For Fans Of: Lorde, Tove Lo, Gia Woods
Why You Should Care: Emma Gatsby’s upbringing sounds like it’d be straight out of a novel, and it sort of is. Growing up on the Long Island estate that was depicted in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Emma (who changed her last name to Gatsby from Handler), was immersed in music as quickly as she learned how to talk: her mother was a classically-trained pianist and taught Emma the cello at just three-years-old and her dad later bought her a guitar.
Unfortunately, Emma was orphaned at just 10-years-old after her parents died unexpectedly. After living in foster care with family friends during the majority of her adolescence, Emma emancipated herself at just 16 and returned to the “Gatsby mansion,” which was nicknamed by Emma’s classmates as a result of crazy parties that were thrown in the house.
At 19, Emma released her first single called “2 Steps Ahead,” which picked up steam online and was eventually remixed by producer White Cliffs, helping the song go viral. Emma decided to take some time off to revisit her sound, and returned to the scene earlier this year with three new singles. The new music, released ahead of a new EP called Sweet Nostalgia set to release later this year, is a “sonic tribute to New York City in the Jazz Age, punctuated with orchestral elements, rag-time samples, and an homage to pre-Depression hedonism.”
Check out our Q&A below:
Chicago Haze: The way you’ve described your childhood really does sound like a fairytale. How has your life up until this point shaped your creative process?
Emma: Being that my mom’s side we’re all classically trained musicians I think it instilled in me a level of respect for music that I might not have had. I try not to be careless with my music. My parents didn’t like most of what was on the radio growing up but there were a few songs (the well-written ones) that would catch their attention. I definitely remember that. I think subconsciously I write music I hope would meet their same expectations.
Emma: Absolutely. I used to write small poems as a child but I don’t think I would have ever discovered my voice, or even my ability to write actual songs if it weren’t for the specific series of events that is my life. I would have continued to study the cello and probably ended up in some conservatory.
Chicago Haze: Your upcoming EP will be influenced heavily by the Jazz Age in New York City. Who else inspires your music?
Emma: I’m really inspired by artists who have the ability to tell a story and keep your attention the whole way through. Some of my favorites are Frank Ocean, Vampire Weekend, and Elliott Smith.
Emma: I really just hope if a song resonates with you it has the ability to take you out of your head and into a new world for those three minutes.
Emma: I’m really enjoying taking long walks around my neighborhood. I love discovering new streets and just appreciating the architecture of the homes around me. Cooking is another but I don’t get the same joy cooking for myself as I do cooking for friends.