ECHO EXCLUSIVE: ÊMIA Invites Us Into Her Mind to Chat “Studio Apartment” and More

Singer-songwriter and producer ÊMIA is about to take up residence in your head with her new single, “Studio Apartment.” 

In the indie pop earworm, the New Yorker contemplates professing her love to the person living rent free in her mind. 

Vulnerable and creative lyrics like “ If you come over I’ll get it together, Scones in the oven like that’s what I do, Throw all my skeletons back in my closet, I’d fix the faucet and tighten the screws,” are braced by lush instrumentals and ethereal harmonies reminiscent of Maude Latour, Lorde, and MUNA. 

ÊMIA invited ECHO into her mind to chat about the single, her feature on Netflix’s ‘Ronny Chieng Takes Chinatown,’ and more!  

What inspired your new single “Studio Apartment”? 

A few years ago, I went on one of my first Bumble dates. And it played out like a storybook. He was (I kid-you-not) a shaggy-haired, moped-riding, fashionable, architect who lived in a studio apartment inside of an art gallery. I was Lizzie McGuire getting whisked away down the streets of Brooklyn. As a dating-on-the-apps newbie, I naively thought we’d fall in love (because duh! We connected!) and I was about to learn some hard lessons about modern dating and the way I build my expectations. At the time, it seemed like such a huge loss every time we’d get together and he’d go silent for weeks..months. And now, looking back, I realize that I never really knew him. So much of what I liked about him was something that I, myself, literally built inside my head – a pattern I would be doomed to repeat a couple of times. Hence: the line about “studio apartment in the front of my brain.” 

The song is so lush with strings and choirs. What was it like building the song? 

The song started with some punchy piano chords and vocals. But I didn’t feel like it captured the chaos enough. It became a thing where I would work on it…leave it behind for the rest of the day, come back, and add one little thing at night. One of my favorite things to do is listen to movie soundtracks/ trailer music and walk around the city pretending I’m the main character, especially when I’m in my feelings, so naturally, orchestral elements were stuck in my head at the time. Finally, I had trouble figuring out what I wanted to say towards the end of the song, and my friend Megan and I stitched together the bridge lyrics which gave the song the extra push of vulnerability that I wanted. 

Do you find that putting thoughts on paper or into the universe has helped you process them better?

I couldn’t function without it! Writing things down helps me be more self-compassionate because I often just hate the thought that I’m thinking something to begin with! Just holding space for those feelings makes a huge difference. As for putting things out into the universe, while I feel like I come across as bold in my art, I’m terrified of confrontation. There’s so much I don’t (and probably shouldn’t) say and there’s a comfort in knowing that if I put my feelings out there there’s at least a chance that whoever I wish I could communicate with will get my message. There’s an even greater comfort in knowing, in some ways, it’s “on them” if they stumble across a song I wrote that may reference them because they chose to scroll through my posts and listen to my music. But that’s just me! 

What inspired the concept for the cover art?

Before the artwork was decided on, I made the music video for it first! I worked with my friend, Nick Noyes, on a concept that was inspired by a line in the second verse “throw all my skeletons back in the closet.” This led to a visual involving skeletons chasing my date away out onto the streets. So I knew I wanted skeletons. Up until now, I usually create collages for my artwork but I’ve been feeling the need to experiment with what “my world” can look like. I stumbled across Isaiah’s (aka “Cyber Dreams”) artwork on Instagram and fell in love with one of his pieces. I felt like I was looking at myself.  It just seemed perfect with the music video that I had already made. I sent the song to him and asked if I could use his drawing for the artwork and here we are! 

On Instagram, you shared how focusing on streaming numbers can really stifle your creativity, and you try to avoid that by making the process fun. What does that look like for you?

I try to surround myself with only the people I trust, people who see the best in me, and the people who are “down to clown.” Creating art can involve pain and long hours so being around the right people makes it all less daunting. I also use creating as an excuse to create new memories with the people I love. Some of the best days of my life are the days I’m creating with my friends because it’s also an opportunity for us to go somewhere new, wear something we wouldn’t usually wear, or do something we might not do if we were alone. For example, there’s a restaurant that my best friend and brilliant artist, RÓISIN, and I go to every year for their life-changing burrata. We only went to that place because I shot part of a music video outside of their restaurant. The staff was very nice about us being weird so we got a few appetizers to support their business and now it’s “our spot.” Even though the video did pretty well streaming-wise, I always think about the video fondly because of that day that we had together. 

If you could set fans up in the perfect environment to listen to “Studio Apartment,” what do you imagine it looking like? 

Wow I love this question. I hope this doesn’t sound insane. But I would create “ÊMIA’s version” of my moped-riding Bumble date’s gorgeous art gallery studio apartment and have everyone lying down on blankets and pillows on the floor. The ceiling would of course be just a giant window where you could see the stars (we’re also gonna pretend that light pollution in NYC doesn’t exist) and the song would be played out on speakers AND there would be a string quartet at the end. 

This year, you got to step into the role of co-writer/ producer for some incredible artists. What is your process like writing with others compared to writing for yourself?

Writing a good song with another person is like finding out you both scored front-row seats to a concert that’s sold out that you’ve both been dying to go to. It feels like winning the lottery every single time. When I’m writing by myself, I know where I’m going and I’m following a pretty set path to get there. Writing with another person means allowing the ideas and the melodies to go to places I could’ve never predicted. I could suggest something I think is great…but it’s not the story we need to tell. Collaborating means allowing for the song to be what it’s meant to be. 

In 2022, you also got to perform your song “Super Fun Party Girl” on Netflix’s ‘Ronny Chieng Takes Chinatown.’ How did that come about, and what was it like to bring the song to life through that outlet?

Very random! Ronny Chieng said that he wanted there to be a break from “all this comedy” so they were looking for a musician! A management company I was talking to at the time put my name in the hat and it just worked out. 

It was super exciting and crazy (in a good way). I love that that song was chosen for something so fun and so “New York.” ‘Super Fun Party Girl’ is officially coming out next month so stay tuned for that! 

What are you looking forward to in 2024? 

I’m looking forward to all the surprises I’m sure life has in store for me. I used to approach every year with rigid goals but now I’m just excited to try new things and see where that takes me. I want to push myself with new sounds, try to learn a new instrument, and maybe take some dance classes. I’m hoping to just watch myself grow 

What is one quote that you have heard or that you go by that you want to ECHO out to the world? 

“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken” which I guess is allegedly an Oscar Wilde quote, but to me, it’s something my piano teacher always said.