No Rules: An Interview with Emmy Meli

by - March 14, 2024

After the success of her track “I Am Woman”, Emmy Meli wanted her first single in two years to chronicle her dive into different elements of different genres.

Breakthrough” has some of the same elements heard on her other songs - notably the jazz and R&B roots that were the soundtrack of her childhood - yet it explores diverse ingredients of traditional Motown and hip-hop.

The way she writes music is similar to the way she writes poetry, and her writing has led to people encouraging her to try adding rap verses into her songs. She recognized that sometimes her writing is packed with metaphors and has more to say than can fit in a traditional line of lyrics. With rap, she is able to fit in everything she wants to get across.

“I really wanted to show people that I am coming out of the gate doing different things, so it’s a little bit of a departure but it still has some of the same retro elements,” she said. “I spent so much time making serious music because that’s what I love but I also wanted to show that there’s a side to me that’s just fun and lighthearted. I like to think in terms of genre that my voice is the through line, and as long as I can maintain that consistency, then I can genre bend in any which way.”

The song marks her first time working with producers Daniel Klein and Matt Campfield. She felt an instant connection with them, and alongside co-writer Casey Smith, they were an hour into writing a song when Meli announced it wasn’t giving her “the tinglies”. She said that is how she approaches music; she can immediately sense if a song is going to work for her based on that feeling.

“I tend to just trust my gut when it comes to music because it’s never led me astray,” she said.

They switched to a different beat, which is now the one heard on “Breakthrough”. The second they heard it, she felt the tinglies. Smith turned to her and said, “holy shit, I think I had a breakthrough.” The rest is history.

The music video pays homage to several aspects of her life. The Y2K elements - bedazzled flip phones, sticker collages, gold-plated name necklaces - are all a reference to her childhood. The choreographed dances and poolside ending are reminiscent of one of her childhood favorite franchises, High School Musical.

The location of the video is a nod to her last service industry job working the beverage cart of her local golf course. Meli said that she enjoyed her time working there, but the clientele were not always the most forward-thinking. Although their generous tips were used to play local shows, their outdated comments about her pursuit of a music career were not appreciated. She dreamed about the moment she would get to sign an incredible deal with a label, have the budget to put out a music video complete with dancers and choreography, and have it set on a golf course as a “freshly manicured middle finger” to those people.

“Breakthrough” is just the beginning in terms of new music. With an EP planned for the near future, listeners will get a chance to really see how different genres influenced this new batch of songs.

“One thing I love about music is that there’s no rules,” she said. “I think that genre bending is something I will always participate in, just because I’m trying to make music that no one has heard before.”

During the creation process of her latest music, she developed a stronger sense of patience. She could be working on one project while simultaneously thinking about the next one, causing her to lose focus on what is right in front of her.

“It was a bigger lesson, teaching me something about myself and teaching me something about my life,” she said. “The best things come to those who wait, so being made to wait two years to put new music out was challenging, but now it’s rewarding because I’ve grown as a person. I think in this industry it’s so important to be the most prepared person in the room, and you can’t be prepared if you’re rushing.”

While upcoming music is being kept under wraps, listeners can expect an overarching theme of turning lemons into lemonade. Life guarantees pain, Meli said, but experiencing hard times only makes someone more appreciative of the good.

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