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Roxanne Emery: The IndieLondon interview

Roxanne Emery

Interview by Rob Carnevale

FORMER banker turned singer Roxanne Emery talks exlusively to IndieLondon about making the switch from finance to music, why she still misses the banking world at times and why the current economic climate could give rise to greater creativity (as history has proved).

She also talks about her forthcoming debut album, Remember Me, the lead single Real (which is out now) and why LATE, a record about her late mother, has proved to be one of the most rewarding songs emotionally and when played live.

Q. Hi Roxanne, from what we’ve heard so far, Remember Me looks set to become a great listen. Can you believe how your life has changed so dramatically in the past 12 months?
Roxanne Emery: Thanks a lot! To be honest, I still have days when I’m walking around thinking: “Is this actually my life now?!” The transition from banker to singer is quite an unusual one! I’m loving every second, though.

Q. Which is the greater rush? Performing your songs live to an appreciative audience or the one you speak of getting from 5am starts and the pressure of the banking world?
Roxanne Emery: The rush from both can be amazing. But singing your own songs live is so personal, it’s like standing there reading out your diary pages. I still get really nervous so I would have to say performing is the greater rush for me.

Q. I have to ask (cheekily), are bankers currently getting a bad name? Or is it deserved?
Roxanne Emery: Whatever people may say about bankers, my memories will always be the great camaraderie of the team, laughing harder than ever before, and no matter how stressful the day had been a pint at the local with the team always made it better.

Q. Is it a relief to be away from the financial world given the trouble it now finds itself in?
Roxanne Emery: I was actually working throughout the worst of the recession. I watched half my team lose their jobs, the hours were longer and the future was
uncertain… But I worked with an amazing team and even in the worst times I was proud of the work I did and part I played. A lot people are surprised to hear I still miss the bank sometimes!

Q. And given your background in finance and appreciation of politics, what do you think of the Spending Review now that it’s been announced? How will it affect the arts from where you’re looking?
Roxanne Emery: Cuts in a sector are never going to be welcomed, and arts funding cut by up to 30% doesn’t make nice reading. But cuts are happening across the board, in many sectors for the sake of the economy. And if you look at economically depressed post-war UK, The Beatles, The Who and The Rolling Stones came into fruition… maybe giving weight to the claim that bad economic times can actually lead to greater creativity!

Q. How influential has your brother been in helping you to navigate the music industry? And to make the decision to pursue a career within?
Roxanne Emery: Massively influential. Gareth has built a really successful career off his own back with no financial backing. He’s a very talented musician and a very talented businessman. I ring him really often for advice, it’s amazing to have someone that inspirational to be able to chat to. He’s always supported my career change and has even let me write and sing a song on his new album, Northern Lights.

Q. Do you remember the exact moment you decided to make that switch ? Did anything in particular prompt it?
Roxanne Emery: My boss at the bank… my mentor, a really inspirational man actually. He never came to see me playing a gig, I don’t think he really wanted to see another path that I may take. All I wanted was his advice on whether I should leave as I respected him so much. So, one day I bought my guitar to the trading floor in the morning and played a song for him… at that point he said if I wanted to leave he’d support me. That support meant a lot to me and it was that moment I knew what I was going to do.

Q. Can you discuss some of the themes that inspired the songs on Remember Me? How would you describe the album as a whole?
Roxanne Emery: It seems strange to think of it in themes as for me it represents one year of thoughts and feelings! But I would say the main themes are love, loss and life. Although a lot of the songs represent hard times and situations I think the overall album is positive, the message is things will get better.

