Her debut album, Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor, spent 30 weeks at the top of the charts in the Netherlands, breaking a record set by Michael Jackson’s Thriller. But success in Emerald’s native Holland was just the start. She has an MTV EMA Award to her name (Best Dutch/Belgian) and in 2014 performed at the iconic Glastonbury music festival. Now working on her eagerly anticipated third album and ready for a summer of live performances and festival appearances, she talks to us about touring, acting and her plans for global domination.
This summer looks set to be a busy one for Emerald, who will be delighting her army of UK fans with a string of festival appearances. For a singer with such a seductive jazz style and elegant appearance, you may expect her to be more at home in a Parisian cabaret, but performing in a field in the English countryside suits her down to the (probably muddy) ground.
“I’m happy to perform in all types of places. I love the variety. Each type of performance has a challenge, it keeps me sharp,” she explains, adding that the very nature of sharing a bill with other artists appeals to her competitive side.
“I like it when the audience doesn’t know you. You have to compete with other artists and win people over.”
A new line-up
As one of the headline acts at this July’s Larmer Tree Festival in Salisbury, UK (fellow headliners include jazz artist Jamie Cullum and singer-songwriter Tom Odell), Emerald already has quite the spectacle lined up to ensure winning over the uninitiated.
“I’ve got a new guy on decks, he does all this crazy stuff, all the beats from laptops, electronic percussion with live triggers. There will also be live drums and live marimba – a blend of acoustic and electronics. It’s a very recognisable sound we’ve created,” she enthuses, explaining that all her band play at least three instruments as well as singing. They are all also “really good looking” she adds with a grin. Does she think looks are important? “It’s not a reason [to be in a band] but it’s nice if a musician is nice to watch. When a musician is an introvert and looks at the floor it doesn’t work, people need to be invited to look at you.”
Festival goers will enjoy a mix of material from Emerald’s first two albums, “probably some covers” and her latest single Quicksand – a fun burst of electropop from the constantly evolving artist.
“There won’t be a lot of new material as it’s unfinished. Maybe. I’m working right now in the studio so it might be possible,” she muses. As for the eagerly anticipated third studio album, Emerald is keeping her cards close to her chest. “We have a working title but it’s a secret,” she confides. The songstress is well known for creating albums with a coherent story– ones which transport you to a different time and place. Her debut album, Deleted
Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor, took listeners to vintage Hollywood with its jazz, tangos and old-school glamour, while 2013’s The Shocking Miss Emerald blended inspiration from Parisian cabarets with jazz and even modern hip-hop sounds. As for the concept of her third album, the singer is wary of committing herself to a particular genre, although a change in direction can be expected in the form of a lesser-known musical style– Exotica, which first became popular in the 1950s.
“I’m always very careful as you never know, we do change our minds,” she says. “I’ve been very inspired by Exotica. It was popular when people started travelling to Africa, then they went home and tried to copy the sounds – people from the West copying African sounds.” Describing the style as “cool”, “atmospheric” and “having good vibes” with “crazy drums and jungle sounds”; her new album will no doubt be packed with floor fillers. Getting audiences on their feet is certainly something Emerald likes to do, although she still loves a ballad at the right time and place. “When I’m doing my own club tours it’s for my own audience so it’s easier and I can take more risks, performing ballads and more intimate material inside a theatre,” she explains, praising her British fans for their sensitivity and for being attuned to when it’s time for a change of pace at a show.
“Fans in the UK are outgoing but polite at the same time. If they should be quiet, they are, they know how to respond. It works perfectly for getting the set straight,” she says.
Having successfully filled out London’s O2 Arena, Emerald’s sights are set high. When asked what is next for her, she laughs: “World domination for starters! That would be great!”
Having performed to thousands at such a world-class super venue – the O2 has a capacity of 20,000 – does Emerald still gets stage fright? “Yes, I get that a lot. It can be quite… startling,” she admits. “Like, you’re frozen. It varies that I don’t have it, then sometimes it’s completely terrible like ‘oh my God, I can’t do it’. Even though I know I can do it, I’ve done it 1,000 times.”
One of the singer’s greatest fears is forgetting the words to her songs, but she realises overthinking things is what she must avoid. Trusting in herself and losing herself in the music never fails her.
“I’m afraid not to know my lyrics, sometimes it’s just three seconds before the song starts. But then if you don’t think it just comes out of your mouth. It’s actually better if you just try not to think. The music helps.”
One thing on Emerald’s to-do list is an arena tour in her home country, which surprisingly has not happened yet. The singer is proud of the current musical climate in her native Netherlands.
“There’s a very lively music scene at the moment, it’s interesting. There are more and more Dutch artists building international careers. It’s interesting to watch. There’s an indie band called The Indien. I love their sound, there are kind of retro vibes. It’s more alternative than my music but I love the singer and her sound,” she explains.
Although she tries to never go away for too long, she laughs that she never misses the “terrible Dutch weather” and tries to see hitting the road as a “mini holiday”.
“I have a great team. It’s all very luxurious. I don’t have to clean, I don’t have to dothe grocery shopping. I have make-upartists…”
The big screen beckons
As well as an arena tour in the Netherlands, another goal for Emerald is to record a James Bond single. When asked what she thought of The Writing’s on the Wall, Sam Smith’s accompaniment to 2015 Bond film Spectre, her response is very diplomatic.
“I was more a fan of Adele’s [Skyfall]. I think Sam Smith is a great artist but… it doesn’t stick with you.”
Speaking of the silver screen, will Emerald put herself in front of the camera rather than just recording soundtracks? “I get asked that a lot!” she admits, revealing that despite always dismissing the idea, it is now a career move she is coming around to.
“I’ve always said no, I’m not an actor. I believe you should do what you’re good
at. But I’m starting to change my mind. What I do is not so different from acting. Like at a photo shoot, someone said ‘You’re a great actor,’ and I thought, maybe I am? I’m just being me; it never feels like I’m acting. But I’m enhancing my emotions during my songs. Maybe that’s a lot of what acting is.”
One things for sure though, she wouldn’t ever want to be cast in a role just for her celebrity, and she’d have to truly believe in the director’s vision.
“It’s not so much about the part, it matters more who you’re working with,” she asserts. “I need to make sure I’m not doing something where I’m there just for my name.”
Initially Emerald says she would prefer to star in a biopic, as she’d like to play a“real character”. You can tell she’s still a singer at heart though, as on reflection she concludes a part that involved her vocal talents would be the best, and her inner ‘little girl’ surfaces when she concludes: “My dream role would be in an animated movie, where I could sing the theme song. I’d love to play a Disney princess!” Considering Emerald has already beaten records set by the King of Pop, playing royalty seems like a good next step.
Text: Anna Villeleger
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