Whilst daydreaming about a quarter dozen Café du Monde beignets and dodging Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport’s bustle, I caught 24-year-old Emily Warren Schwartz at the most opportune time. Hailing from Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Warren is God’s gift to contemporary commercial music. This Grammy Award-winning triple threat nurtured her popstar partnerships with Melanie Martinez, The Chainsmokers, Alessia Cara, Noah Cyrus and Fifth Harmony, laying the first stone for Emily’s debut single “Hurt by You.”
Where did you open up your acceptance letter to NYU’s Tisch School of the arts?
I was actually at my senior year spring break. We were all in the Bahamas for a few days. It was crazy. It was particularly ridiculous because I was getting rejected from every school, and everyone thought I was not going to get into any school. I went to this super academic, rigorous school. Everyone else was getting into Harvard and Princeton, these amazing schools, and I was getting rejected from everywhere.Then, I got into NYU which is by far the best school I applied to. They got me into the music program and realized I was actually working hard on that; that’s why my grades were suffering. That was absurd. It was totally surreal because I was giving up too. I was like alright; I have to do this on my own, but I got into that school. It was amazing.
How do you feel when people constantly associate you with The Chainsmokers? Do you feel this will slowly change, once your debut single “Hurt By You” gets more press and you develop your own artist identity?
I have no hard feelings about that at all. I’m very much apart of their tour right now. I think my thing is that they’ve been supporting me, which is amazing, but it’s totally different sounding. It’s not like their music really. It’s very much me, so I think that those things will be separate. Honestly, what’s blowing me away with the release is not just them, but so many people that I’ve worked with, supporting the song and tweeting about it. It’s so cool because it’s a side of the music industry you don’t get to see a lot, that everyone is supportive of each other. I don’t mind being affiliated with anyone. I always put my friends on blast too, if they have a song coming out.
What is the challenge of being a Jill of all trades, songwriting for a plethora of genres? What genre or subgenre is your favorite to listen to in your personal life?
It’s actually been more helpful than anything else because I’ve put my own stuff on hold for a few years. Whether I realized it at the time or not, I wasn’t ready to tell my own story yet. I had to find my own voice. Writing with other people is informative. I now know how important is to tell a story, tell the truth and say something that makes you uncomfortable to say; that’s what people will be able to connect to. Even now, when I am doing my own stuff, working with other people is a nice break from that because I don’t have enough shit to write about my own stuff every single day. I don’t want to ever stop doing both.
I grew up listening to sixties music. My dad is a big Eagles, Joni Mitchell and Carole King fan. That was always around. Part of the reason I fell so in love with New Orleans this weekend is because my favorite thing to listen to is Ella Fitzgerald, and that’s playing at every bar there which is crazy. I didn’t even know that was still happening. Anything that has really good lyrics and storytelling. I love John Mayer for that. That’s what always gets me. There’s a lot of impressive music coming out now with cool sounds and melodies, but lyrics are what take it to the next level.
Explain what went down in my city when The Chainsmokers crashed the Huntley High School prom, when y’all were on tour at the Rosemont stop?
Some kid at that high school tweeted at them or sent an email to their manager that they were just across the street from the venue, so they [The Chainsmokers] were going to be right there, if there was any way they could come by and play a song. I guess they were surprised, and he didn’t know they were coming. They coordinated with the prom to play a couple songs and take pictures with the kids. They were so happy that they did it. They said it was an amazing experience and the kid was really pumped too. It’s crazy because they’ve been painted a certain way in the media, and it’s not like that. Everyone’s kind of shocked when they do something like that, but that’s the kind of people they are.
They’re good people, and they like to have fun. It’s crazy and definitely confusing that they’re painted otherwise in a lot of the media. In the Billboard article, there were a lot of things they said that were twisted, maybe said as a joke or said a certain kind of way. It was twisted into how bad they are as people. It’s just crazy because I can tell you first-hand, everyone on this tour is constantly saying they’ve never been on tour with nicer people. The Chainsmokers treat everyone with kindness, and everyone’s getting along. It’s such a good vibe. The fact that anyone thinks anything other than that about them, is actually crazy. It shows how twisted and powerful that stuff can be.
Drew and I have been writing a little bit on this tour for the next stuff they are going to be putting out; that’s something we are talking about a lot, trying to understand it. Trying to understand why critics are so harsh on their album, but it’s also the No. 1 album. People love it, but the critics hate it. What all of that means, why people say the things they say. I believe if people are having that much of an adverse reaction to what you’re doing, then you are probably doing something right. It’s like history, every famous artist wasn’t revered the way they are now. When they were first starting out, people were like what is this? This is not familiar. They’re making terrible music or terrible art. I think a lot of people who wrote bad reviews about the album listened through one time and had their minds made up before they heard it. That kind of stuff is bad journalism.
When people say they want to vote for Trump and it’s like why? Then, they don’t really know why. You can’t speak so intensely about things until you do a little bit of research, and that’s the problem with tweeting. People don’t have the patience to research, listen or think about something before they make up their mind and tweet it. It’s hard to go up against.
Who is your favorite artist to collaborate with? The Chainsmokers are out of the running.
Melanie Martinez I love collaborating with because she has such a specific vision for herself. She’s so sure of herself and what she wants her art to be, that it makes my job not only easier but way more exciting. Instead of giving someone a voice, I get to add what I can to hers which is really what a songwriter should be doing. I’ve been very inspired by her because she’s gone up against a lot of resistance, whether it’s from radio, fans or labels. She’s pushed through all this. Anything she’s wanted to do, she’s made happen. The truth is with Melanie, that’s totally who she is. It seems like a character because it’s so unique, but when I chill with her on a normal day that’s how she dresses and how she actually is. It’s crazy too because her album is not coming out for months, and the reason it’s not coming out for months is because she’s planning all these crazy things between now and then to lead up to the release. Only she could come up with and pull together these things. She’s got her hands in all of the directing of the videos, the writing, sits down with the cinematographer and edits them. Everything is her call. Her creative direction being behind every element of it, is what makes it so her all throughout.
It’s becoming less possible to manufacture an artist because people can see through bullshit. I think people can really hear if a song is something coming from someone or if it got sent to them, and they’re singing it with no emotion. The way labels treat artists a lot of times is they come in trying to do what’s best for the artist, but it’s their idea of what’s best for the artist. Instead of empowering the artist to figure out what’s best for themselves. This is a huge reason why I am resistant to working with a label, at least for now, because I need to be so sure of myself before I bring anyone else on who I’m putting trust into. Because labels invest so much money in you, they have such an incentive to be like okay we need a smash right now. It needs to sound like this thing on the radio because that’ll work. Once you start going down that path it’s impossible to be creative and get inspired because it’s so many rules; you’re trying to chase something. That’s how a lot of artists get burnt out. Then, there’s a handful of people like Melanie who know somehow from the beginning to resist that. When you have big heavy hitters of a label telling you what they think you should do, it’s sometimes hard to resist that.
As a female songwriter signed to Dr. Luke’s label Prescription Songs, have you faced any opposition from Ke$ha supporters?
Luke has been nothing but good to me. He’s definitely a good dude. That’s all that I know. I wasn’t really around for that stuff. Honestly, no one who tweeted about it actually read any of the articles or even the court case. That is a huge thing to tweet on when you don’t have all of the information, especially when you are a celebrity and have people listening to you. If there’s anything I’ve taken away from that, it’s that I don’t want to speak on anything unless I know all of the facts.
Listen to Emily Warren’s brand new single, “Hurt By You,” below and see her behind the scenes with The Chainsmokers here.
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