By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Several moments of heartbreaks and three car accidents can be enough to knock anybody down, but it has only made Emma Saville stronger.
Best known for her downtempo/house/chillout song “Be As One,” which was produced by MinusBlue and featured on over 200 compilations around the world, the independent singer-songwriter has only begun to make her mark.
Based between London and Sheffield in the United Kingdom, Saville has cut her teeth in the music industry with powerful songs centered around love, overcoming life’s obstacles and loss. She has performed everywhere from Brazil and Costa Rica to Australia and New Zealand.
The Music Bugle had the chance to speak with Saville – who is currently writing her first solo album, slated to drop later this year – about what she has been up to lately and more.
Music Bugle – What would you say are some challenges in being an independent artist right now?
Emma Saville – You definitely have to do music for the love of it! I think the main challenges are time limitations – having to do everything yourself, unless you outsource it, which costs money – and money! As if you add up the costs of hiring professional session musicians for parts, a decent producer to mix/master, a graphic designer to do any cover art/branding and then, a videographer to record/edit a music video….it’s not cheap! Compare that to 1,000 streams on Spotify, only earning you £3.44 – £4.30 on Apple Music. Producing just one single can easily cost over £100-£hundreds, even if you do as much as possible yourself, so the vast majority of musicians will never earn what they invest back, unless you’re lucky enough to get a song picked up for a film, etc., so you have to see it as investing in yourself and your creativity.
Music Bugle – What are some creative advantages of being a singer-songwriter?
Emma Saville – For me, the main advantage is being able to express my feelings and experiences in ways that words alone cannot express. Singing and songwriting provide me with a creative outlet that I have hugely valued, especially throughout lockdown. I cannot imagine my life without music. I’ve been privileged to meet some amazing creatives from all over the world. Plus, I’ve been blessed to perform across the U.K. and in Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Cuba, Australia and New Zealand, which has been amazing.
Music Bugle – What makes you the most proud about where you come from?
Emma Saville – My family has Greek-Italian heritage, but I was raised in Sheffield, so that’s where I call home. Sheffield is a great, friendly place to live. It was the first City of Sanctuary, welcoming refugees and asylum-seekers from around the world. Sheffield also has the highest ratio of trees to people of any city in Europe – four trees for every individual, so the air is nice and clean. Plus, Sheffield is the most geographically diverse city in England. Lying in the eastern foothills of the Pennines, the city nestles in a natural amphitheatre created by several hills and the confluence of five rivers – Don, Sheaf, Rivelin, Loxley and Porter. Plus, there’s the beautiful Peak District national park just a 10-15 min drive from my house. Also, Sheffield hosts the world’s oldest football club! So, there’s a lot to love.
Music Bugle – What do you attribute your streaming success to?
Emma Saville – I’m best known for the songs I wrote for MinusBlue back around a decade ago, which were all released via producers or labels – “Be As One,” “Sweet Harmony,” “Souvenir,” “Ocean Sky,” “Close Your Eyes” and “In Your Arms” were part of MinusBlue’s first album, ‘Clear Blue Eyes,’ signed to Mustard Music Publishing Ltd.. “Be as One,” the original and several remixes, are on over 200 compilations worldwide, with over five million combined streams on YouTube and two million on Spotify to date, which is pretty bonkers! This provided me a great platform from which to launch my independent music from December 2020. On December 8th, 2020, I released “Out The Door,” the debut soul/big band jazz single with CCBeats, a producer in the States. This was my first single as an independent artist. It meant before “Out The Door,” I’d never had to deal with trying to raise publicity myself before, so it’s been an interesting experience pushing music myself. It’s a bit weird for me to plug/promote myself, but as they say, practice makes perfect!
Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians?
Emma Saville – I’d say it’s kind of essential in today’s culture, as how else can you build a following outside people you personally know? Especially during lockdown when you can’t do any/limited live performing, unless I guess you hire a PR person, so it can be great and yes, can help for sure. I’ve found fans from all over the world and met fellow musicians to do collabs together. However, I think it can also harm musicians, as I have seen many incredibly talented musicians with hardly any following, or poorly run and/or branded social media accounts, which can put fans off, so it’s an important balance. I think I can speak for most musicians when I say they’d rather be focusing on being creative, but social media is a great platform to get your music out into the world.
Music Bugle – How would you describe your newest music?
