Following on from this thread - I contacted Terry to see if he'd be interested in chatting to us about his music. I emailed him over a few questions and he sent the following replies:
Tell us a little bit about Terry Emm
I'm a 21 year old singer-songwriter- guitarist from Bedfordshire in England. I have just put out my debut album 'White Butterflies' on Longman Records. I suppose that I got into music because my Dad was a local radio DJ, so I was always hearing all kinds of music around the house when growing up. Mainly popular music, The Beatles and a lot of Northern soul music in particular. I soon got into playing guitar at around the age of nine, learning classical styles first. I was Growing up in quite a remote village at the time, so I always had a lot of time to myself, fascinated by nature and I spent a lot of time just 'thinking', I guess. Then songs started forming, really.
Who are your biggest influences?
A big turning point in my music, that turned me more onto thinking about being a 'singer songwriter', was when I got introduced to the music of Mark Kozelek. I had just finished being in a teenage school style band with my friends and so recorded a load of songs on my own on an 8 track recorder in my bedroom. I was always interested in sound recording and layering up loads of textures. My dad was manager of a local record shop at this time and much to my embarrassment, played my demos to the young guys working there. One of them leant me a CD by Mark Kozelek's first band 'Red House Painters'. Their stark, introspective style just comforted me so much in my teenage years and I really related to it all, back then.
It was through this new influence that I was opened up to more singer songwriters and folk / experimental acts. Getting into Nick Drake seemed inevitable. I'd be at house parties playing acoustic guitar, because I hated talking to people and the older guys there would always come over and be like 'check out Nick Drake'. That was about as far as my conversations went. Then around this time I started playing at all the open mic / folk club / acoustic nights as a solo artist, and people were always comparing me to Nick Drake. It just kept coming up. Also, a lot of the new acts coming out at this time that I loved, like Neil Halstead's stuff, Tom Mcrae and bands like Gravenhurst and Iron and Wine and other songwriters, always got compared to Nick. I read some things about Nick Drake and got hold of the albums and was expecting it to be very depressing and melancholy, which in some ways it is, but I was surprised and didn't play the records for a long while after getting them. Slowly, I removed my pre-conceived notion of wanting more 'teenage angst' and started to appreciate Nick's music for what it is. It really can be perceived in different ways, it amazed me how different the overall feeling is from a lot of music with similar instrumentation that I had heard. And of course, that guitar style and Joe Boyd's production is almost 'unique' if its possible for something to exist that is unique. Nicks music had me looking backwards to older acts and forwards to new acts. I love John Denver, The Blue Nile, Neil Young, Elliot Smith, Vashti Bunyan and Will Oldham a lot.
Do your songs get compared to other people's and, if so, does that bother you or do you see it as a compliment?
At first when I was compared to other people, when I was young, I kind of always took it to heart. I wasn't trying to be like anyone, but people have to put you in some kind of box of similarities. I took them as a compliment, of course but sometimes, especially being compared to Nick Drake, you feel a bit of pressure to be something that you're not. Its good to have something to aim for but I've never been a competitive type of musician. I'm not interested in learning guitar to be 'the next Nick Drake' or out- do anyone with fast finger-picking and electric shredding. I like those styles, but I do what I do and that is something which for me is a slow and ever changing experience. I don't particularly see myself as 'a musician', I just have some things to say and some art to get out sometimes. I don't always sit down to 'write songs' and prefer the approach of playing guitar most days and keeping little riffs that stick to myself, and also writing down my thoughts until something fits that's natural and meaningful to me. I've been told by various managers a few times that its more successful and quick route to success to write in a 'Tin Pan Alley' style of song and to be a 'virtuoso' player. I love those styles and I might have some songs / music that fall into those brackets. But its just not 'me', all the time. I have to have my own essence in there too, so to speak. However, Its great to be compared to Nick, I can see why and there are obvious benefits, this interview for one! I just let people say what they want usually, if it makes you happy then it can't be that bad.
Which song of someone else's do you wish you'd written?
Interesting question. It'll sound really egotistical perhaps, but I like my own songs. That's why I write them. Haha. I love loads of music of all styles, but like many people, its a personal thing and I could only ever write my own songs... Although... maybe 'Pick Up The Pieces' by The Average White Band? That would have been a great tune to suddenly crack. I suppose songs that mean a lot to you through association with various memories and places and people always feel like you could of or perhaps should have written them.
What are you working on at the moment?
I've just released my debut album. Well I say 'just', its been around since February. I started recording that about two years ago now in Shoreham By Sea, West Sussex with a very great musician, Richard Durrant. He took me into his house, family and recording studio and has been one of the best friends I could have possibly imagined. There's always something musical going on in his community and it has been a great thing for me to experience and I've met some amazing characters.
The album came out on a really low budget, but It feels really rewarding with some of the responses it has got. I loved putting it all together as well, the product and pushing it 'out there'. Sometimes the promotion can get a bit too much, you are constantly putting yourself 'out there' and sometimes don't get too much back. I've never had too much money in my life, I shied away from getting jobs and stayed in education for as long as possible. So I started off very worried about spending the small amount that I did, It caused a lot of learning, but I realized that the negatives were an illusion I had created in my own mind half the time. I've learnt to just roll with the punches. You might play a folk club gig and half the audience wants sing a longs, like what happened to Nick and it grinds you down if you just want to do your own thing, but luckily, and probably thanks to Nick and the 60's, people can appreciate a wider range of singer songwriters now. So there's always one person there that you can connect with. At least that's what I like to think, these days. Its a tough industry, but I love it too.
At the moment, I am taking time to myself to work out what I'd like to do next and to think about various experiences that have happened to me so far. I missed out a bit on the festival opportunities by the time the album came out this year, so I'm hoping to do some next year. They're always fun and you get to see lots of acts. I am enjoying playing gigs with my friends and the people that have stuck by me from the beginning and the collaborative nights that Richard Durrant puts on down in Shoreham By Sea. I love all the eccentric and wonderful people that put themselves out there on the stage each week. I like to think, and I hope I am developing a new confidence with music after all I have experienced over about 5 years of attempting to do this seriously and am limbering up to get some new songs out there soon and put myself 'on the industry line' again. Time is always the illusion though, you think you want things NOW and you feel that if you've done something 'good', and time passes, that it goes unrewarded. The same if you've done something stupid, and think you've got away with it. It comes back to find you somewhere along the line. That's what I've noticed. Nick's music has finally got the acclaim it perhaps deserves for example. I can see myself doing various different musical projects in the future, I am open to experimentation but also doing some more songwriter material.
Check out Terry's music at http://www.terryemm.co.uk/