Emma-Lee Moss is notoriously penickety. Interviews often betray a persistent character, contesting definitions, questioning questions, and assuring you’ve got every last bit of info she has to give. This interview wasn’t a whole lot different.
The 26-year-old folk singer had originally trained in commercial music, with an aim to become a journalist. As her own career took off she put journalism (bar blogging on her website) to the side.
It was a casual, almost subdued “hello?” that answered my call, but this didn’t mask what was certainly a defiant streak.It’s not so much the same defiance as the 2009 Emmy The Great, fighting what was an almost instant pidgeon-holing into the ‘anti-folk’ genre as she was really at the beginning of establishing herself. Tackling what was certainly an obstacle creatively, Moss doesn’t hide her indignance: “There are so many complications when the press decide that something is a scene, it’s just so much hassle. I just want them to all get in a group and say that they’re a scene and then for someone to take a picture.”
Now, however, since personal crises hit (having been jilted by her long-term fiance who turned devout Christian), and Moss found she had bigger fish to fry than her critics, Moss is mellow and pensive, and very open. She removed herself from the music scene to reassess herself and her work, and, in the process, created her second album, Virtue: “I gave myself a blank slate to start with. I was like, I’m not going to be judgemental, I’m going to find out everything I need to find out about this particular niche and decide what I think. I realized from writing that song that I wasn’t just upset by what he does, going around the street and trying to convert people in foreign countries, but I was upset about the original missionaries.”
Yes, she gets quite deep. Candidly recounting her abandonment in a brief phone chat to a student journalist (“he went ballistic, I didn’t know how I felt about anything”) I felt slightly on edge. She drops in that he left her suddenly and without warning. This is what her latest album’s all about: a break up. Not solely – she grappled with the hurdle by “throwing herself” into fairytales, philosophy and folklore, and it’s these archetypes that pervade the tracks. “This was a really soul-searching record. I actually did it to get over something and in the process of that I discovered what I felt about things.”
She’s certainly helped herself in the pidgeon-holing situation – Virtue, regardless of the change in tone, and sparing down of the band, is lyrically very fairytale-like – something that the rest of the folk scene has passed by.
Moss insists the ‘scene’ is not something she clings to: “The best you can hope for when you make an album is that someone will listen to it, with a friend, or while they’re cooking, or while they’re driving, and that’s what you’ve done, you’ve given them 45 minutes of music for their day.”
But with a welcome reaction to Virtue, and another album on the cards, the anti-anti-folk, or “digital medieval” singer may have to set her sights just a bit higher.