In the vibrant landscape of contemporary music, artists like Emei emerge as trailblazers, pushing boundaries and redefining genres. With her distinctive sound and captivating style, Emei has taken the pop-alt dance music scene by storm. In February 2023, Emei's single "Scatterbrain" achieved a remarkable milestone, accumulating an impressive 20 million streams. The track's international recognition was evident, with features on 15 New Music Friday playlists worldwide. Additionally, it found its way onto the airwaves, receiving airplay on BBC Radio 1's esteemed "Future Pop" show and earning the distinction of "Poppest Record of the Week."
Emei's highly-anticipated sophomore EP, Scatterbrain, released this October. This seven-track alt-pop collection delves into a range of relatable themes, addressing issues such as social anxiety, ADHD, the weight of high expectations, and the struggles of self-sabotage. With her latest offering, Emei continues to connect with listeners on a deeply personal and emotionally resonant level. Emei caught up with INTERSECT before her sold-out show in Boston, delving into the expectations for her tour and highly anticipated "711" music video.
Having secured the third position on China Idol, let's begin by discussing your experience on the show. How has your journey evolved from your time on the show to the present?
It was very strange because I felt like a child in Chinese Idol because I was one, so it was a different experience. Now, I'm like a grown adult who also has many opinions and thoughts on artistry and all that. It's been a lot of learning how to control my artistry because, in Idol, it was like people there telling me what to say. I want to clarify I definitely enjoy this more.
Scatterbrain has recently been released. Can you share the inspiration that fueled this track and elaborate on the creative process behind it?
I write very chronologically. So, my first EP was about graduating high school and college. This EP goes through graduating college and then going into it. "Scatterbrain" is like finding myself, moving into my apartment, and becoming someone who lives in LA. So it's very chronological, which was the inspiration. I write about my life, and then it turns into a song.
What is your typical starting point for songwriting? Do you begin with a specific word or a memory?
Totally depends on the day. Oftentimes, it's just like a concept I've been thinking about, an object or something like that, or a feeling. But I usually start with something pretty simple, and then it turns into whatever I turn it into.
After your extensive experience in music, is there a particular instrument that you find indispensable in your songs, adding that distinctive touch?
That's a good question. No, I don't think so. I go in phases. So there's a period where, especially with my first EP, I loved guitars and wanted electric guitars and everything. And then with this EP, it was not super chord-focused, like it was a lot of like effects and vocal things. And that was my thing. Recently, I've been making a lot more music with synths and jazz chords and things like that. So it changes, but I don't have something I must have in everything. It's like this month, I'm making a lot of piano-focused songs. I like changes
Speaking of delving into weighty themes, your EP explores many profound topics. What inspires you to address such subjects in your music?
It's so funny because I don't even think about what I'm writing about. I'm literally like, the day off, I'll be like, damn, I've been feeling like this or like this happened yesterday, and I want to write about it. It's very current and dependent on how I'm feeling at the exact moment. So, I don't like to think about this concept that I want to write about, but instead, I've been feeling this way. It's very personally inspired.
Given the personal inspiration behind your work, how do you envision presenting it through this tour?
I love live music so much that whenever I write, I think a lot about how I want to make it interactive or fun for people to watch rather than just listen. And so, like with Scatterbrain, we have a fun little call-and-response moment. It just makes it so fun for me. I always want to make sure that my songs can also reflect live. Because, for me, that's the whole point.
Considering your significant rise in popularity on social media, could you discuss the meaning and significance of this impact, especially in connecting with a younger audience?
Everywhere I've gone, I've been doing VIP meet and greets, and many people have been asking me questions. There's a Q and A, and many people have asked me how it feels now that you've blown up and like. I'm always like, "Dude, I'm horrible." It doesn't hit me that much. So many more people are listening to my music until I'm playing shows, and I like to have people singing the words back at me. And then I'm like, whoa, like, this is like some, like, I wrote these words, and now it impacts fans' lives. That has been wild. Yeah. It is also hard to wrap my head around. It's hard because I feel like it's just like any career. It's like you set a goal, you hit it, and then you make a new goal, and then you hit it, and then you make a new goal, and you never actually get to enjoy where you're at. It's tough to enjoy where you've gotten or where you're at, no matter what you're doing. That happens with me, too, where I'm just chugging along most of the time. Then there are moments where I'm amazed. I'm hoping that I'll have more moments where I can appreciate everything and feel grateful. And I have those moments a lot more on tour because I'm like, this is awesome. I feel so lucky. I get to sing, and then people get tickets to watch me sing.
What lies ahead for you following the release of Scatterbrain and tour?
I'm working on a lot of a lot more music. I have a feature song with noted NOTD coming out this Friday, which is so soon. And it's so funny because I forget when I'm on tour. I'm so focused on the day-to-day that I forget these big things are happening. And I'm super excited about that because I've never done a feature, especially with a DJ, like an EDM artist. I am super pumped about that. After that, I also have a music video coming out, which I'm very excited about. After that, more music, as usual, chugging along. The music video is for "711." I'm so pumped about it. I work with this director called Aser Santos, and he is amazing, spectacular, awesome. He did my "Scatterbrain" and "Cynical" music videos, which I adore. I love working with him. He's so great, and I'm excited for more of the visual world to be coming along.
Given your strong involvement in both your music and visual elements, how deeply do you engage in shaping the creative direction of your music videos?
For sure, definitely. It's tough, though, because I think of myself as something other than super visual. Like I write the songs. I can close my eyes and imagine what I want to see, but I would not say I like it. Like I'll be like. For the "Cynical" music video, I'm thinking like Alice in Wonderland or Checkers. I am still thinking about where I got it from. I said I was just Like Alice in Wonderland. It was strange, but also quick movements, like, I would say, like random things. I'm lucky enough to have a team around me who says, "Let's do it!." They make it even better than I ever thought it would be.
Is there a message or something special you'd like to convey to your fans or to those attending your live shows?
Please sing along for this entire thing, specifically, even if you don't know the lyrics. I want to hear the wrong lyrics. That's so much more fun. I went to a show with my sister a few years ago, and it was so funny because I didn't know all the lyrics, and she didn't either. But we were ready to play ball and just showed up. We sang random words, which was much more fun because it was just like being involved and yelling random things. It's such a way to get your feelings out. I think of going to live music. It's like a way to express your emotions and feelings. You don't have to know all the lyrics. It's the best if you show up and have fun.