Roxanne Emery

Q. Lead single Real is a really lovely song, especially acoustically. What inspired that? It’s very honest lyrically…
Roxanne Emery: Thank you very much! Real is about the notion of fairytale love vs. real everyday love. It’s the moment when you look at your beautiful relationship and for some reason question: “Surely there’s more?” And it’s the moment when you realise that ‘more’ doesn’t really exist and what you have is pretty amazing…

Q. I’d imagine the song that means most to you is LATE, in memory of your mother… how difficult was it to write? And is it a bittersweet song to perform live given the emotions it brings, and the response it generates?
Roxanne Emery: LATE will always be the most important song to me. I used to struggle to perform it live without getting upset but have performed it a lot now, which has really helped. Very often it makes people in the audience cry, and that means so much to me that they can relate to the emotions in the song. It was actually a really easy song to write, I wrote most of it in one day… it sort of flowed out of me. I was never good with dealing with emotion, so I think I kind of needed to write it!

Q. Can you talk a little about the inspiration behind a song like Burning Blue?
Roxanne Emery: Burning Blue… one of my favourites to sing live! The name comes from the hottest part of a flame and is about burning to your true potential. The story of the song was a hot summer’s day last year, I was in bed (definitely not hungover…) and my friend was ringing me saying I had to get outside as it was a beautiful day and I was going to miss it. This story then became the metaphor to me leaving work, it’s a call to action.

Q. Do you miss London now that you’ve moved to Manchester?
Roxanne Emery: I love London and Manchester and although my full-time base is up North now I am still in London a lot for work so get the best of both.

Q. You’ve been able to work with some fantastic talent behind the scenes on the album, such as Anthony, Rick and Jack Joseph Puig. How much have you learned from that experience?
Roxanne Emery: I have learnt so much! I am still such a baby in the music industry, so working with amazingly talented people with experience has been an honour for me. I’ll never forget chatting to Jack-Joseph on the phone, (he has worked with Snow Patrol, U2, Black Eyed Peas…) I couldn’t quite believe he was talking to me about my music?!

Q. What’s the greatest piece of advice you’ve been given and the biggest lesson you’ve learned in getting to this point?
Roxanne Emery: The best advice came from my manager, Anne, who told me to never compare myself to other people and to be true to myself. There’s so many talented people out there in the world of music it can be intimidating, and she taught me to be inspired by talent and not scared of it.

The biggest lesson is that you write the best songs when you’re being real, an honest and you mean what you’re saying, not trying to be something you’re not.

Roxanne Emery

Q. You mention that you find it easier to express how you feel in song rather than putting it into words? Why is that, do you think? And the same seems to be true of a lot of artists… Italian actor Filipo Timi stammers in real life, but not when acting, and there are a lot of actors that seem shy in person…
Roxanne Emery: I have always struggled with expressing emotion, I used to think I was a very hard person but music has shown me I’m a big softy! Writing songs to me really is like writing a diary, it’s very private and very personal. My most emotional songs have been written alone in a locked room, I’m able to express myself there.

Q. You’re a fan of bands like Green Day and REM, as well as dance music. If you could cover a track from those two bands and a dance track, which would they be?
Roxanne Emery: Green Day – Good Riddance was the soundtrack to my teenage emo days, I love that song.

REMNightswimming means a lot to me as I used to play it to my parents on piano when I was young.

The only dance music I really listen to is my brother’s, I love his latest song Sanctuary.

Q. What are some of your favourite live memories to date?
Roxanne Emery: The funniest was when my guitar strap broke when I was standing on stage and I managed to catch it before it fell, got a louder applause than the songs I think!

My favourite memory is a gig I did in Portsmouth, I was singing LATE and the whole front row were crying. Not that I liked making them cry! But it was really moving for me to connect with people like that.

Q. Finally, what are the 10 tracks that are never far from your iPod player at the moment?
My last 10 listened to songs…
The Script – Nothing
Jackson Browne – Late For The Sky
Taylor Swift – Dear John
Ingrid Michaelson – Maybe
Kids In Glass Houses – Hunt The Haunted
The Fureys – Autumn Leaves
Ellie Goulding – The Writer
Tina Turner – Complicated Disaster
Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run
Jewel – You Were Meant For Me

Roxanne Emery’s new single Real is out on November 8, 2010, through De Angelis Records. You can watch Roxanne Emery’s Real video here, follow her on Twitter or visit her Facebook page