Meet Emily, the voice and face of a London four-piece Emily and The Woods. You know that friend you might not talk to for a really long time, only to sit down and carry on like not a single day has passed since you last saw them? Getting together with her felt exactly like that - only I'd never met her before. Alice and I managed to find our way to her after knocking on two doors in Shoreditch that definitely didn't lead to Emily's flat. We were greeted by long flowing curls, the biggest smile and offers of tea, coffee, juice and possibly her left arm if we were into that. We weren't, it's still intact - which is a good thing seeing as she sometimes likes to play the guitar. Born into a musical family in West London, Emily grew up surrounded by music. Her dad is a jazz musician and producer - in her family home, their garden shed was turned into a tiny studio where much of her earlier music was recorded. It was never expected that she - or her younger brother slash bandmate Benedict - would end up musicians but living in that environment helped. There was always plenty of support, her dad helped her out with production and to this day is always around for advice. Originally more of a singer-songwriter, she's now drifted into new grounds with her band Emily and The Woods. It's made of Emily as the singer, Benedict on the guitar and his school friends Dave Bush and Sam Brown, on drums and bass respectively. The boys were playing together in school already, Emily joined them at a later time. Steal His Heart has nearly three million views on YouTube. Their music is getting played by the likes of Zane Lowe. This summer they're performing at festivals like Secret Garden Party. They’re doing well. We spoke about being a band with her sibling. Things are generally more heated with family members, what with fighting and all. Less so as adults of course - it's not like a flashback to teenage years (you know, when fighting over spending too much time in the bathroom is kinda normal) will release all hell. Just, sometimes working with someone very close to you can make things harder. Emily thinks for a moment and says they're all equally honest and open with each other. There's no flying off the walls. Working together with Benedict is more of a blessing if anything. Siblings share a connection you just don't get with anyone else.
A connection like that, as well as openness and honesty, come in handy when four people make music together. Look, it's not hard to appreciate good music or know your guitar from an ukulele. But, it can be quite difficult to grasp how a group of people coming together gives birth to music. She says there's no set of rules to follow, that it's improvisational. Sometimes one of them will show up with an idea in mind, sometimes they just pick up instruments and start playing. Each works on their instrument and things fall into place kind of naturally. She says sometimes it takes longer but it's never one of them sitting down, writing a song and bringing notes for the rest to follow. It's always a collaboration. What's just as fascinating is finding out whether musicians really go through that
much heartbreak. Is songwriting sometimes kinda like fiction writing? So and so, in Emily's opinion. We talk about literature and writing in general, and she says while it's not always literal, the concept always comes from her experiences. Fiction is never completely made up. Every feeling a writer tries to evoke is something they've experienced beforehand. In that sense writing is always honest, even when the subject is something seemingly so distant from the author. It's the same with Emily's music. Even if she's not singing a chronological overview of an event in her life, you know it comes from inside her. It's a beautiful skill to possess.
Music and songwriting was never a plan per se. She knew she wanted to express herself in one way or another but it wasn't what she always had in mind. She did a degree in philosophy and talks of her time at university as something that contributed a lot to her music. It's that you never really have as much free time you do as a student, and you end up meeting a lot of people that inspire you in one way or another. It's important no matter what you do but invaluable for any artist. While studying she did a work placement with Tesco and BA magazines where she assisted interior stylists. She kept in touch with one of the stylists and now sometimes freelances with her. At one point she opens a big box full of band merch to show me jewellery she's made to sell at gigs. She's not the kind to rely on her soft voice - instead she wants to have options should she one day decide she no longer wants to make music. She stressed it's so important to be a well-rounded person and stay curious about the world around us. She doesn't say it in a holier than thou kinda way either. She genuinely is keen to learn, both about things and people around her. I think for about half an hour our roles completely reversed and I found myself being interviewed about social media and my job at Miista.
She's cool like that. Rather than taking an opportunity to blatantly promote herself, she focuses on being nice. She'll tell you a story or two, like how she will spend her birthday at a gypsy caravan in Dorset. She will tell you a weird fact or her wifi password, which could easily be one and the same
. She has no problem saying if there's something she doesn't like - smoking for instance! - but does go out of her way to make people feel good around her. In the end she'll send you off with pockets full of chocolate. The chocolate, just so you know, had a picture of the band on it and all of us at the office pretty much inhaled it the moment I got back... unlike her that clearly possesses a lot of self-restraint. What a woman! Emily and The Woods is a band to keep an eye out for. They're working away in the studio slightly bigger than the one in Emily's garden which means new music is on its way. You can find them on Facebook
and their last EP Then We Collide is available both as digital and on CD here
. One day maybe on vinyl too. She does like vinyl. Emily and The Woods - Helios
Photos by Alice Zielasko
. Music picked by Emily.