INTERVIEW: Emma Hewitt (2012)
Though she got her start making rock music as part of the band Missing Hours, Australian singer/songwriter Emma Hewitt has quickly ascended to the top of the trance world. A progressive house track with Chris Lake introduced Emma to the EDM world and she was quickly embraced by masterful producers like Dash Berlin, Lange, Cosmic Gate and Ronski Speed. While she is dubbed by many as the reigning queen of trance, Emma has stepped back and constructed an enchanting multiformat debut solo album called “Burn the Sky Down.” Her trance fans need not worry, though, as there are remixes coming for every song on the album.
Ron Slomowicz: How are you enjoying Mexico?
Emma Hewitt: It’s really great actually, we had the Dash Berlin show on Saturday night and their concert was sold out. The vibe was great and we filmed a video for their next single yesterday. It was interesting and a lot of fun.
RS: You started off with rock music, how did you discover electronic dance music?
Emma Hewitt: Honestly, I only used to listen to electronic dance music when I went out with my friends. In Australia, everything was heavily rock-based, so I didn’t really know how to get into that side of music, it was like a whole other world to me, but it always really interested me. I went to England, where I met Chris Lake through my publisher, and decided to work with him on a track. He first asked me to work on his track “Changes,” but it wasn’t something that was really suitable for my voice. We started to write something else together and we wrote “Carry Me Away,” and once that went well then a few other DJs got in contact; Cosmic Gate and then Dash Berlin. I was still touring with the rock band at the time and I kind of jumped ship. I really enjoy doing this style of music, and it allowed me to make a lot more emotional music which is fantastic. Plus I got to travel around a lot more so I didn’t look back to the rock side of things.
RS: You’ve quickly become the queen of trance, what about trance music inspires you so much?
Emma Hewitt: Just the emotional nature of it, the way it affects people and the way it seems to be able to bring a group of people together. You know if you’re in a club and a song that’s really moving comes on, it puts everybody in the same mindset and I just love that; being able to be a part of that and the energy that it gives out.
RS: I’m always curious, when someone like you works with say Cosmic Gate or Gareth Emery, how do you collaborate? Do you write to a track they’ve already made or do they write a track around your lyrics? How does that normally work?
Emma Hewitt: It’s actually different each time, to be honest. I usually work around them giving me a track and me writing the vocals to the track. With Cosmic Gate and Gareth Emery, my brother and I wrote the music, the vocals, the lyrics and the melody with guitar or piano and we just sent the vocal line to them and they built the track around it. So it’s different each time.
RS: Are you normally in the studio with them or is it all done via eMail?
Emma Hewitt: No, we are never in the studio together actually. It is via correspondence, which is kind of odd because a lot of time the case is that you’re working with people you’ve never met face to face. You can key in on what kind of song they want to hear. “Disarm Yourself” with Dash Berlin is the only song that I’ve ever done in the studio with the artist/producer.
RS: Did you feel at all nervous doing it that way?
Emma Hewitt: No. I didn’t feel nervous doing it that way, but it’s a very different kind of an environment to work in. I like working via correspondence because you can bounce ideas off each other but then you can go away and think about it and work on your part before you send it back. It doesn’t have to be so instant which is nice, you don’t have to push anything out really quickly, you know?
RS: Yes. Was the process of putting your album together any different?
Emma Hewitt: Yes, it was a lot different actually. My brother and I spent quite a while writing it, and we had to test out a few different producers first to see who was going to fit and really get the vibe of it before the original side of the album. We used a lot of live instruments, like live string arrangements, guitars and live drums which were cut up and sampled, so it was a much longer process to put the album together. We had to track all the live instruments and things and build the songs up from scratch. It’s very enjoyable, I like doing things that way and that’s coming from a band background as well.
RS: How long did it take to do the album?
Emma Hewitt: It took a really long time, actually. Well, we had a few false starts with trying out different working environments and things. The actual album only took probably three or four months, but the writing of it and the trial and errors took probably about another seven or eight months on top of that.
RS: Very cool. So this album isn’t really a trance album at all, there are songs of different tempos and genres. How do you think your fans are going to react to that?
Emma Hewitt: I really hope that they’ll like that a sense of the songs are the same. They’re all very emotional and in that sense I think they are similar to the trance stuff. Hopefully people will respond to that style of music as well and the other side of the coin is that we’ve got remixes. Probably three or four mixes on every single track so there will be trance versions of each song for the people that don’t perhaps gel with the original versions.
RS: Smart. Though the album isn’t mixed, I find it’s similar to a DJ set because it starts off mellow and builds intensity from beginning to end. Was this in your mind when you put the line up together?
Emma Hewitt: It kind of was actually, we wanted to put the segues in, the little songs that go for twenty or thirty seconds that lead into the next songs. We wanted it to be a little bit like a journey when you listened to it. So I’m glad that you picked that up.
RS: I also really love the vocal effects on the whole album and I’m wondering was that part of the songwriting? Were you imagining the ethereal vocal feel, like on “Burn the Sky Down,” when you wrote the song?
Emma Hewitt: Yes, we wanted to do something with this because a lot of the songs that I’ve worked on in the past have been very uplifting, positive trance songs. We wanted to do something that was still positive and uplifting, but had that darker side to it as well. We wanted the vocals to be a little bit darker and a little more spooky, as well as still being uplifting at times. The producer that we worked with, Lee Groves, was really great with getting the vocal effect.
RS: Take this as a major compliment, when I first heard the chorus of “Colors,” the way you had the vocals so layered and stacked reminded me of Enya.
