Emily Moldenhauer, known on stage as Emily Moldy, lives in the Oakland area—only minutes from me! Although she grew up in San Diego, after reading this interview, you will realize why her heart is in Northern California. This twenty-three year old has been busy making some awesome music, but has been kind enough to take the time to tell us about herself and her music. I decided we would start out with some background information this time:
JF-Can you give us a quirky fact about you to start us off with?
EM- I have a twitch-type tendency that comes out when I am being “creative”… My fam calls it “Stemming” and my teachers used to think I had epilepsy when I was drawing in class when I was a child.
JF-Wow. Well, whatever works. How did you get into music? How long have you been doing this for?
EM- I got into music when I was about 13 and got news of this singing teacher in town named Peggy who was really good. I went into it wanting to be Christina Aguilera. I started performing at little singing performances at local churches and community centers, doing covers of Madonna and Jewel. I think that’s when I realized I loved performing so much. Then in high school I got my hands on a guitar and piano and started making up my own songs. In college I found myself in my first real band and recorded my EP with them in 2010 (I was 21)… its just been a snowball rolling downhill since then; getting bigger and moving forward fast! A very exciting journey.
JF- That’s awesome. Sounds like you’ve been busy ever since. So with your experience so far… Recording or performing? Which one is more your cup of tea?
EM-Well, right now I’d have to say recording, because I have been performing so much lately and am eager to get into the studio and lock myself there for weeks ‘till my first full-length album gets finished!
JF-Ah! I can’t wait. Exciting! So do you write your own music? Where do you pull your inspiration from (melody and lyric wise)?
EM-I do write all my own music. I haven’t collaborated with many people on songs yet except for a few special humans from the past, but I am excited to do more of it in the future! How I get my inspiration… is just from life. I like to observe life and then find cool ways of describing things in my head which later turn into songs. If the moment is right, the emotion is strong, and I’m not thinking too hard, then songs manifest themselves pretty naturally from there. First the emotion will turn into a melody and then the words will come.
JF- I notice you wear a lot of adorable dresses on stage performing. From whom/where/how did you develop your sense of style? Do you “dress up” more for performances or are you always looking lovely?
EM-Haha, wow I have never gotten a compliment like that before … so first off, thank you. I would definitely not consider myself a stylish person when it comes to dressing up. So if I am performing and wearing a dress, that means I made a conscious effort to try and look nice and like a girl. I don’t know where my “style” comes from except that when I see things that I like and think looks sexy, I try and re-create it for myself… San Francisco is a pretty stylish place but that’s why Oakland works for me… less competition= me having a higher self-esteem!
JF-Stage fright. Does it get to you? If it does, what do you do to help stay calm?
EM-Stage fright doesn’t usually affect me in a negative way. Sometimes, in fact, it works in magical ways. Like last Thursday, for instance, I had a show in SF and was totally losing my voice all week, but it miraculously came back right before I went on … I think from all the adrenaline… or maybe my music-angels were just looking out. But anyways… instead of stage fright I’ll usually just get really awkward talking to the audience when I’m not comfortable (but I’m working on it!)
EM- Ah, charming the audience seems to be an art of its own, doesn’t it? But once you start singing, no one seems to care about those awkward “in-between-song” moments. You have a great sound. I’m curious, musically, who are your influences?
EM- I work at a youth center in Richmond called RYSE and am surrounded all day by young artists who have lived a lot for their age. Being around that kind of positive energy and passion is really inspiring and influences me a lot I think. Musically speaking, it’s hard to name specific people… Every GOOD bit of music that I have heard influences me… makes me want to create and try and put more cool music out into the world. Elliott Smith definitely influenced my songwriting. Mason Jennings and Lauryn Hill with vocal expression, and artists like Nneka influence my message. Bjork & CocoRosie are my girls though and hold a very special place in my heart.
JF- Hm, I’ll have to look some of those names up. I’m excited now to make some new discoveries…Ryse also sounds interesting. I’ve read some of your blogs on your website. I see you have a soft spot for Richmond, CA as well as Ryse… Can you tell me more?
EM-I work at a community/youth-center/non-profit type place (called Ryse, as I mentioned once already) working in the media arts team and yes, I definitely love and appreciate Richmond very much. It is a historical city with so much to be said about it and so much I still have yet to learn since I am new to it. With some of the most extreme cases of environmental racism, police abuse, poverty and street violence happening amongst young folks, it has created a culture for the community to be very passionate about wanting change, and that’s where I am working and learning right now. People I meet in Richmond are some of the most powerful people I can recall knowing (especially the young people). I feel blessed to be there and hope to be working towards changing negative conditions within and stereotypes about Richmond through working with its youth. (Check out Ryse Center and its partner organizations here if you want more info: www.rysecenter.org)
JF-Richmond sounds like a beautiful place. Why did you make it your home? What is it about that area?
EM-To sort of continue my rambling above… I feel like the world should know about places like Richmond (though the point of our work is to make it so that its community members will tell the world its story, not an outsider white girl who is working there, like me). But anyways, there are so many places in this country—and world—where liquor stores are 100 times more common than grocery stores and where police people abuse their rights against citizens based on race, age, or gender and people can’t do anything about it! It’s a societal issue and for many people (many from my own community these don’t have to be a part of their realities… they get to be detached from it.
If I have a voice… writing through my music blog, and if people are actually listening to it, I’d like to say something important and political once in a while. I’d like to use my music as a way to create critical thinking and evolve minds… and not to sound too cheesy, but a better society and world.
JF-So this area, for you, inspires a lot of your music?
EM-It inspires my soul and identity which, in turn, inspires my music.
JF- It’s great to hear that you’re so involved and passionate about what you believe in. I have a lot of respect for that. I’m sure a lot of others do as well…What words of advice can you hand to someone who wants to do what you are doing?
EM- If you are a singer/songwriter/artist/musician of any type… I’d say start a movement: The Movement of You. Do your thing and try not to care about the fact that you’re not making money at first… that will lead you to selling out. Just CREATE! And start a buzz around you so people start to tune in. They will come to your shows or listen to your songs, etc. And surround yourself with people who believe in you and who are genuine! When you get tired and lose sight, take breaks and check back in with your friends who know you best. Listen to ladies like Lauryn Hill on Youtube talk about her journey to creating and “making it big.” It’s about the journey…there is no destination =)
JF- Great advice…I may or may not have started to take notes on your inspirational little speech right there…So, with all of this purpose behind what you do, what’s next for you and your music? Tours, projects, recordings? Anything coming up soon?
EM-There is an album that is coming up which is in the pre-production stages right now… as well as an official music video and lots more shows around California. Also Portland has been calling my name, so I’ll be there sometime soon.
JF- Sounds like fun…and it also sounds like you’re a very busy woman! So I’ll ask one more question before I let you go back to starting a movement with your music… What have you been listening to as of lately?
EM-Lately I have been stuck on Lana Del Rey’s songs (I think they are so melodic and beautiful) as well as Grimes, Kate Bush, and Kendrick Lamar (talk about a powerful voice, that dude has a way with words). Also I have to shout out to my Bay Area/San Jose-native music comrade, Vida Killz… Her music and message is definitely something worth following!
JF-Awesome. I’ll definitely give all of those names a looking into! Thank you so much for your time!
EM- It was a pleasure!
Make sure to check out her 2010 EP “E is for Eleven”!