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Emmy Meli 1250

On the Rise
Emmy Meli

07 June 2024, 14:26

After finding viral success with her 2021 breakthrough hit “I Am Woman,” LA-based Emmy Meli is building her career with authenticity and self-belief.

“You know those people that just come out knowing what they are and knowing what they love? That's kind of me,” smiles SoCal born and raised singer, songwriter and musician Emmy Meli from the other side of her phone screen in the midst of a US tour.

Since breaking through in a rush of TikTok virality in 2021, Meli has played shows supporting the likes of Fletcher and Hayley Kiyoko, racked up hundreds of millions of streams and made history as the largest podcast sync on record when her hit single was used as the theme for Megan Markle’s Archetypes series. After years of tenacious work in the background, she released her accomplished and confident debut EP Hello Stranger last month.

The root of Meli’s inherent musicality comes from her upbringing. Raised in the Long Beach area of California, her dad had a huge influence on her musical taste and abilities. “We counted one day his collection of records, CDs, and cassettes, and all together I think he had five-hundred-something albums,” she laughs. “He taught me how to listen to music differently. He would ask me, ‘How many layers do you hear?’ He was asking me to separate the bass, to separate the strings, to separate the acoustic guitar, to separate the drums, to separate the horns, and we would sit and count the layers.”


Born in the ‘50s, her dad exposed her to the sounds of his youth - motown, jazz, funk and soul, acts like The Supremes and Minnie Ripperton. As she began to get older, Meli cemented her own tastes, falling in love with the music of Amy Winehouse, Lauryn Hill and Mariah Carey. “We would sit and watch all of Mariah Carey and Amy's music videos on our TV,” she says. “It was a very music-centric household and while it wasn't what either of my parents did for a career, it had a huge, huge influence.”

As well as taking piano and keyboard lessons from the age of six and participating in the school choir, Meli began writing her own songs when she was just nine. It wasn’t until she began working with a friend in high school that she realised the power of her talent. He would produce beats for fun after school, and she would write lyrics and topline over them. “We would just put it out on Soundcloud and it wasn't really like a big deal, it was just something we did,” she says. “The whole process came so naturally to me that I remember kind of being like, ‘I'm really good at this. I think I could do this.’ Of course, it's not as simple as that, but I definitely found my love for the process around that time period.”

Emmy 2024 New Press Photo new

After high school Meli’s parents strongly encouraged her to go to community college, but she quickly switched to the local music school. “I started out in the vocal program, but because I've been singing my entire life, I felt like I wasn't learning what I wanted to learn,” she says. “I switched to the independent artist program because it was a little bit more all-encompassing. You had to take music production courses and you had to take photoshop courses, you had to take artist identity courses. The whole point of the program is to help shape you as an independent artist and teach you how to start on your own.”

When the pandemic set in just months later she found herself sitting in classes over freezing Zoom calls and made the executive decision to take a leave of absence from the course. Armed with the tools to grow her own artist platform, she instead focused her energy on the hustle of releasing her own music.


She began self-releasing in the summer of 2020, spending hours cold-emailing blogs and journalists. “That was kind of the energy for that whole year, I was just doing it whether it was working or not,” she laughs. “Then TikTok became a thing and there was no real set idea for how that looked for artists at the time. I was just doing my thing, it was very DIY vibes. It was the fall of 2021 that I posted ‘I Am Woman’ on a random Tuesday evening after rehearsal. I’d just written the song in rehearsal on accident, just like, ‘This is cool, I'm gonna post it.’ I turned my phone off the rest of the night and didn't think about it.”

Filmed straight to camera, Meli recited her lyrical affirmations - “I am woman, I am fearless, I am sexy, I'm divine,” in her trademark slick and soulful rawness. Instantly relatable, empowering and direct, the clip blew up (literally) overnight. “Honestly, it was tumultuous,” she says, shaking her head. “I was still working at a golf course and I didn't really have proper management or a lawyer. I was taking meetings with labels on my ten-minute break at the snack stand. I had no idea what I was doing and it was honestly very difficult and frustrating to navigate at times. It’s a little bit like being a small fish in a huge pond and not knowing where to swim.”

Thankfully, she took her time, striking a single-only deal with Sony and using her momentum and industry-attention to build a solid team around herself. All the while, she was still writing and working on new material. “I think the fans, they just think you're taking your sweet time, but it's really not that,” she says. “There's so many other things that go on behind the scenes just in terms of team building, legality stuff and so on and so forth. I would say that it was a lesson of patience for me.”

Exercising that virtue, she released her debut EP Hello Stranger last month, despite completing the record back in 2022. The opening title track, a cover of the Barbara Lewis classic, sets the tone for a collection of songs steeped in soul, confidence and delivered in Meli’s rich and commanding timbre. Working with producers Some Randoms, tracks like “Silence” juxtapose bright and instant production with timeless songwriting, while EP highlight “Breakthrough,” opening with a nod to Prince, echoes the classic style of Meli’s authority, Winehouse.

On “Aura,” a natural continuation of her “I Am Woman” energy, Meli partners with Baby Tate for a summer rush of pulsing RnB. It was the A&R from her label who connected the two artists. “I've been a fan of hers for a while, which is funny. I was invited to the Billboard Women in Music Awards after ‘I Am Woman’ happened and I saw her there. I was too nervous to say hello,” Meli smiles. “I tried not to get too worked up about it just because you never know. They just waited until they had an actual verse from her and then they just sent me the song and I think I responded, ‘Holy shit.’ She understood the assignment 100% because she really showed up.”

Ready with a full team, game plan and more music to follow, Meli has shown up too, and the next steps are hers for the taking.

The Hello Stranger EP is out now. Emmy Meli plays La Fayette in london on 17 June.

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