Emily Weisband Steps Into Her Own With New Single, Major Label Album [Interview]

Emily Weisband. Photo: Claire Marie Vogel

Emily Weisband has been a mainstay in writers circles in the country, pop, and Contemporary Christian Music fields, even earning a Grammy for her role in co-writing Hillary Scott and the Scott Family’s hit CCM track “Thy Will.” The THiS Music writer also penned Camila Cabello’s “Consequences,” as well as songs for Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, BTS, Dan + Shay, Danny Gokey and more.

With her upcoming debut album, Identity Crisis, out later this year on Warner Records, she steps into her own as an artist, with elegant, stripped down pop productions woven around lyrics that chronicle her creative evolution, struggles to command her own multi-faceted identity and to identify her own voice as an artist.

“There’s not a single song on the record that has an answer,” she tells MusicRow. “I’m arguing with myself on every single song. It’s messy for sure, but I wanted to normalize that. There’s no resolve.”

Today, she released a new song, “Naked,” co-written with Kyle Shearer and Weisband’s close friend Delacey. The song is a study in insecurity and vulnerability, her voice swirling with soft intensity over a throbbing track, as she cycles through questions comparing herself to her ex’s new lover.

The 26-year-old’s first release from the project, “Identity Crisis” pulls back the curtain on her earlier efforts to be all things to all people and losing herself in the process.

Tryna please my daddy so he’d be proud
And driving myself mad to fit in that crowd
And waking up so empty with no way out
Realizing I don’t know who I am now
And, holy shit, it’s heavy being in your twenties

That theme of self-discovery, and self-acceptance, carries throughout the project in songs such as “Things I’m Over,” (which she wrote alongside Josh Kerr and Hannah Ellis) and “Something I’m Not” (penned with Jesse Frasure, Ashley Gorley and Mike Elizondo).

MusicRow spoke with Weisband about her recent releases and her journey from songwriter to artist.

MusicRow: This is a very vulnerable album about a long period of seeking and discovery. Why was “Identity Crisis” a good first release from this?

Weisband: When I wrote this record I thought man, I don’t want this record to point fingers at anybody else. This isn’t about the people in church or people in the bar. I like going to church. I actually don’t like going to church, but I go when I feel like it. And I love drinking and sometimes I like an occasional smoke and I love to make out.

You’re figuring out what is authentic to you. That’s why one of my favorite lines in “Identity Crisis” is God is way more patient than he’s given credit. He sees every minute leading up to now and every minute that is going to come after. Whereas, we all see each other as fixed points.

It took you a while to get to the place where you felt like an artist with your own message.

It was insane. In 2015, I was playing a writer’s round at Belcourt Taps in Hillsboro and this lady at a label came up to me and said, “Hey I’ve been hearing your voice on some demos that have been coming to our office. Love to talk to you about signing a deal with us.” I was like, “I’m really flattered but I’m just a writer. I love being a writer.”

I just wasn’t into the artist thing at the time. We had it in legal writing that I was never going to be an artist. We had it written in my publishing deal I was just going to write songs.

Like three days after I met the lady at the label, I was offered an opportunity to make a Christian record. I turned it down, and I kid you not, 45 minutes later I get a call from an L.A. number that I don’t recognize. It was Mike Elizondo, working in A&R at Warner in Los Angeles and he said he was a writer and producer. And three is like a number for me. When something happens in threes in my life, I’m like “Oh.” I broke up with a boyfriend once because three times in one week I was told I should and by the third time I was like, “God, are you trying to tell me something?” I thought, worst-case scenario I might write a couple of songs someone else could cut.

So you did a co-write with him in L.A.

I showed up at his studio in Tarzana, California. We talked for a couple of hours and from the get-go he wasn’t trying to change anything about me. I thought I’d show up and he’d be like, “Here’s a cone bra, go sing some pop bullshit.” I didn’t know what I was expecting but I definitely was not expecting for somebody to look me in the eye and really get to know me and what was in my heart and say, “Don’t think about any other artists when you are writing.”

Mike just did a brilliant job. I asked Mike, I said, “What’s your biggest strength as a producer?” He’s like, “I know when to stop.” I loved that.

Honestly everything we’ve done for this project, the songs, the photo shoots, videos, it starts out as this big hoopla and people feel the magic once we strip it back to square one. Even the album cover. There’s no tricks. You’re not really going to see me sitting around in a bunch of fur or glitter.

