Interview with Emily Wells

By on

The wonderfully talented Emily Wells has been described as “the musician who will crush any preconceived notions you ever had about classical music and hip hop.” I sat down with her at SXSW recently to talk about toy instruments, turning down a record deal as a teenager, and lucky charms. So Emily, I understand that you play many instruments;
toy instruments, etc. Can you name a few favorites?

Emily Wells:
My main instrument is the violin. I’m
also really into little toy instruments. I have a few toy pianos and
always bring one on the road with me. I have little glockenspiels, I
love analog synthesizers, old synthesizers, old drum machines … anything
that I can sample — I’m into. I really like the combination between real
instruments and electronic stuff. I also like the uke a lot … [The Melodica is] a
really cool instrument. You can kinda make a sound like an accordion
because it’s got air going through. You can play chords just like you
would on an accordion, but you can also play single notes.

AE: I love that you are able to use so many instruments to
create a totally unique sound.

That’s what I’m most interested in. Different
sounds. Whether it’s the drummer or bass player I work with, or a
unique instrument. Like, Joey, the bass player, plays three different
basses. It’s great. It brings something different into it.

AE: Something great about your music is that it doesn’t
really fit into a specific genre. It seems like the two main styles
you merge in
your music are hip-hop and classical. What other influences are there?

EW: I love folk music. I like Bob Dylan … but
so does everyone. He’s definitely someone I totally respect. I would
say I’m also heavily influenced by Jazz, although I’m not sure how much
of that makes it into my work. Gosh, I love anything I can get my ears
on. Just like instruments — whatever I can get my hands on. Old country
music, I love—

AE: So could you see yourself bringing some of that stuff
into future songs? Like merging country and classical or … ?

EW: I don’t know, but that would be cool actually. My
new stuff is really down tempo with the beats and I bring in hip-hop,
for sure, and the classical stuff too. The Symphonies: Dreams
Memories & Parties
album is basically 10 compositions. Some of
them have choruses, but I really focused on the instrumentals. The new
stuff I’m working on still brings in that symphonic element, but has a
more lyrical song base.

AE: Is there anyone who stands out as a childhood
influence? Any current artists you want to mention?

I grew up in a Classical world because of my
parents. I was playing violin at 4. My dad listened to a lot of church
music. So it wasn’t until I got a little older that I was able to
branch out and listen to stuff like the Beatles, Big
, and then I really got into early ’90s hip-hop.

As far as
today goes, I go through phases. Lately I’ve been listening to a band
called Department of Evil, which the production is really
good. Another classic of our day is Joanna Newsom — so
brilliant. Especially, her last album … it’s like, wow.

More you may like