Wise Women Wednesday: Emma Lee


Q. Who are you? What is your background? 
A. My “stage name” is Emma Lee, but most people call me Emma, or Em. The “who am I” question is so broad! I’m a singer- a musician, an enneagram 4 (haha),  a newlywed, animal lover, native Texan, so many things… My background as it relates to music, was classical voice from age 11-18. I’m self-taught in piano and guitar. I also spent my childhood and young adulthood cutting my teeth performing in musical theater, and playing in an alternative pop-rock band in high school. My background as it relates to “non-music” consists of a degree from UNC-Chapel Hill in Broadcast Journalism.

Q. What is your work? 
A. Now my work is as a full-time singer-songwriter. I play multiple shows a week mostly in the Piedmont Triad area of NC but sometimes heading to Raleigh or Charlotte, and every so often my husband and I will play out of state when we travel. He is a full time singer-songwriter too. During the weekdays when I’m not playing live, I’m home writing and recording music, and practicing new songs. Working full-time for yourself as a gigging musician encompasses way more than just those things you see on the outside too- you really wear the hats of booking agent and manager, then take care of handling all of your finances, marketing and correspondence etc. on top of it all. It’s a lot of work! Instagram @Emmaleemusic or Facebook: Emma Lee Music

Q. What is one project you are excited to be working on right now?
A. The project we’re putting the most energy into right now is our folk rock duo “Em & Ty.” I say “we” because it’s my husband Tyler and me- (if you haven’t picked up on that yet!). My husband has a really interesting story with his journey to music, that involves him being diagnosed with RP at 21- a retinal disease that has now caused him to go blind. He’s an amazing musician and songwriter, but only picked up a guitar in his early 20s and started singing then too, unlike me, so our history and relationship with music is so different which is cool- we bring a totally different approach to our art. We’re looking forward to producing and putting out an EP in the near future, so stay tuned! If you’re in the Greensboro area we’d love to have you at our upcoming full band show at the Double Oaks BnB on Sunday October 13th! Info here: https://www.double-oaks.com/events-1/concert-with-em-and-ty Instagram handle: @emandtymusic Facebook Em & Ty Music

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Q. What is one thing you've done recently that's scared you and took courage, but you're glad you did? 
A. So Tyler had been a part of this local writing group that is responsible for each writing and sending in 1 song/week based on a weekly prompt, and it always intimidated me to be accountable to write that much that quickly, especially with other life stuff going on (travel, gigging, etc.).  However Ty encouraged me to join a few months ago so I could push myself to start writing more- and despite my reservations about not being able to do it, I went ahead and joined and I really have surprised myself at how quickly I’ve been able to come up with songs and stay consistent. I’m really glad I did it! Any songwriter will tell you, you just have to push yourself to do it and do it consistently to get through the “bad stuff” before you can start mining down to the gold.

Q. What is the work you most want to be doing and are you doing it?  If not, why not? What's stopping you?  
A. I think the dream goal is to be touring. It’s not so much about what’s stopping us as much as the difficulties of getting to that point- it’s more like, how tough are we willing to be, how hard are we willing to work to get there? Are we willing to stop at nothing and keep our chins up despite let downs, self-doubt, shut doors, passing time feeling like we’re going nowhere etc. These are all things we’ve already endured but we know that the music industry is also a game of endurance. It’s a long game, not for the faint of heart. Good thing we’ve also trained for a marathon together ;)

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Q. What would you tell your high school or college self? 
A. I would tell her to be more authentic to herself. I didn’t pursue music in college at all because I told myself that I had been “pushed” into singing my whole life, but in reality, it was the one thing I eventually discovered I felt most compelled to do in my life. Any time I went too long not having music as a part of my routine, there was a definitive void. And that was all of college and on into several years following before I pursued music again full time. 

I would also tell any high school or college student (including myself) that they are so beautiful and wonderful just how they are and to stop picking themselves apart or worrying about what their peers and other people think about them; that their humility and kindness go so much farther in this world than their appearance. Those things are what people remember. I think we’re all still learning these things though...

Q. What's one piece of advice or motto you love and use in your daily life that you would like to share with my sweet readers? 
A. From one of my all-time favorite guys, Mark Twain- this one was scrawled in marker and hanging on my dorm room dresser, I give you my life motto:
“Twenty Years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” 

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Q. What keeps you creating when you don't feel like it? 
A. I actually try not to “force” creativity per se. However, I haven’t hit too much of a block lately. The funny thing is, creativity (as far as songwriting goes) a lot of times strikes when I’m not sitting down to seek it out. I’ll be driving, or brushing my teeth or doing the dishes and I’ll have to quickly grab my phone and take down a voice memo of a melody or lyrics that pop into my head.  To actually answer the question though- sometimes you really do have to push through. and there’s no other way than to just do it. But it’s like anything else- when you have a deadline or set working hours that you have to utilize, I just walk away for a few minutes maybe grab a coffee or a snack and come back and readjust my attitude and hope for the best! And hell, sometimes it’s not your best work. But tomorrow is another day, and you don’t have to paint the Sistine Chapel or compose Beethoven’s 5th every time...

Q. Anything else you'd like to share? 
A. Yes- I’m just going to throw this out there for anyone reading who might be reading this who is on the precipice of making a bold change in their life to follow their passion/try something vastly different than what they’re doing right now. It’s how I was feeling when I was working a 9-5 corporate job in the few years after college but before I quit for music. I just couldn’t do it anymore because I was ignoring my calling. So what I have to say is sort of what I came up with as my personal restatement of Twain’s quote - Eventually the fear of never trying will become much greater than the fear of failure. And that’s when you know. Please if you’re reading this, and there’s that one thing you can’t stop daydreaming about, that consumes you even when you should be doing your “real job”- know that on the other side of the fear of the unknown is strength and resiliency and self-reliance. You will be OK- and more than OK; self-fulfilled. And guess what? The worst thing that could happen is you fail. So what. Then one night twenty years from now, you’ll be able to sleep peacefully knowing you tried. (But what is failure? To me- knowing you tried to pursue your passion and went ALL in…? Deciding your dreams were worth working for 100% of the time instead of somebody else’s? I’m beginning to see that as success no matter what the outcome looks like, friend. I’m comfortable with that.)

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Q. What's your favorite yoga pose?  
A. Crow!

Q. How do you live a life of abundance? 
A. Animals, coffee in the morning, gardening, alone time, family, friends, scary movies, travel, creating & designing (music, my home, art), Chick-fil-a...

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