An interview with singer, songwriter, Emy Reynolds.
Music is powerful. It allows us to feel, heal, and connect. I spent a lot of time perfecting the look of Teryn Grey, and when the time came to create our first brand video, I knew I wanted to add an extra dimension with a unique brand sound. Believing that music can speak to one’s soul, I wanted to collaborate with someone that could narrate the scenes in my head with a beautiful composition. That’s what led me to the talented Emy Reynolds.
I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with Emy on a few different projects already, and today I wanted to share our recent Q&A session to give you an inside look at her creative process and her life as a Los Angeles-based songwriter.
How did you get started in music?
I started when I was young taking some piano lessons and watching my mom play. I joined my school choir and had a very inspiring teacher. She taught us the components of making a great choir as an ensemble but encouraged me in finding my voice. During this time I learned about the elements of music – tempo, pitch, rhythm, breathing, sight-singing, diction, and song format. These were tools that I use when structuring my own songs. I really found my voice when I picked up the guitar and started writing my own songs. My parents were very supportive and bought me my first guitars. I took guitar lessons every Friday after school in a little shop downtown Ojai. I brought my guitar everywhere and played all the time. I was somewhat shy in high school but I performed in front of the school at an assembly, then the choir performed one of the songs I wrote. I realized this is what I wanted to do and built my confidence. The summer after high school I started performing in little bars and coffee shops and then I won a battle of the bands. From that point, I was gigging constantly, then touring, and singing for television spots.
What is your favorite musical composition? Why?
One of my many favorites is La Vie En Rose by Edith Piaf, music by Louiguy. I was captivated by this song the first time I heard it. It is an example of the power of music. The song was written on the pavement of a cafe in France and became part of a national spirit, helping a nation rise after the second world war. The tragedies of her personal life can be heard in her raspy vibrato all over the sweet dreamy melody of a love song. I find that it is anthemic while being simple, catchy, and a sound of hope.
What is your creative process like? Is it different when creating for yourself versus for a client? Where do you pull inspiration from?
My process of writing for clients, projects, and myself are similar. I start with an idea or theme. If it is for a client I have a conversation to establish the theme, some key phrases, or words. Then identifying genre inspiration, the energy level for the piece, emotional response, and mood to determine how the musical component supports the story. From there I create a sketch of the melody and lyrics. Then I go in for the fine-tuning of instrumentation, lyrical changes, and production. I like to show a piece to a client that is close to being finished and then make any final adjustments from there. One of my favorite parts of working with a client is the process of diving into their head during a conversation and trying to figure out what they are hearing.
For me, it is the search for articulating a feeling. The search for combining the right melody and lyric to say what I am trying to say. They need to work together to be the most effective. That is why I usually write the lyrics and melody together as the idea presents itself. If it is an instrumental piece I start with a sketch of a melody with the theme still driving its tone. I always found it a strange process when I write songs with lyrics. A line or two will almost fall out of nowhere that I quickly jot down or build on. I’ve learned to be open and tune into this process and moment. Those are the moments that feel most authentic and the songs seem to write themselves. I try to not force anything, It is a quick process that I try to do in one sitting. There is a lyrical rhythm that will start the melody and direction of a piece. I also create space and time for those moments to present themselves by taking walks in nature, the city, or time to sit with my guitar. I draw inspiration from all facets of life; people, struggles, happiness, love, loss, music, poetry, places.…I like to write about everything.
How would you describe the music that you typically create?
I want to create songs about things we all feel. So that means a mix from moody songs you want to sway along to, maybe a song that makes you miss someone in a particular place, songs for a fireplace, a cozy blanket… I also enjoy writing uplifting songs, the way a sunset makes you feel, maybe an upbeat ditty you dance around the kitchen to. I tend to create songs with a dreamy melody and playful lyrics, eclectic with instrumentation while traditional in form.
What’s your favorite part about composing music?
My favorite part of composing music is the process. It’s like carving out a sculpture to see what it becomes. In the moment you might not see it and when you’re done and step back you see you’ve created something. Music feels important because it tells a story, makes us feel, and connects us.
What would you consider the most challenging aspect of composing music?
The most challenging aspect of composing is trying not to over-analyze a piece. I’ve learned the more you pick it apart, you are more likely to overdo it. Sometimes I’ll find if I do a vocal take 10 times I will still like the first one the best. Or if I add lyrics on later it may sound forced. Same with adding too many instruments. It’s not always the case but It’s the whole saying “Less is more” and that a good song doesn’t always need the bells and whistles.
I know on my projects I always approach you with random notes of inspiration and sometimes I think my ideas are all over the place and I never know if I’m explaining them enough. But somehow every time you come through with exactly what I’m looking for. I’m always amazed at how accurately you portray what I’m envisioning in my mind with your compositions. It makes me wonder, how do you take your client’s needs and still manage to maintain your authenticity and unique sound?
You have a very unique vision and aesthetic. During our first meeting, it was clear through your notes and our conversation that we were on the same page. Bouncing ideas back and forth with clients and getting as many little details in is so important! As an artist, I will always have a “sound” that I am not sure I can get away from. I don’t believe that it is a bad thing. But it is fun to play around with genre and energy as I work with different clients. I draw inspiration from the references and am sure to incorporate the client’s needs. I constantly refer back to my first notes I take with a client as I create a piece.
Brands focus a lot of time on every detail of the look and feel of their overall branding, but I don’t think a lot of them think about deepening their emotional connection with their audience through custom music. I’ve always loved the idea of a unique brand sound. When I had the idea to collaborate with you on the Teryn Grey brand videos, I hadn’t seen anything like it, and I wasn’t sure how people would respond. We know that visuals are huge and video especially is growing. I think music will be next, more specifically, “branded” music. What are your thoughts?
Yes, I believe music has been heading that way, now even more so. Covid has changed a lot for the music industry and many industries. Connecting on a deeper level seems even more crucial. Brands have an opportunity to connect with people through their videos, postings, and media in a time where we need uplifting or maybe a closer look at ourselves. Music can contribute a personable, unique voice, or tone. Whether it is a mission or identifying with a brand, people want to feel part of something. “Branded” music can deepen the vision and connection to the audience. It is very exciting.
On both Teryn Grey videos, we started with the music first, before any of the videos were filmed. Is that typical? What usually comes first, the music or the film? Is there an order in which you prefer to create?
I have worked both ways. I don’t necessarily need to see anything to understand the vision. I like to have a conversation to make notes and determine guidelines going over the details of the length, tone, themes…I enjoy both equally.
What projects are you currently working on or hope to be working on soon?
I am currently writing for part two of a solo project. Songs I’ve written since moving to Los Angeles. I was working on a docu-series about homelessness in Los Angeles before Covid happened. I composed the music for the pilot episode. I hope to be working on that again. I will also say I cannot wait to collaborate with Teryn Grey in the near future. I really enjoy working and building a vision with brands I believe in.
Emy Reynolds was raised in the golden valley of Ojai, Ca. She started as a touring musician and songwriter. Her band Elkke, formally known as the Emy Reynolds Band toured the United States and abroad to play as many shows as possible. She recorded some EPs and full-length albums, which were featured on television shows and commercials. During this time she also worked with a leading music house and composers based out of Santa Monica. Collaborating with these composers and seeing her songs in a visual context drove her to pursue music in film. The way music connects people is what inspires her.
With a songwriting background, Emy has a unique sound and perspective that allows her to make people feel and connect through music in film.
She is now working and living in Los Angeles Ca, composing and songwriting.