Emma McGrath chats to DIVA about her new EP, coming out and karaoke
BY SOPHIE GRIFFITHS, IMAGE BY DAN KENDALL
Emma McGrath is a 20-year old musician hailing from north London. She’s been penning her own music since 2013, but now she has reached a whole new level of confidence and maturity in both her lyrics and sound.
With two EPs already under her belt, Emma returns with her latest one entitled Keep Your Eyes Open. We’ve had it on repeat since its release and wanted the lowdown on her new vulnerable and intimate songs.
DIVA: When did you start writing music?
EMMA MCGRATH: I was quite a shy kid. I found it difficult to talk to people and was a huge over-thinker. I think I just started writing to say all of the things I couldn’t say out loud in my songs. When I started performing them, everything just started to take off from there.
What words would you use to describe your sound?
I really like to mix my sound up. Some of it falls in-between genres. It’s pop music with a foundation of acoustic music. I think I get pretty bored, especially when we’re doing live shows, I don’t really want to do the same style of music for a whole show. I like to mix it up with more chilled songs and have more upbeat production on some of them to keep it interesting.
Can you tell us a bit about the story behind your new EP, Keep Your Eyes Open?
It is the second part of a three-part EP collection. It follows on from the topic of Silent Minds. I used this to describe people that I couldn’t really understand back when I was 15 or 16. The people who couldn’t sympathise with other people – I’m such an over-sympathiser. Silent Minds was my way of trying to understand those people who don’t quite understand the feelings of others.
That phrase features in quite a few songs on this EP as well. Fall With You is definitely the most pop I’ve ever gone with plenty of production, right the way to Old Times, which is a lot more acoustic and was recorded in a day.
Who has had the biggest influence on your music?
It’s a difficult question, because I don’t tend to listen to the same kind of music that I write. I’m a sucker for good pop music recently. People like Tove Lo are great. I could never fully do pop though, I don’t think I’m that cool.
Your first headline show is coming up and you had a great performance at HearHer Festival. It seems like you’re a natural on stage. Do you think the live performance element comes quite easily to you?
It’s become a lot easier. I used to have such bad anxiety about everything, but now I just want to go out there and have fun and enjoy it. If I look like an idiot, I look like an idiot. If I say something wrong, I say something wrong. At the end of the day, if the audience sees you having fun, they’re gonna have fun as well.
I’ve finally got a band that I trust to get everything right, even when I mess it up. They’re the best mates I’ve ever had and I love them so much.
What was your first gig like?
We had a plumber come over to fix something in our house. I think I was singing some songs upstairs and he heard me and told me that his sister owns a pub where they run an open mic night. That’s how I started playing live and how I got into music. After that I went to the open mic night once a month to play some songs.
Thank goodness for your plumber! What are your thoughts on queer representation in music?
I think it’s so important. When I was a little lesbian, I was drawn to people that I could relate to in the media. I needed those people that I could see myself in. I feel very lucky that a lot of my fanbase are LGBTQI too – they’re pretty hardcore. They are so loyal and they have so much love. It’s the best thing when you go to a show and there’s such a diverse range of people in the audience.
Have you always been open about your queerness in your music?
I had a really weird coming out process, because people in school basically decided it for me. I was the school gay and everyone kept telling me it. I didn’t deny it, but I just wanted people to leave me alone. I’m open about my sexuality in my music. I’ve used she pronouns in one song, but I often don’t feel the need to use them. I’m definitely not ashamed of it.
If you could give your younger queer self a few words of wisdom, what would you say?
I’d probably tell myself not to care what people think. Do what makes you feel comfortable. And I’d say it gets better, which sounds really lame, because that’s what everyone says, but it genuinely does. You’re going to meet people in your life that you feel whole around and love you for who you are.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
*Proceeds to sing What’s Love Got To Do With It by Tina Turner down the phone* I used to play Singstar and I would always sing that. I think I got top marks on it every time.
What’s next for you?
I’m probably going to start recording some new stuff soon to keep getting my music out there. I’d also love it if everyone came to my show headline show 12 March at The Grace, London.
You’re not gonna wanna miss this, grab yourself a ticket here and pray that Emma has a Tina Turner cover up her sleeve! Oh, and check out her latest EP below, it’s a cracker.
Only reading DIVA online? You’re missing out. For more news, reviews and commentary, support queer content and buy the latest issue. It’s pretty badass, if we do say so ourselves.