Emei's relatable lyrics and shimmering melodies hooked us immediately. Her latest song, "That Girl" is all about that unattainable life and the girl we wish we could be, and it's definitely something we all need to hear. We talked to her about her writing process, setting boundaries, and how she stays motivated.
Emei! How did you get started in music?
Emei: I was born and raised in New Jersey by Chinese immigrant parents who had absolutely no experience in entertainment. However, they knew I loved performing and were very supportive. When I was around nine years old, I got this bright pink Dell laptop for Christmas. When I'd get home, I would look up lyric videos every day and just sing at the top of my lungs around the house. I never really grew out of that phase! I started performing around the Chinese-American community in New Jersey and New York. Then, when I was 15, I took a gap year and competed on Chinese Idol and ended up receiving third place. When I came back to the U.S., I started writing music to get through some teenage angst, and now, I still write but to get through some young adult angst instead.
Tell me about your song, "That Girl" what's the story behind it?
Emei: I went to Malibu the day before this session where we wrote "That Girl," and I brought my journal and a poetry book and opened neither. Instead, I spent 3 hours on my phone. When I was reflecting on my Malibu trip when we started writing this song, it brought up a lot of frustration in my own lazy tendencies and my attempt to be "that girl" when it's often unattainable.
I definitely fail at being "that girl" do you think there's something a little toxic about that trope?
Emei: Oh definitely! I think we all can strive to be "That Girl," and that's not toxic. That's just natural. However, it definitely gets toxic when you're constantly comparing yourself to an unattainable facade that people put up on social media! It's easy to feel like you're not enough.
Your lyrics are so relatable. What's your writing process like?
Emei: I normally like writing from scratch and finishing songs on the same day. I absolutely hate editing, so it's very rare for me to edit songs. Most of my songs start with one of my dumb observations or experiences (i.e., a day of being on my phone in Malibu), and it unfolds as the day goes on.
You got your start on Chinese Idol! How has the switchover to the American platforms been for you?
Emei: It hasn't felt like a big switchover since my time on Chinese Idol was contained within one year when I was 15. Switching to releasing music in America has definitely been more nerve-wracking, though, since Chinese Idol felt like a world separate from the world my friends and immediate family live in. I definitely get in my head a bit more about how people perceive me and my music now that I'm older and releasing music in America.
What has been the biggest challenge for you in your career?
Emei: Balancing productivity with burnout!! I love making music, I love performing, I love doing all of it, and if it were up to me, I would work and work and work without any work-life balance. I've learned time and time again that I need to set boundaries to avoid burnout.
How do you stay motivated?
Emei: I love making music! And I love having people message me about how they've resonated with a lyric or a song. Every time I get a message like that, it definitely keeps me motivated to keep working and writing and posting!
What's your best piece of advice for young women in music?
Emei: Believing in yourself is half the battle. I've always felt like if I believe that I'll get to where I want to be, it's so much easier to do all the things necessary to get there. I think as young women, there are a bunch of roadblocks that might come up, and it's easy to call it quits if you don't constantly remind yourself you belong on the path.