The Turning Point: An Interview with ÊMIA

Anh Le gives credit for her love of music to a few people: her mother, the k-drama shows they used to watch together and YouTube covers.

Yes, she took piano lessons and sang in choirs. People uploading their Katy Perry and Rihanna covers, however, was something she found far more intriguing. Soon enough she was posting her own covers and trying to follow along with the trends on the video platform. Then she saw something even more intriguing - some of her favorite cover artists were now performing original music.

She wasn’t too new to the songwriting world. In fact, she would take the songs performed in her favorite k-drama shows and rewrite them from Korean into English. She didn’t speak Korean, and didn’t know the actual words to the songs she was so fond of, but she let her imagination run free and write lyrics that she thought would work alongside the shows.

“I think that was the gateway to writing lyrics and learning to be really attentive to how words fit into melodies,” she said. “It's what I consumed a lot of when I was just starting dipping my feet into music and pop music especially.”

Despite her growing love for music, she wasn’t set on pursuing any kind of career in it. There was no way she could write songs for a living, right?

One day Le saw someone from her hometown post a photo on Facebook with a famous musician. They were currently in Los Angeles at GRAMMY Camp, a summer program for high school students to dive into the various aspects of the music industry; audio engineering, video production, music journalism and more. Le knew she had to apply because, what if she got to meet Rihanna? She applied for the songwriting program, and after completion she had no doubts about applying for music schools.

She chose University of Miami’s Frost School of Music and studied film scoring, but life chose a different path her senior year. She spent the summer before in New York for an internship and used much of her off time to attend shows and, for the first time, book her own shows. She performed under her own name for a while before realizing that performing under a moniker would give her a better chance at getting noticed.

She wanted something simple that represented who she was and already had an idea involving two letters. An E, specifically an Ê to represent her Vietnamese background, and an M, which is the female pronoun of “I” in Vietnamese. She played around with lettering and sat on her ideas for a bit before deciding on ÊMIA.

She released her debut EP, Little Secret, in 2019 and is planning to release her debut LP, ZERO, this fall. Her second single from the album, “Selfish”, is what Le calls a “big departure” from the first single, “Behind the Scenes”.

“[“Behind the Scenes”] was a lot more sensitive and emotional, and [“Selfish”] is emotional too but I wanted it to be a lot more fearless and confident,” she said. “...I always want the songs to come from a place of empowerment and it's just a song that I want to feel like I'm stronger than I was before and I'm not as sensitive as I used to be.”

She goes on to say that she really tried to challenge herself during the production of this song by writing lyrics that she would usually shy away from. It’s a song that has helped her free herself from the judgement of others and hopes that listeners take away the same message.

“When I was writing this song I was in such a vulnerable and sad place and I did not feel anywhere near like I could face any sort of confrontation or I could do whatever I want but wanted to write something that would make me feel like I could do that,” she said.

As she finalizes the songs for ZERO, Anh Le said that they represent the part in a movie where the main character is in a hard place but knows it’s about to get better. It reflects the journey that has gotten her to this current moment in time, and reflects the mark she wants to leave on the world via ÊMIA.