Emma Saville – Great question! I’m not a fan of labels/boxes, but I guess soul/jazz/Latin-influenced pop? You could arguably put each track I produce into slightly different genres, but I see that as a positive. Obviously, it’s good for an artist to have an overall sound, but equally, we are all such unique individuals and experience the world in such different ways, I think it’s good to produce slightly varied options to connect with different people. In general, I always try and anchor my songs in my lived experience, to a particular time, person or place – often all three! I think this can help my songs portray more emotion and connect more with listeners. I also write songs in English, Spanish and Portuguese, as I think other languages help me express things more fully, as you can’t always find the right words or expressions in one language. There are always things in a certain language that cannot be accurately translated. For example, I released a single in Portuguese called “Saudade” in January. “Saudade” means “longing, loss, desire, missing,” etc. – and is much stronger than just saying, “I miss you” in English. I have an upcoming single called “Ontem,” another song in Brazilian Portuguese on May 25th. It was produced by Pablo Dominguez, a mutual Spanish friend and incredibly talented musician and composer. Plus, I have six others in the mix. I’ll be posting release dates on my Instagram and Facebook @emmasavillemusic!
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Emma Saville – Thankfully, I haven’t lost any loved ones and I feel very lucky in that, but I’ve had friends who’ve lost entire households of their immediate family and many more friends who’ve sadly lost loved ones, which has been devastating. Whether you’ve lost loved ones or not, I think there has been a lot of grief around, even for just grieving for what our old lives used to be like. Pre-Covid, I used to travel all over the world and dance regularly – Latin mainly, so I hugely miss both and like everyone else, cannot wait for the new normal to finally be here. Plus, I know several friends who’ve been diagnosed with Long Covid – Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome following Covid. I myself had PVFS after contracting dengue fever and West Nile Virus in Brazil in 2019 – mosquito-carried viruses, so I really can empathize how debilitating and long-lasting it can be. The pandemic has been really difficult on most people. Even just living with the anxiety/fear of contracting Covid for themselves or loved ones and not being able to socialize or see loved ones in person, this is why I am truly thankful I’ve had music to focus on, as it has been such a lifeline, as I know it has been for so many other musicians I know. Definitely helps to have something positive and creative to focus on. A definite positive of the pandemic is that it inspired me to write my first solo album to be released throughout 2021, so during lockdown, I have been busy writing several new songs and revisiting a few older ones, which I hope to release for the first time this year. It has been amazing to see the outpouring of music from around the world. Plus, online streaming has gone up 30-40 percent, depending on the platform!
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Emma Saville – I listen to all sorts of genres, from everything from soul – old and new, hip hop, dancehall, afrobeats, drum and bass, Balkan beat, Kizomba, World, acoustic singer/songwriters and a variety of Latin music – e.g. salsa, reggaetón, boleros, bachata, bossa nova and pagode. I think that helps me to listen to a wide range of music, as I can find inspiration in so many different areas. In terms of my biggest influences on my sound, I would have to say the “greats” like Aretha Franklin, Joan Armatrading, Etta James, Nina Simone, Tina Turner, Ella Fitzgerald, etc., have definitely been a big influence on me. I grew up listening to them and a lot of world music with my mum. We still dance around our kitchen to Tina Turner to this day! I also love and am definitely inspired by contemporary artists such as India.Arie, Jill Scott, Stevie Wonder, Kwabs, Emeli Sandé, Toni Braxton, Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Xênia França, Luedji Luna, Pink, LP, Maxwell, Lady Gaga, Neo, Taylor Swift, Lauryn Hill, Adele, Annie Lennox, Erykah Badu, Alanis Morissette, Gwen Stefani, Norah Jones and Philippa Hanna, to name a few!
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need an escape?
Emma Saville – Another great question! I really like being in nature, so if it’s a mini escape, I’ll just walk down to my local park, or go to the nearby Peak District, but my favorite place to escape to is any – preferably warm – sandy beach. During lockdown, we’ve gone several times to various beaches along the North Yorkshire coast, some of which are absolutely stunning. I filmed the music video for “Out The Door” on one!
Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?
Emma Saville – Do I have to choose one!? (Laughs) Here’s my top three – “When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest of times and to the latest,” by Henry David Thoreau. Second one is “Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable,” by Leonard Bernstein and lastly, “Music in the soul can be heard by the universe,” by Lao Tzu. I think being able to truly connect with music, let it fill you up, inspire you, transport you and move you is such a gift. Music has this extraordinary power to transcend culture, language, or any other barrier and connect people in a way that words alone cannot. My favorite quote from the 2018 film “A Star Is Born” is – “Music is essentially 12 notes between any octave… 12 notes and the octave repeats. It’s the same story told over and over, forever. All any artist can offer the world is how they see those 12 notes.” So, I’ll keep doing my best to do just that – produce music that communicates my individual way of those 12 notes.