s a painting of a couple kissing, but they both have these white sheets covering their entire heads so you don’t see their faces. The image struck me so hard. It became a huge part of what inspired the look of the cover art and the video.
What was it like to work with the directors Jesse Bronstein and Jacob Guzman Lawson?
They were both inspiring, passionate and thoughtful. I learned so much about the process of translating music into something visual because of them. We had so many obstacles that made this video difficult to finish, but everyone was so dedicated. We were able to come up with creative solutions that not only fixed our problems but added to the story we were trying to tell.
We know you found your collaborators through social media, can you explain how you went about it, and what it was like using social media to find people?
The process of finding people on the internet was fun, awkward, but incredibly rewarding. I spent posting on Facebook groups, asking if there was anyone who would be willing to help me. I was sliding into DMS, stalking (um researching) people on Instagram, shooting my shot with who might be a good match for me. If there was someone who’s work, I liked, I’d offer them coffee and cross my fingers. Some of the networking dates were better than others, but when things clicked, they clicked! There’s nothing quite like moving to a new city, meeting strangers in coffee shops and finding myself wrapped up in a conversation for two hours unexpectedly.
I was actually trying to find someone else’s portfolio on Vimeo when I came across a beautiful short film that Jesse worked on – I guess you can call it a very happy accident. As for my choreographer (Christabelle Tan), dance partner (Brian Wong) and make up artist (Vivian Wang), I owe that to the Asian Creative Network. ACN NYC has been such a supportive community; I am forever grateful for this little space on the internet dedicated to connecting Asian creatives.
How would you describe the music video and what does it mean to you?
Vulnerable and honest. The music video forced me to step outside of my comfort zone in so many ways. From sharing my story to complete strangers, to singing inside of a glass box in the middle winter, to learning how to dance, this music video was the resolution to the insecurities that created the song. It is proof that I am strong enough to take something painful and turn it into something beautiful.
Are there more music videos on the way?
Yes. There’s so much of me that really wants to make cool songs just so I have the excuse to make epic music videos. It’s only a matter of time when the next one is going to be out.
What else can we expect from you for the rest of the year?
More songs! More risks! More everything! I’m feeling especially inspired recently and I want this time of my life to challenge me and be full of growth. I already have a vision of what I want my next bodywork to be and I couldn’t be more excited to dive into that world.
Now, let’s dip into the past, have you always wanted to be a singer-songwriter? And, where did your love of music come from?
Deep down, yes. I’ve entertained other career options, but when it came down to it, I’ve always chosen music. I had been obsessed with songs and singing them for my entire life. I loved music because it was the one thing that I thought made me special. It gave me an identity beyond just “the Asian girl” in a predominately white community. As a very sheltered child, music made me feel cool and helped me see my life like a movie when it totally wasn’t.
How does it feel to see how far you’ve grown, from posting covers on YouTube, to releasing your debut EP?
I try not to think I’ve come too far because I’d rather not become too complacent. But it does feel good knowing that I’m not as lost, unstable and insecure as I used to be. My mindset went from thinking I had to cater to what I thought people wanted to, believing that if people will inevitably pay attention as long as I made something special. I’m proud that I have a greater sense of direction now.
Where do you draw inspiration from, and who do you look up to in the music industry and why?
I draw so much of my inspiration from conversations. I try my best to pay attention to the things people share about themselves and how they share it. I try to notice my reaction to that and why I feel the way I feel. A good conversation can fuel so many songs.
In terms of artistry, I am very inspired by other female musicians, especially other DIY female producer/songwriters. For the past years a few of my biggest inspirations have been Julia Michaels, Taylor Swift, BANKS, Nina Nesbitt, Kehlani, and Sarah Close. Every time I hear a song that is honest and – I’d imagine – scary to write, every time I see a piece of art that shocks me and makes me question my life, I get hooked.
What do you hope to achieve in the next few years?
I want so many things. I want to release a full-length album, a stripped-down album, a visual EP, go on an international tour with another artist(s) I love, collaborate with dream songwriters, producers and directors. I know each of these requires so much work and can’t all happen at once, but these are the things I want most in my career at the moment.
We’re looking forward to watching you make these dreams come true, we’ll be supporting you in every step. Now time for the last question, finally, do you have a message for your fans?
Thank you for everything. It is a gift and a privilege to be the soundtrack to your morning commutes, road trips, break-ups, work-outs – whatever it is. I read every single message and comment and it lifts me up in ways I can’t express in words. I see you and I care.
Thank you, ÊMIA, for answering our questions, we simply adore your debut EP Little Secret, as well as all the music you’ve released prior. We’re excited to see where your career takes you next and we’re ready to promote you in any way possible.
ÊMIA’s debut EP, Little Secret, is available to download and stream right now. She’s released some incredible tracks to-date and featured on some awesome songs too. We urge you to check out her songs on her Spotify page, we assure you that you’ll love them as much as we do.