She’s been making playlists since aged five and performing covers live since 15, but in the last year Emma Taylor has become an artist in her own right. The up-and-coming local musician chats to Josie Hindle about growing up in Blackpool, studying music and finding support among other women in the town

Emma Taylor flashes a genuine smile as she enters Common Bar and Kitchen on Edward Street in her hometown of Blackpool. Her interview with Blackpool Social Club is an opportunity to relax for a couple of hours before her gig at the bar.

Over the past year, alongside other female musicians such as Daisy Atkinson and Imogen Evans, Emma has become a regular on Blackpool’s burgeoning live music circuit. Her profile has been raised by In Good Company, a collective of artists who seek out, nurture and promote fresh talent in Blackpool and in April she released her debut single, Ellie.

At just 19-year-old Emma has already been performing in the town for four years, playing cover gigs in bars since the age of 15. It was an experience that forced her to mature quickly and adapt to those around her.

“You’re exposed to quite a lot, and you see quite a lot of different people. Most of them are lovely, but some of them – no.”

Emma is a supporter of Reclaim Blackpool, the project mapping sexual harassment in the town. In support of the project, she recently performed on Stanley Park bandstand, sporting her Catcalling Ain’t a Complement T shirt, designed by local artist Grumpy Girl Graphics.

“I can’t even really remember the first time that I was catcalled, followed, approached or touched in a club or something like that. There are too many to recall. These girls actually want it to hold people accountable, mark it on the map and make people aware of it.”

Emma’s experience growing up in Blackpool was largely positive, however. She’s currently in her second year studying music at Salford University, but loves coming home regularly and supporting the blossoming small businesses and creative scene around Blackpool. Especially the independent live music venues such as Abingdon Street Market, Bootleg and Dirty Blondes.

As well as big name musicians, Emma’s main inspiration is her dad – Mike Taylor of the Galleon Bar’s house band, Mikey T’s Smalltown Playboys. Emma considers him her “best mate” and says he gives her endless support when it comes to her own budding career.

“I’ll call him for guidance, like I’m not sure what fee to charge for this? Or do you think this will be a good place to play? We phone nearly every day.”

They also gig together, although it’s not always planned.

“I’ll be playing a gig at the Galleon or somewhere and he’ll come in, get right on the [drum] kit while I’m halfway through a song and just pick it up straight away. I did a gig here and he had his sax in the car, so he just pops outside and comes back inside playing the sax.”

My main struggle was worrying that I couldn’t play music venues. I wouldn’t have enough of a presence or stand out that much. Now I’m hooked. I love this.

Emma goes on to explain how performing has helped massively with her confidence in other aspects of life and how she has witnessed it have the same effect on her dad.

“I think one of the main things I got from him is how to make connections and how to talk to people. When you want to work with other people, always initiate that conversation because most of the time musicians are usually on the same page and they love working with each other.”

Emma loved music from a young age with the likes of Prince, Miles Davies, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder still staples on her playlists, which she’s been making since she was five years old.

“Stevie Wonder has been my favourite musician since I can remember. My dad took me to see him twice, which at uni is my favourite thing to bring up to people. He was amazing and it was one of the greatest days of my life.”

More recent inspiration has been drawn from the likes of Wolf Alice – her favourite band – singer-songwriter Dodie, and Australian guitarist and songwriter Tash Sultana.

“She records every single instrument in her songs. When I saw her live at Victoria Warehouse – a massive venue – she did an hour set on her own. She had the drum kit, sax and trumpet, loads of guitars and was singing and looping at the same time.

Emma (second from right) at Bootleg Social with her band, who she met while studying music in Manchester

“That’s why I got into looping and that’s how I write most of my songs. I start off with a riff or a chord pattern and then just add more and more layers. I try and take inspiration from all the music I listen to and merge it together. I feel like my songs are all over the place at the moment because I’ve just written when I felt inspired by an event, a feeling or another artist.”

While she is still trying to find her sound, Emma is enjoying the musical exploration and experimentation. She’s never tried to write in a particular genre, although her forthcoming music – she’s currently recording a single called Fade – is very much in the singer-songwriter style, she says. And what ties all the music she performs together is her sweet, high-pitched vocals that lure listeners into a lullaby state before yanking them back to reality with passionate, powerful crescendos – all backed up by her dreamy guitar work.

Not everyone was supportive of Emma’s decision to study music, but she says it was one of the best decisions she’s ever made. She currently works behind the bar at the music venue Band On The Wall in Manchester, along with a few other music student. She says it’s an incredibly supportive environment.

“I can’t count the amount of teachers telling me not to do it and other musicians telling me it’s pointless. It’s helped me meet so many other incredible musicians, like my band. Meeting them was one of the greatest things that ever happened to me. They’re just really talented and they’ve definitely pushed me to want to keep going and do better.”

Although she plays regularly with them, Emma classes herself as a solo artist with a supporting band but says she would be happy for this to change if her band were to commit to writing together. She began learning guitar as a child – her main instrument until recently when she has been focussing more on her voice.

“My voice kind of surpassed my guitar playing ability, which I don’t like. I want to be quite a lot better at playing guitar than I am, but because I write to sing rather than play, I think the guitar drops a bit.”

Although she’s been playing live since 15, Emma felt that doing cover gigs had become a bit “stagnant”. The “game changer” for her was being given a gig at Bootleg Social.

“It was actually the first music venue that I had played – before that I was background music at a restaurant or pub and that was kind of a moment when I was like, oh, shit, I can actually do this. I can actually play my own stuff.

“My main struggle was worrying that I couldn’t play music venues. I wouldn’t have enough of a presence or stand out that much. But I felt like I was being listened to and like I actually had something worth saying. Now I’m hooked. I love this. I want to keep doing this.”

The gig at Bootleg pushed Emma to perform her original songs at open mics in Manchester, which led to even more gigs. But being a solo artist can be hard, she says, when it comes to confidence and not taking the opinions of others to heart.

Emma on stage with her band at Band on the Wall in Manchester, where she also works on the bar part time

“The minute someone says I don’t like that, or shakes their head or doesn’t clap you’ll stumble. I just try and remind myself everyone’s on their own path and I’m still really young. If you feel like you’re not good enough, you’ll doubt yourself the whole time.

“I try not to get down on myself and just seeing everything as an experience or a stepping stone to move further.”

Reclaim Blackpool - Mapping Sexual Harrasment
  • Show Comments (1)

  • cloe

    Fantastic article and a fantastic artist!

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