Emmy The Great never felt like a true musician till now

This story was first published in The Straits Times on June 10, 2013

She has released two acclaimed albums which have appeared on music critics' "best of" year- end lists, but up until recently, Hong Kong-born, London- based indie/folk singer-songwriter Emmy The Great has never felt like a true musician.

"I feel like I have been introverted in my music career," the 29-year-old told Life! in an interview at The P' Club Group, a lifestyle and furnishings store at High Street Centre last week.

She was in Singapore to perform at a party at the same venue, organised by ice-cream brand Haagen-Dazs.

"I'm no introvert but it's been very hard work trying to break into a world that you don't understand completely. I'm not a natural musician."

But the past two years of touring have changed her, and the new batch of songs that she is currently working on reflects her new approach to making music.

"I finally feel confident enough to call myself a musician and look outward. The way the world has changed, we converse in new ways, the Internet has changed the way that we think and I just want my music to reflect that.

"I don't want to be sitting next to some analogue machine saying "let's recreate the 60s". I want to live now and this is going to go out of date soon, so let's make it quickly."

Born Emma-Lee Moss to an English father and a Chinese mother, her 2009 debut album, First Love, was one of the New York Times' Top 10 albums of the year.

British music website Drowned In Sound praised the subtle humour in her lyrics and lauded her for showing "a maturity beyond her years".

Her 2011 sophomore effort, Virtue, garnered more praises, with the BBC describing it as an "extraordinarily confident work" and English newspaper The Guardian called her "one of the boldest young writers in pop".

Born and raised in Hong Kong, she moved to London, where she is now based, when she was 12. Her onstage monicker was from a nickname that her university schoolmates had for her.

Moss, who is single, has also made music with some of the more notable names in the British indie scene, such as Noah & The Whale, Lightspeed Champion and Kate Nash. One of her most frequent collaborators is Tim Wheeler, frontman of popular Britpop band Ash and the two of them released a Yuletide album, This Is Christmas, in 2011.

She is most excited when talking about her recent collaboration with one of her musical heroes, Graham Coxon, guitarist of seminal British band Blur. Together with Wheeler, the three are working on a soundtrack for an upcoming British film about a fictional Britpop band called The Wanderers.

"I am obsessed with him. My life got so much better by watching my guitar hero play. I went home that night after the recording and bought every single guitar pedal that he had," she says with a laugh.

Another band that she would like to work with are New York garage outfit The Strokes. Moss was such a fan during her teenage years that she ended up "stalking" the band's guitarist, Albert Hammond, Jr.

"When I was 17, me and my best friend found his number through some people who knew him and this is really shameful, but we pranked call him every weekend until he had to change his number."

She is also a fan of Chinese pop stars such as Aaron Kwok and Faye Wong, and recently covered songs by Wong in Mandarin and Cantonese at a Chinese New Year concert at Trafalgar Square earlier this year. "I don't speak Mandarin so I just had to pretend like I knew what I was singing. I can speak Cantonese and it used to be difficult to sing in Cantonese but ever since I had to sing in Mandarin, Cantonese seemed so easy."

This story was first published in The Straits Times on June 10, 2013 

To subscribe to The Straits Times, please go to