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by Zoya Raza-Sheikh

The fast-rising LA artist is going global as her empowering lyrics strike a chord with audiences online.

You might not realise it, but there’s a good chance you’ve heard Emmy Meli already. A TikTok sensation, the 22-year-old went viral for her empowering single ‘I Am Woman’ – a song that championed all women and celebrated self-love. Despite her young age, Emmy has been gearing up for this moment all her life. “I’ve been songwriting for as long as I can remember,” she tells tmrw from her LA bedroom, “I did choir from middle school to high school and then competitive show choir, musical theatre, and had voice lessons. It’s all I have ever done in my whole life.”

Now, social media algorithms work in mysterious ways but, for Emmy, it anticipated a grand breakthrough. With ‘I Am Woman’ breaking into charts and her career taking a new direction, we caught up with the American artist to hear more about how her empowering hit song, managing overnight fame, and her next steps.

Hello Emmy! So, you’ve secured a deal with Disruptor/Arista records and a viral song has changed your life. Was this how you imagined your music career taking off?

My musical journey began when I was really little. Music is the only thing that I’ve ever loved this much. It’s kind of funny, my parents recently moved and I was going through all my old journals and I found some with little songs in there. And after I graduated, I started pumping music out and trying to figure out who I am as an artist. I moved out to LA and I was in music school for a hot second. But, then a pandemic happened and I used all my unemployment money on rent and studio time. I really started taking things seriously and then it was a few years working minimum wage jobs and doing everything I could to try to make this career happen for myself. I started playing shows around LA and then, randomly, ‘I Am Woman’ exploded on TikTok, so it was perfect timing.

Your music isn’t afraid of genre-blending and creating a new sound. Do you have any artists that inspired your creative style?

Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone, Duffy, The Beatles, The Supremes, and The Temptations. Some of the pop girls that I really love are Lady Gaga and Rihanna, of course. I grew up on 50s music and a lot of Motown because of my dad. He burned me a CD of all his favourite songs when he was growing up, which was in the 60s. I really think those artists developed the style of my voice and the techniques I use when recording because a lot of my background vocals take inspiration from Motown and songs like that.

Your hit ‘I Am Woman’ took off on TikTok and changed your life. How did that song come about?

I’ve told this story a bunch of times and it sounds a little bit silly, but I’ve always thought dreams are interesting. Our dreams hold a lot of subconscious symbolism and I had this dream so I did some research on the symbolism of the dream and it taught me a few things about loving myself. I decided to start writing some mantras to say to myself every day. I was just picking things about myself that I like. One day I was at band practice and I started singing this stuff that I’d been saying to myself every day. It was about the descriptor words that made me feel powerful to sing it. I definitely wasn’t expecting it to become a global phenomenon and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s been a crazy journey and now I’ve found my people that want to hear my music. I’m only 22 and this is all happening so fast but it’s exciting. If I do it right, I’ll hopefully have a long career ahead of me.

You’re newly graduated and only 22 years old – what was it like to have your life turned upside down from a viral moment?

It was very surreal. No one tells you how you’re going to feel when your dreams come true. You’re working your ass off every single day and there were times when I wanted to give up. There were times when I had no money. I was spending it all on studio time and I had to work two jobs just to make rent. I was exhausted and had to spare every droplet of energy for my passion. Everybody has those moments where you’re like ‘am I a masochist? Why am I doing this to myself?’. Nobody tells you how that’s gonna feel. That time period was so incredibly busy. I was trying to write the rest of that song and put it out, build a team and I got signed and had to find a lawyer in the course of a month. I never really got a real chance to just sit down and process everything that was happening to me until months later. I didn’t even get to really experience it. I think I went into shock a little bit so it took me some time to process for sure, but I’m doing much better. I’m way more well adjusted to the new reality of this, but it took a second for sure.

We’ve heard you’re working on some new material. What can you tell us about your latest project?

So I’m going to call it an EP or an LP depending on how many songs I put on there. I’m still figuring out that part but it’s really special. I’m super proud of this project and it really reflects who I am as an artist. It’s kind of my coming of age like debut saying ‘here’s who I am outside of ‘I Am Woman’ and here’s my story’, so it’s kind of a biography project. It leans more towards the side of my artistry that I’m really trying to get into: there’s some classic R&B stuff and some pop too. My brain moves a million miles an hour and I’m already on to the next thing and then on to the next thing.

You’ve got a record deal and a viral hit, so what’s next for you?

I really want to tour and there’s been a lot of discussions within my team about touring this summer. I really want to start playing at festivals, so a tour is the first step, festivals are the second step. But I’m really excited to have that experience for you to see the crowd singing your lyrics. That’s gonna be incredible to watch. I’m very excited about that.

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