Emma Hewitt: Thank you. I’ve listened to Enya a lot over the years and I’m sure she’s possibly influenced the sound there in some way. But thank you I appreciate that, I really do like her stuff.
RS: And then on “These Days Are Ours,” is that a choir in the background?
Emma Hewitt: It’s actually a group of schoolkids that we went and recorded. They were really cute and really fun. So they had a ball singing along. We wanted it to be almost like a children’s playground, with a giddy feeling in the background.
RS: I totally get that. Two of my favorite songs on the album seem quite personal; I wanted to ask you the story behind them. Pardon me if this is too direct, but is “Crucify” about your mother?
Emma Hewitt: No, no it’s not about my mother. It’s actually about a past relationship and the feeling that you can’t save a person and if you stay with them you’re going to go down with them. So you kind of have to get out and save yourself.
RS: Okay, that makes sense. Is “This Picture” about a specific person in your life or is that a general statement?
Emma Hewitt: Actually “This Picture” is the cover that’s on the album. That’s a cover of a Placebo song. We put that on there because my brother and I grew up listening to Placebo and really loved their music so we wanted to give a nod to the 90s kind of rock music that we loved growing up. So to me, the lyrics to that song are quite personal. It’s very retrospective and kind of dark and is about getting lost in your own world.
RS: I know it has a very dance/rock feel to it, which was really cool.
Emma Hewitt: Thank you. I really like the song; we really wanted to do a version of that for a really long time so I’m glad we got to include it on there.
RS: Were the collaborations with 16 Bit Lolitas and Dash Berlin at the end done specifically for your album or are they showing up in other albums also?
Emma Hewitt: The Dash Berlin collaboration at the end, “Spinning Plates,” is actually on Dash Berlin’s album. We just filmed a video for that in Mexico yesterday which is going to be really cool, I think. They’re going to release it as a single maybe in another two months or so. So that’s a bonus track on the album. And the 16 Bit Lolitas track, that was done just for my album. That was a song that my brother and I had an acoustic version of, and we wrote it and loved it and thought we wanted to include it on this album and we absolutely loved the 16 Bit Lolitas production work. So we thought, why not try something different and get them to work on the track as well.
RS: In “Spinning Plates,” the breakdown of the piano is absolutely gorgeous. Where did that idea come from?
Emma Hewitt: Well that’s the Dash Berlin guys, its fantastic isn’t it? They really put music in great with the breakdown.
RS: So right now you’re on tour with Dash Berlin and then you’re set to tour with Cosmic Gate next. I’m wondering when you do your shows, do you do an opening set, do you sing over what they play or how do you work yourself into a DJ set performance?
Emma Hewitt: It’s different each time, to be honest. Sometimes I do my own sets where I’ll do it just with the instrumentals and another DJ will play and I’ll do forty five minutes of all my own tracks. If I do a guest appearance with Cosmic Gate, I’ll usually do the tracks that they’ve worked on and they’ll DJ with the instrumentals and I’ll do the vocals over those. With the Dash Berlin guys, it’s the same, I’m singing the songs that we’ve worked on together “Waiting,” “Disarm Yourself” and the latest one “Like Spinning Plates.”
RS: Very cool, did you find it at all difficult to do an artist album as a solo artist since dance music is so DJ-based and so male-based; was that a challenge?
Emma Hewitt: It was a bit of a challenge, to be honest, but I guess I’ve never really looked at things as being difficult. Armada has been very supportive all the way through, which is fantastic, and they’ve been an amazing label. They’ve always believed in the vision that I had for the album, even though they’re a dance label and we had a vision to do something that wasn’t so dance. They’ve been incredibly supportive with getting the remix package together as well. That has made things a lot easier than they otherwise would have been. Because of the incredible support from the label and the people around us, it’s been a fantastic creative journey and we’ve just looked at it as a positive the whole way through.
RS: Speaking of Armada, how did you react when you found out that Armin had remixed your last single?
Emma Hewitt: That was really exciting, and you know, I didn’t even know that he was going to remix it. The label kind of surprised us, which was awesome, and they called us up and said “Armin’s remixed your track and we’re sending it through and he’s going to be putting it on his album, it’s ready to go pretty much now.” I think it was the next day that he premiered it on A State of Trance. We didn’t really have much time to get used to the idea but it was very exciting.
RS: You’ve worked with so many amazing great people, is there anyone out there that you would love to work with that you haven’t worked with yet?
Emma Hewitt: Definitely. Speaking of Armin, I’m a massive fan, so I’d really love to do a track with him. I’d like to work with some people that are in different genres as well. People like the guy from Nightingale or something really dark or different like Eminem. Hopefully I’ll get to work with a few more people in the DJ world that I’m a huge fan of, like Armin.
RS: Awesome, so what would you like to say to all your fans out there?
Emma Hewitt: Thank you so much for listening to the music. The reason that we make music is so that hopefully somebody out there resonates with it and feels something from it. I’d love to say a huge thank you to anybody that’s ever listened to the songs.
RS: If people want to reach out to you, do you have a Facebook, a website, or a Twitter? What’s the best way for people to get in touch with you?
Emma Hewitt: Yea, Twitter and Facebook are the best ways to get in touch with me. My Twitter is emhewitt and my Facebook is http://www.facebook.com/emmahewittofficial
Review of Emma Hewitt – “Miss Your Paradise”
Interview conducted May 2012. Images Courtesy of Armada Music. Special thanks to Marije at Armada Music for arranging this interview.