Fuse recently sat down with Emma Louise, the up-and-coming Australian chanteuse whose eerie, gorgeous "Freedom" is one of our favorite tracks of 2013. Like Ellie Goulding, Louise specializes in introspective tunes coated in dazzling shades of electro-pop.
Sitting poolside at an Austin hotel and sporting the most fashionable mullet we've seen since Joan Jett, Louise told us about starting out as a street busker, being a musical late-starter and what her album title vs. Head vs. Hear means.
Have you always been into electronic music?
No, I actually didn’t have a rich musical upbringing at all. Nobody in my family plays music. This whole thing is really foreign to my mom and dad. I started off very folky. It was just chords and feelings. I never really studied music but now I’ve started to search out new music. That's opened up the whole electronic thing. I don’t know if I’ll end up being an 'electronic artist' for the next album, though, I'm just doing what feels right at the time.
Is there any artist in particular that attracted to you to the sound?
I’m actually very behind on music. I started listening to Radiohead's Kid A and Bjork albums like Post and Debut and Vespertine. I really like music where you listen to it once and immediately know you can just keep listening to it and diving into different layers of the song. That’s what I tried to do with this album, so it is possible people might not get it straight away.
When do you decide to start playing music?
I think one of my friends had a guitar in the seventh grade. I always used to play it and then mom and dad got me a guitar. It was very personal for the first few years but then I started showing people when I was 13 or 14. By the time I was 15, i wasn't doing too well in school and I just focused all my energy on music. Not necessarily wanting to be a musician, but it just kind of happened. I did a few residencies each week at different cafes and bars ended up doing an EP.
When did you realize that music was a career possibility?
Professionally, it was probably after I released my EP. But everything that I was doing after I finished school was music-related. For instance, I was busking at the markets.
Did you make good money?
Yeah, I would make real good money 'cause I would burn a disc and then sell it for $10. Sometimes I would sell 80 at a market in one day. So that was really good. Plus I had residencies at the time.
Did you find songwriting came to you easily?
I never wrote a song just to write a song. I wrote a song to feel or to express my emotions honestly. Then I started realizing that was I was doing was music, so I started learning more about the musicality of songwriting.
You recently covered Alt-J's "Tessellate." Are you a big fan of theirs?
Well, that was one of the first covers I’ve ever really done. I purposely didn’t study it or listen to [the original] too much because I wanted mine to have its own flavor. I've only heard a few songs of theirs but I really want to get their album and start listening to it.
You have a cool sense of fashion. Is there something you’re specifically interested in?
I really didn’t study it or anything. I like buying stuff and… I like wearing clothes [laughs]. I am definitely a bit of a hairstyle changer-upper. Constantly. I shaved my head three years ago and since then it’s been like [makes zzzshooop noises while signing morphing hairstyles].
What made you decide to shave the sides of your head?
It was only two weeks ago. I was on the plane sitting next to Danny, my drummer, and we were looking at this magazine when I saw a picture of this girl. She had her hair styled like a mullet and I was like, 'Holy sh-t! I’m going to get a mullet.' I went to my hairdresser at 10 o'clock at night I told her, 'Give me a Mullet.' So we just kind of mulleted. It was a little bit of a joke but when it happened [my band] were like, "You actually did it!"
So you’re pro-mullet?
I’m pro-mullet, all the way
Your album is called vs. Head vs. Heart. What’s with the two "vs." in the title?
The idea is that it's Emma Louise, my stage name, versus my head versus my heart. Because on my first EP there was a song called "Jungle" that did quite well and after that I felt thrown into the deep end. There was a lot of external pressure. It was like my head—or somebody else's head—might be telling me, "You know, you need another 'Jungle,' so you need to do this or that," but I knew needed to stay true to myself. So the album is "Emma Louise vs. Head vs. Heart."
So it's like you versus yourself?
Yeah, and everything that’s happening. But at the same time, I have been working hard and wishing for this to happen.
What was your process of making the album?
I wrote this song called "Cages" which was a bridge from my old stuff to my new stuff. When that was happening, I started listening to new music and learned more about the studio and production. After that, we ended up deleting the first four songs I recorded and worked forward from there. "Freedom" is actually the oldest one [on the album], but we dressed it up in the new production.
So those first four, they’re not going to be on the album. Do you think they’ll see the light of day at some point or are they just locked away?
They’ll hopefully be bonus tracks, but a few of them probably won’t get released. They’re just from a different family all together
So when you don’t release something that you’ve recorded, is it because it just doesn’t feel part of the album or because it's embarrassing?
I want all my albums to be a piece of art all together. It’s not that I didn’t like the songs, it’s just that they didn’t quite fit in.
Do you expect to keep recording music in the vein of vs. Head vs. Heart or do you want to keep expanding your sound?
With my music I want to make every album a bit different. I’m not going to stay in one lane so I feel like I might lose some and gain some with each album. Honestly, I don’t know what I’m going to do.
vs. Head vs. Heart is released in the U.S. on May 21.