5 Minutes With… Emily Breeze

Emily Breeze
Emily Breeze

Emily Breeze: “The song has to have some heart or meaning before I start writing music or I will abandon it on the side of the road.”

Following on from the critically acclaimed 2023 album ‘Rapture’, the indie-noir songwriter returns with the equally captivating ‘Second Rodeo’ EP

2023 was a big year for Bristol’s Emily Breeze. Two decades into her music career, she soared to new heights with Rapture. Heavily supported by BBC 6Music and earning critical acclaim, the album’s combination of sleazy rock ‘n’ roll, star-spangled glam, and noir indie created the perfect home for Breeze’s tales of night-time escapades and dawn regrets, all peppered with cultural reference points and wry details.

Keen to keep up the momentum, Breeze recently dropped the Second Rodeo EP. With three originals and a snaking shoegaze cover of Paul Simon’s Graceland, she is both storyteller and interpreter extraordinaire. Intoxicating vignettes of a life well led, it’s clear that Rapture was no fluke.

Here, Breeze opens up about the new songs and her creative process…

Read Emily Breeze’s Diary Of A Songwriter

Is there any overlap between the new EP and Rapture?

“We had some radio success with Rapture so, like a massive sell-out, I was keen to write more songs that were short and hooky. This was an interesting creative challenge which I enjoyed in a perverse way.

Emily Breeze

Emily Breeze: “I’m such a huge music nerd that there is always something different I want to try and rip off.”

What can you tell us about your typical songwriting process?

“My typical songwriting process goes something like this:

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“Step 1: Start to fantasize about how abundant and breathtaking my new songs will be as soon as I get past this busy work/touring/promo period.

“Step 2: Finally, I have some time to write. A whole precious day ahead of me brimming with possibility. After 20 minutes I remember that I hate writing songs. I am a delusional idea-less excuse for a person. Admin tasks and cleaning suddenly seem very urgent.

“Step 3: After repeating step 2 multiple times, I have an idea in spite of myself and start singing lyrics over different chords and riffs until something sticks. The song has to have some heart or meaning before I start writing music or I will abandon it on the side of the road. That’s the hardest part, finding something new to say that feels interesting enough to proceed with, but the idea always comes knocking in the end.

“Step 4: Get excited, an unfinished song is potentially the best song in the history of the world

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“Step 5: Encounter a problem, go back to step 2.

“Step 6: Songwriting is like making direct eye contact with your limitations and the temptation to re-watch the entire 6 series of The Sopranos instead of cracking on can be very compelling. The best advice I can give to a songwriter is to just keep turning up. Even if you are just reading other people’s words, playing around with other people’s chords, you are moving towards something. Keep poking it with a stick and, eventually, you will drag something kicking and screaming out of the ether.”

At what stage did your bandmates and producer Stew Jackson get involved in the process?

“I play new ideas to Rob [Norbury, lead guitar] and Stew throughout the process. They always have great ideas and push me to create my best work. Rob writes brilliant riffs and chords too. The music to Cosmic Evolution and Ego Death were written by him.

1997 is a good example of the band’s arrangement talent. My part is a three-note riff which I play for the entire song and it was Rob’s ‘ga da bom bom’ part which got me excited because it sounds like the hook from I Got 5 On It by Luniz. Drummer Andy Sutor went straight in with a Krautrock beat and we tried putting in some chord information in on the keys but the song rejected it so Helen [Stanley] wrote a hypnotic Dr Dre synth-style part instead, which I loved, and George [Caveney]’s bassline underpins the whole tune with sleazy magic.

“Any band who has worked with Stew will agree that he basically elevates the whole thing. He is one of those people who can play all the instruments and lays down backing vocals like a Beach Boy. He might get us to change parts, use different sounds and he always pushes us to the best of our ability.”

Your songs are always wonderfully evocative due to the specific details you’re able to include in your lyrics – what tips do you have for other songwriters who want to write in this way?

“Thank you. The devil is in the detail. I hear a lot of songwriters talk about the importance of universality and lyrics which every single person on planet Earth can find their own personal meaning in and I agree, if you can nail that then you are a god, but often these types of songs are so broad and bland that they send us all to sleep. Adjectives lie dead on the page but objects and actions are a great vehicle for storytelling.”

And how do you capture your lyrical ideas?

“I have a Google Doc which is filled with fragmented ideas, I call it ‘the mother brain.’ Some lines lie there forever and never see the light of day. I’m looking at it now. I wonder if I will ever find a home for, ‘Microdosing Insta mums,’ or, ’The severed heads of all my former lovers,’ or, ‘Laika, the first dog in space.’”

Do you tend to hear the finished song in your head very early on in the process or does the song lead you to its final destination?

“I have reference points. Right now the song I want to write is some sort of big sad epic like Scott Walker’s The Big Hurt and This is Hardcore by Pulp, but songs don’t do as they are told. It’s like trying to force your child to be a doctor when they are determined to be a trapeze artist.”

Emily Breeze

Emily Breeze: “Adjectives lie dead on the page but objects and actions are a great vehicle for storytelling.”

What do you think is your biggest strength as a songwriter?

“I am far too English to answer that.”

As someone who has been writing songs for a number of years, what do you do to keep things fresh/prevent your music from becoming repetitive?

“Musically, I actually don’t think about it. I’m such a huge music nerd that there is always something different I want to try and rip off. Style and genre are purely cosmetic and you can reach into the last 100 years of popular culture and apply anything you want. I find that part really exciting. Lyrically it is tougher. Once you have ticked off a lot of the big topics you have to start searching for ideas in strange places or simply become a parody of yourself. I am planning on doing both.”

Finally, if you had to pick one song from your entire catalogue that you’re most proud of, what would it be and why?

“Probably Part Of Me from Rapture. It is inspired by Murder Most Foul by Bob Dylan, which I had on repeat in the pandemic. That song broke me. It has a cast of characters and cultural references in it from Nightmare On Elm Street to Nina Simone. It’s loosely about the assassination of JKF, but to me it felt a eulogy to the popular culture of the 20th century.

“I love low art and pop culture deeply and this inspired Part Of Me which is a weird sort of meditation on the alternate fates of Elvis and Mickey Mouse and Sid Vicious and Shakespeare.”

Emily Breeze’s Second Rodeo EP is out now on Sugar Shack Records. For music head over to Emily’s bandcamp page and you can find upcoming shows on Facebook

Read our Emily Breeze deconstruct her song Hey Kidz

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