Emerging talent Emily and The Woods is a family matter. London born and based, 23 year old vocalist Emily Woods plays along side her father and brother in their typically British, acoustic folk outfit. Competing to make it an overcrowded industry of singer/songwriters, Emily tells us what sets her apart from the rest with her delicate melodies and insightful lyrics.
Tonight’s gig is in the cultural seaside town of Brighton at The Latest Music Bar, supporting fellow hopeful new artist Thomas J Speight. Waiting for Emily to arrive, the atmosphere very much reflects the mood of this talented new artist’s music; tranquil, relaxed and serene. With her music described as acoustic, folk and British blues, tonight’s venue seems like the perfect location for the audience to capture the quiet but powerful ambience of her songs. Emily and The Woods has a not so traditional changing line up of brother Benedict Wood, her father Patrick Wood and artists including Ted Dwane (Mumford & Sons) and bass player John Parker (Nizlopi).
In a short but increasingly promising career, Emily and The Woods have achieved airplay on radio stations such as Radio 6 music and Xfm, thousands of hits on YouTube and Last FM, played a bunch of festivals including their Glastonbury 2011 performance and a collection of gigs supporting the likes of chart topping artists, Ed Sheeran and Ben Howard. With famous friends and associates such as Laura Marling, Bombay Bicycle Club and Newton Faulkner, Emily finds herself falling into the current new wave of middle class singer/songwriters.
Dressed casually for tonight’s show in jeans and a sweater, Emily enters the building in a calm and relaxed manner, ever more the female sing/songwriter cliché. Her long brown curly hair has been pulled up in a bun and she repeatedly apologises for her late arrival in her soft airy voice. After getting a drink from the bar, she sits down and begins to play with her straw, staring wistfully, ready to discuss her inevitable road to success.
So far Emily and The Woods have released two EP’s, the 2011 Eye To Eye EP and 2010 Emily and The Woods EP. Emily reveals that although an album isn’t specifically on the cards just yet, she has been writing new material. ‘I’ve just found a really cool picture that I’d like to use on the front of it so I’m going to start gathering the songs to put in it.’ Although in her early demos Emily had her friends Laura Marling and Ted from Mumford and Sons involved in the recording, she goes on to explain how collaborating with other artists has added a new interesting element to her recent writing methods. ‘There’s lots of different ways of doing things so recently I’ve done a bit of collaborative work with people which has been a really interesting way to come up with songs. Basing things around stories and ideas that you kind of work on together which is not something I have not done much of before.’
And have the themes in the music changed since the earlier days of writing? ‘In terms of the writing, I get inspired by all sorts of things, mostly people. Basically, in the older songs I would be talking about things very specifically because I didn’t think that anyone would ever hear anything. I talked about things in a very direct way but I also wanted to be a bit more poetic so things sounded slightly more complicated. So themes wise I’m writing more about boring things like fancying someone! It’s still about people, its still about feelings of being alive, ‘Steal His Heart’ particularly portrays this need for poetic illustration with lyrics such as ‘Takes off my crown, throws it to the sky, We are emblazoned as bright lights we’ll thrive’.
With an ever increasing schedule Emily and The Woods are getting ready for one of their busiest years to date. With plenty of shows and festivals lined up, Emily reflects on some of her standout performances so far and what she’s looking forward to musically in the next few months.
‘I think my favourite gig was when I supported Ben Howard at Lusty Glaze beach in Cornwall last year because it was just so beautiful. There was a big crowd and it was just amazing because it was down on the beach with all these cliffs around us. There was something like 150 steps to get down to the beach so it felt very far away from anything else which was great’
As mentioned, in 2011 Emily and The Woods stole hearts whilst playing at Glastonbury festival as part of the Emerging Talent competition. A landmark in any musical career, Emily tells me of her experience at the UK’s biggest festival. ‘Glastonbury was amazing, it was great fun. I took all my family, which was just a hilarious thing to do, and they all camped. When we got there it was a bit grey and rainy and then we played and the sun came out and stayed out for the whole weekend.’
Emily and The Woods are lined up to play at this years Oceanfest festival with friends in the business, Ben Howard and Newton Faulkner. ‘I am looking forward to playing Oceanfest this year because there are people playing who I’m really excited about. I’d really like to see Dry The River.’ Other small festivals they are set to play include Barn On The Farm, London Folk Festival and Chagstock. ‘At the moment we just want to play a lot and it’s a good time to do that because there’s not much pressure on what festivals we do. They’re all really sweet and small, which is great. I love that vibe.’
With a broad range of influences including Joni Mitchell, John Martin, Gill Scott and Erykah Badhu, music is something Emily has been interested in from a young age. She began writing songs when she was little, but it wasn’t until she was around 18 that she learnt to play instruments, which allowed her to put her songs to music. When she finished her degree in Philosophy and Theology at Exeter University, she decided to take it on full time. Although music was always something close to the young singer/songwriter’s heart and mind, the decision to take it on full time was not immediate for her. ‘I was doing my degree but I also did loads of music. I was in the process of working out what kind of things I wanted to spend my time doing, it just led me to deciding that this was something worth concentrating on. I tried lots of different jobs so that I could really make an informed decision. When I worked in offices I spent the whole day wanting to play music and that was what was making me excited so that was what I decided to do’.
From the early days of Emily and The Woods, the Internet was one of the main sources of getting the music heard. With a collection of YouTube videos with views over 1,000,00 and subscriptions in the thousands, the Internet has opened up a lot of doors including a WatchListenTell acoustic video, which Emily exclaims is her biggest achievement to date. With a high level of interaction with her fans on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter with followers and fans up to 7000, Emily considers staying connected an important element to any artist or band. ‘It’s so nice to have any contact with people who are listening to your stuff; it makes it feel worth it. The only reason why I wouldn’t stay connected actually is because of bloody Timeline!’ (Emily on the new, highly unpopular Facebook page layout.)
With the Internet being an ever growing pit of new and emerging artists and genres trying to make something happen and record sales increasingly dropping, the music industry is harder to break into professionally than it’s ever been, but this doesn’t stop Emily and The Woods striving for success. As a fan of new music, Emily is opinionated about how the Internet is transforming the way music is now consumed, ‘I love the fact that now the music industry doesn’t feel like it’s able to dictate in such a way that it used to. So now you can actually discover music and carry on finding out. You’re not just limited to the radio, or your parent’s record collection or whatever you can buy in the record shops’.
Clearly what sets Emily apart from others on her level is her obvious drive and positive attitude. By describing her music as just her singing her songs, she tries to avoid being categorised, although tends to be due to her lucky support slots and humble beginnings. Openly admitting that mainstream success is what would eventually like to be achieved, Emily is also aware of the struggles that she may have to face along the way. ‘I think as long as you keep your integrity and you carry on doing music that you really like and then it’s great when people know about you. It’s difficult and also there’s not really any money in it anymore so things are in a bit of a funny place. But I also think that the brilliant thing is that there are loads of connections being made and it’s not as difficult as it used to be for your music to get heard’.