Interview with Emily Anderson
Written by Katy Trosch
Photos Provided by Emily Anderson
KT: First off, tell me about your musical journey. What lead you to pursue music as a career? What has inspired you to create along the way?
EA: My musical journey started when I was 4 and begged my parents for piano lessons. I started taking lessons when I was 5, then choir at 8. I began writing songs when I was about 10 - mostly about my miniature schnauzer or about a fabricated love narrative usually based on a Disney film. I was lucky enough to grow up in a music-filled home with parents who supported my interests. Though neither of them are self proclaimed "musicians", my parents are both creative, nurturing people, and I feel very lucky to be their daughter. I didn't expressly want to pursue music as a career until I began applying for colleges and I realized all of my time outside of my required school work was music - choir, theatre, a cappella groups, songwriting, piano lessons, orchestra. All of it. Music was not the easy choice, but it was the choice I knew would make me the happiest, most fulfilled version of myself.
KT: What’s your favorite thing about playing shows in different cities? Do you have any favorite stories about playing in new places?
EA: Music allows me to travel to places I wouldn't normally have the opportunity to go. Probably my favorite places to travel for music are the small towns and corners of Alaska. There's a festival in Chicken, Alaska that I absolutely love called "Chickenstock." It's a mining town of about 30 people in a town named because the miners couldn't spell the state bird, "ptarmigan." Every year they have a music festival that brings about 1500 people together to dance, play music, and catch falling peeps being dropped from a bush plane passing overhead. It's a blast and has turned into a family tradition.
KT: What do you think is the most powerful piece of music that you have written thus far? Why?
EA: I think the most powerful piece of music I've written and released is "Hold Me." It's about finding yourself as a young person and all the good and the bad that comes from living in a small, isolated town. As far as unreleased songs, I wrote a song for my friend Sarah that I'll be releasing soon about mental illness. This is the most important song I've written in my life so far, and my deepest regret that she didn't get to hear it.
KT: Do you feel at all that your experiences as a woman in the music industry have differed from those of your male counterparts? How so?
EA: My experience in the music industry has absolutely been influenced by my gender. Going to music school was the biggest wake up call - I was sometimes the only female in the room, which I started to notice affecting my willingness to speak up in class. There was just this strange feeling of self-doubt, of not wanting to seem like I wasn't intelligent or talented. I learned that I needed to make my voice heard and not be afraid to speak up - after all, we were all at school because we expressly did not know everything. I also experienced self doubt as to why I was accepted to the school - was it because I was helping fill their quota, or was it because they actually saw something in me? It took some time, but I learned to set that fear aside and take full advantage of the opportunity in front of me. I deserved that education just as much as my male peers, and I wasn't about to waste it. The school I went to was 30% female at the time. I'm happy to report the student population has grown to 40% female. Still not perfect, but it's encouraging that it's changing, and that the change is being celebrated.
KT: If so, in reference to my previous question, can you remember a specific time or moment when you realized that your experiences may be different because of your gender? What was that like?
EA: There are little moments where I notice my gender perhaps play a role in my interactions. I've been lucky. I've heard stories much worse than what I've experienced. But these little things - like a sound engineer approaching a male band member instead of me to ask about inputs, or someone explaining to me what kind of microphone I was using (it was my own microphone), or a fellow musician handing me a tambourine on stage instead of performing any of the songs we'd actually rehearsed (namely, my own songs). It feels strange and objectifying - not necessarily malicious, but strange. Like here's a world that I'm actively a part of, but still considered "other" by some. There's definitely an undercurrent of perpetually needing to prove myself. On the other hand, my life has been shaped by supportive men who believe in me and treat me as an equal. My dad played a big part in that, as well as my partner, and some of my closest friends and collaborators.
KT: Do you think that the music world is making positive changes towards being more inclusive and accepting of women who are musicians? What, if anything, do you think needs to change?
EA: I think music is still a male-dominated industry, but I'm extremely optimistic about the future. It's shifting before our very eyes. Young girls now have more role models to look up to in a variety of career paths within music, which can only improve the landscape of the industry. Sound engineers, industry professionals, songwriters, all of these fields are becoming increasingly female. It's the promise of possibility that opens young minds to think "yeah, maybe I could do that, too."