When did you start creating the songs on this album that you felt shared your voice as an artist?

We wrote for like a year and we had good songs, but we didn’t have a song I felt like was for me. Then in 2016 or 2017 I was really torn up about this dude and it wasn’t the guy that I was upset about. It was the fact that I changed a lot about who I was to win this person and when I didn’t win this person I thought, “Holy shit, who am I?”

You poured so much of yourself into that person.

But the guy magnified my identity crisis in a lot of ways. So it wasn’t about him as much as it was about me. I just went against all of it—got really drunk, did a lot of things. I was going to mess around in the middle for a little bit. I probably gained 15 pounds during that month. After maybe the fourth or fifth weekend in a row of me getting so drunk, but not fun drunk, just being careless, I woke up and went into my sister’s room. She said, “I love you so much but you’re doing this to yourself. Nobody is doing this to you. This guy is not doing this to you. Your friends aren’t doing this to you. You’re doing this to you. You’re ruining your relationships with your friends and family and you’re not being yourself.” It was a very sobering moment for me.

I called my friend Alysa and we wrote “Identity Crisis” about all of it. I stuck it in my email, I didn’t even turn it in to my sister—she’s also my manager. But she found it in an email and asked me about it. I told her no one would cut it so I didn’t turn it in. She said, “Nobody is going to cut it because it’s an Emily song.” She said, “Em, this is you.” I thought, “Oh, shit yeah. I would leave my house every weekend and sing this for somebody.”

You had your moment.

I had my moment. She sent it to Mike and he said, “That’s the girl I knew was in there. That’s her. We got to do this. Let’s get going.” So that’s when I started really writing for the album.

I was also in therapy and those sessions evolved into these stories I’m telling you. My therapist was like, “Emily you’re at a conference table. You’re sitting at the table and Sexy Emily is there and so is Spiritual Emily, Confident Emily, Insecure Emily, grown up, immature, wild, chill. All of these Emily’s are there. You’ll be living in this authentic life and realize they’re all you. You get to decide which one steps forward at any given moment.”

This is a pop album, and you purposely chose to write it in Nashville. Why?

I think there’s a difference between honesty and truth and that’s why I wrote the record in Nashville. I wanted to write it with the people who saw me work through this period of time, who saw me stumble out of Tin Roof when I was 22.

Everybody at Warner really honored the Nashville part of my story and they want to shine a light on it. That makes me really happy because I have a deep love for this town. I have a deep love for the people in it. I want the rest of the world to know about it.

What studio did you record in?

We cut it in L.A. in a studio that was the original Death Row Records actually. So yeah, I’ve had more than one run in with Tupac’s ghost during the cutting of this record.

Wow.

I have like three witnesses too. I was sitting there and Mike was telling me about Tupac and how he used the studio. He said “Tupac’s ghost was there” and I was like, “No.” I was totally like shitting on Tupac, like dissing Tupac’s ghost hardcore. I kid you not, on this table next to me, and I was not touching it, was a glass of water. The glass picked up and slammed down by itself and water went everywhere. Mike was like, “Oh, my God I told you.” It was insane.

The album was well on its way before you signed a label deal.

I signed my deal in the studio, me and Mike, just the two of us. He handed me the paperwork, I signed it, he put it in an envelope and then I went into the vocal room and went back to recording songs.

Why was Warner the right place for your artistry and this album?

I’m grateful to Warner. Warner Records is an incredible label. It is rare for a label to embrace a new artist the way that they’ve embraced me and tirelessly work to make sure who that artist is outside of music is honored through their music. I’m so grateful because I have gotten to watch a lot of artists not get that treatment from their label, and I’m still unproven as far as an artist career goes.

What other music ideas do you have in the works?

I’ve written a ton of songs with country artists. Next summer probably in between Identity Crisis and whatever I do after, I would love to do a five or six song EP with re-imagined versions of these songs with these country artists have done, but they would record them with me. It would just be for streaming content purposes. Or, maybe that one Keith Urban song that never made it to radio even though it was slated to be the next single. Let’s do a reimagined pop version.

Whatever ends up happening, for me to have this gift and not be brave enough to share all of that is a waste of it. I want to be on my death bed when I’m 80 and look back and go, “Man, I did good with what I was given.”

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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