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Emilee Moore: An Interview with The Master of The Breakup Song

LA-based singer-songwriter Emilee Moore’s latest EP, White Mazda Truck, hits like a physical punch to the gut. The emotional intensity of the breakup ode is so raw that on my first listen I had to, rather dramatically, pause as the instrumental built to its climax. The song is now firmly in my go-to break up playlist, and I am almost looking forward to the next time my heart is broken to enjoy the song in its full emotional feels.

Joining Emilee via zoom in Palm Springs, I was granted a snapshot into her creative process, the full story behind her latest single, and a deep dive into her musical inspiration.

Photo credit Zuleyma Prado

Since migrating to the dreamer’s heartland of LA from her native Vancouver, Canada three years ago, Moore has built a discography of emotionally rich and lyrically driven pop tunes. Moving into a New Girl-esque apartment with her four producers, Moore has honed her talent for storytelling and crafting her deeply personal experiences into musical gold.

On her move to LA, Moore notes that “the minute I stepped out of the airport something felt different… there is a different energy”. When I comment that LA is a city full of aspiring somebodies and that there must be a sense of constant competition, Moore smiles this off, “that hustle is always present in every conversation… that energy meets you where you’re at and pushes you”. I ask if that push ever has a consequence, and with equal positivity, she notes that whilst it’s hard not to compare yourself, “these are the abilities that I have to offer, and if I can just focus in on that, I can get to where I want to go”.

I pivot to asking about the new single, White Mazda Truck. After gushing a little too much, maybe a lot too much, about the song, I ask how Emilee herself would describe her latest release. She explains that the story follows the night of her first break up, from those dreaded words being uttered to what must have been an incredibly awkward car ride home in her ex’s aforementioned white Mazda truck. She later admits that in an odd turn of events her own father purchased the truck a year later, a twist in the tale that almost feels fated. She quips that it’s Bon Iver meets Kanye meets Emilee Moore, not that she believes that she deserves to be the last item in that particular list. I promise her that I won’t include her name in the same sentence as these music giants.

Photo credit Zuleyma Prado

Their influence is clear as the track builds, synth beats, gritty guitar and a hard autotune that just “felt right”, swell as the lyrics hit the highway on that car ride home. Moore explains that “the minute we hit the highway I broke down, and that’s where the second chorus begins”. I waffle that my favourite lyric is when she comments that she’s surprised he cries too, that he has to wipe his tears on his jacket sleeve. She notes that “I’ve been on both ends, there’s a lot of love there… and they’re allowed to feel emotional too even though they broke you.” I’m starting to feel that this is far too mature a response to a horrible break-up, before she quips, “and I’m just going to make money off that”.

I ask if it’s difficult to commit such a personal moment to the song. She explains her nervousness that people might think it's weird to be so personal, but “the stories that I am sharing are only emotional when I let myself feel it”, that “it’s nice to be able to write about things and look at them with a clear perspective.” I ask that if after the process of producing the song, is that raw emotion that sparked its birth still there. She answers that “I don’t need to be bawling my eyes out over an ex from years past”, that her lyrics do the talking but that “I want people to know that I felt that and I’m just there with them.” She later explains her commitment to accuracy whilst writing, that she wants her listeners to know that her emotions are authentic, that they can trust the feelings of her songs. Moore comments on how important it is that the music is something she would listen to if she didn’t know herself.

Photo credit Michelle Underwood

I’m intrigued as to how this deeply personal storytelling and writing process translates to working with her tight-knit team of producers. The way former roommates, Xander Miller, who encouraged Moore to start pursuing a music career in her final year of college, and brothers Franco and Miguel Maravilla, are described makes them sound almost physic. Having worked together for so long, Moore explains that they understand “the emotion in the production that is needed to match the lyrics”, and that they know how to map out the feelings. It sounds like the dream team, and their own influences are clear in the song.

As we start talking about musical influences, Moore comments that the team have a lot of the same music taste, from Xander’s love of Coldplay to her own devotion to John Mayer. She admits that she used to habitually rent Mayer’s debut album, Room For Squares, from her local library, stopping anyone else from doing the same. Her music taste is largely influenced by her family, a passion that has always been a part of her life, and her older brothers' love for bands like Blink 182. We talk briefly about the team’s interest in BritPop, Moore commenting that she loves that band feel and era, hinting that this influence is growing stronger in her music. She begrudgingly admits to some obligatory Spice Girls stickers and a guilty pleasure poster of fellow Canadian Justin Bieber gracing her childhood bedroom; we’ve all been there.

Photo credit Zuleyma Prado

From burning Avril Lavigne songs and DIY-ing CD covers to singing in a church band, I ask if there was an exact point in which she knew this was it; LA here I come! She credits Xander, who after telling her of his own plans to move to the city of angels to produce, inspired her to write her first song; or the first song she’ll admit to at least. These early musical collaborations “will never come out", unless Xander leaks them in a petty act of revenge, she jokes. Before being pushed by her producer to “take this opportunity and run with it”, she never really believed that she was good enough to make it in the industry. With her latest EP and big plans teased for later this autumn, this disbelief seems misplaced.

I ask, now that her music is out there and receiving feedback, if this external gaze has impacted her writing process. She comments that writing “stuff that is meaningful and that will transfer, even if it’s not what people want” is her focus, the rest will come.

Photo credit Zuleyma Prado

I feel obliged to talk about her space within the digital world, especially as an independent artist. Moore seems less enthusiastic about this side of her ‘job’, it can feel that “you’re selling your soul every day online to get more people listening” she comments. It is a necessary part of the process though for an independent artist, which Moore celebrates for the freedom it gives her to “build up the story on my terms with my producers.” She adds that “every artist should have that agency”.

It is an agency that is serving Moore well. After being confined to online performances during the pandemic, she already has LA performances planned for the coming months, which she is both “nervous and excited for”. For my final question, stolen from a friend’s go-to ice breaker, I ask how she would like her Instagram bio to read in five years. She jokingly asks if she will have a huge ego at that point, before answering earnestly that she would love to be promoting a critically acclaimed album and a large world tour. I wave away her apologies for the boring answer, it seems like the perfect road map.

With dreams of performing at Coachella and her hometown’s Rogers Arena, I hope that these venues can be added to that sold-out world tour. With new music teased, and Mazda’s official Twitter account tweeting their love for her latest EP, I don’t think that dream bio is too far away. Personally, I can’t wait to add more Emilee Moore singles to my break-up playlists.

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