Thursday, March 1, 2012

INTERVIEW : Emily Williams

After years spent seemingly in the pop wilderness, Sydney-based Emily Williams has just delivered her long-awaited debut album 'Uncovered' - a collection of feel good R&B infused dance/pop hits that she hopes her extraordinarily patient fans are going to love. Almost entirely self-penned, the album has been very much a labour of love - and Emily is thrilled for the project to finally have been launched upon her adoring public.
We popped down for a natter with the dynamic songstress to have a natter about the new LP and find out why she's kept her fans waiting for so long.

"Well I think what’s taken me so long is just trying to make sure that it comes out right," she says honestly. "I wanted to make sure that every song that I had on the album was perfect. Perfect for the album and perfect as a showcase of 'me'."

But more about the new album later...
New Zealand-born Emily was just 21 years old when she placed second to Kate DeAraugo in the final of Australian Idol season three back in 2005. We were all left gobsmacked by her no nonsense attitude, that trademark powerhouse vocal and some commanding performances. We sat up and took note... as a new diva blossomed before us. Emily tells us that she looks back fondly on those days.

"That’s how people go to know me and got to hear my voice," she says. "It was how I got recognised. I think everyone’s not soon going to forget me from Idol."

Following on from her second-placed finish, Emily was seconded to the line-up of pop quartet Young Divas, alongside other feisty Idol felines Kate DeAraugo, Paulini and Ricki-Lee, to belt out cover versions of camp '80s disco classics, but unlike all her other bandmates, she had always been denied the chance to shine in her own right via a solo career.

"I enjoyed the whole process of the Young Divas," Emily admits. "Working with those four amazing girls was awesome. But obviously at the back of all our minds, our main goal at the end of the day was to become solo artists... it wasn’t to become a group.

"Even though we made it work – because we loved each other – I was hurt, because I did want to get my own stuff out there and I knew I had a lot to give. But as they all say, all in good time," she says.

We ask Emily why she thinks she wasn't afforded the option of solo success in the way the others were.

"I’m not too sure," she says. "Because I was so new and fresh, everything was so amazing and I felt pretty special. At that time, though, it wasn’t like I didn’t go home and cry some tears."

Young Divas' first album borrowed heavily from the Stock-Aitken-Waterman back catalogue. 'This Time I Know It's For Real' was originally an S-A-W hit for Donna Summer, 'Happening All Over Again' was an S-A-W club smash for Lonnie Gordon. Covers of Princess' 'Say I'm Your Number One' and Sonia's 'You'll Never Stop Me Loving You' (both penned by Stock Aitken Waterman), were also included on the group's first album. It was quite obviously tailored for a predominantly gay male audience.

"Even though we reached out a lot more to the gay side, I’ve gotta say I loved it. I loved every minute of it. I think they (the gay audience) make the world go ‘round. And let's face it, if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here," she laughs.

Just over two years (a line-up tweak and a weak sophomore album) into their rollercoaster ride of mainstream disco-pop success, the group went their separate ways - and Emily was left to find her own identity while striving for solo stardom.

"You get to that point in your life where you do want to be looked at as a solo artist and not a product of a competition," she says. "As Emily Williams. Remember that girl from Idol who came second to Kate (DeAraugo)? Even the Young Divas thing – you want to be called Emily Williams."

A self-confessed perfectionist, Emily has spent the past few years carefully writing and crafting her debut album. She gave her fans a taste of what to expect late in 2010 with the release of her debut solo single 'Spellbound'.

"We chose ‘Spellbound’ because at that point in time, it was how I was feeling," she muses. "A little cheeky track about meeting a guy. I got spellbound. So I just put it down on paper and decided to turn it into a song. And that was it ‘cause he is as fine as hell," she laughs.
And is said gentleman still making Emily 'Spellbound'? "No comment," she says cheekily.

'You're Mine' - a track Emily describes as "exploring my feeling of puppy love" (and written about the same guy) - dropped in early February 2011. But less than two weeks after its release, Christchurch, a city close to her heart and home to some of her closest friends, was rocked by the magnitude 6.3 earthquake that all but broke its spirit. Within days, Emily had penned a touching song of support for those who'd been devastated by the natural disaster. All proceeds from the sale of the song went to the New Zealand Red Cross.

"I was really shocked," she says, clearly still moved by the tragedy. "I couldn’t believe it. It was all over the news at the time and I just wanted to see if I could do anything to give back to my people, to my country. And that’s why I wrote ‘Never Alone’.

"I know a few friends who stayed in Christchurch, but they were okay. They were just really devastated about what happened to the town," she says, clearly affectionate towards her country of birth and its people.

So back to that new album... 'Uncovered' is a collection of mostly up-tempo pop/R&B/dance hybrids with good grooves and that classy, crystalline vocal. A passion project for the past three years, Emily has been incredibly hands-on with all aspects of its creation, from writing to producing - even down to choosing which songs made the cut.

"When it comes to the music side of things, I’m a total perfectionist," Emily admits. "Sometimes it’s really hard to work with me in the studio – it can be really easy, but then also very hard because everything has to be to the ‘t’.

"I’ve worked with some fantastic producers, I’ll be honest. I can’t believe the talent that I got to work with. I was really taken aback. There’s so much talent here in Australia that people just don’t know of. They'll fly all the way overseas to try and find that talent when it’s actually right here," she says passionately.

Out of the "25 or 27" tracks that were created over the course of the past three years, ten have made the album, along with two remixes. And it's clear from the first listen that Emily has created the LP for people to dance to.

"You can ask anyone… I love to dance," she says. "That’s why there are so many dance songs. Shane my manager was telling me that I needed to have at least two slow songs on there just to break it up, but I was worried I was going to miss out on certain tracks.

"We were virtually battling each other because I wanted a certain song, he wanted another song. I actually wanted to be able to put all the songs on there. But I think the final ten that we decided on work perfectly together," she says.

And all but one of the tracks on the album has been written exclusively by Emily.

"I’m one of those people that when it comes to writing, I just like to write about how I’m feeling at that point in time. Whatever I’m feeling – be it happy, sad or whatever… I think it goes for any artist and their music – they go on a feeling or an experience," she says.

It seems that creating that experience for her fans is what it's all about for Emily. She'll be hitting the road in the months ahead for a series of live appearances around the country - and she's promising a feel-good uplifting experience for all who attend.

"Dancing, crying. HA! No!" she laughs, "Just happy. Upbeat, fun, exciting and lots of dancing."

It's been a heck of a long road to get to here, but with plenty of sweat, tears and passion, lots of writing, lots of determination, some spirited arguments with management, the support of her gay audience and her family (not to mention that 'spellbinding' chap), Ms Emily Williams is finally and most definitively 'Uncovered'.


Emily's album 'Uncovered' is available digitally now.
Keep tabs on Emily's upcoming appearances and the latest news via www.emilywilliams.net.

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