Soul/RnB songwriter Emily Muli is itching to get back into live performances and “sharing music in a space with other people” again, after spending the last two years making music from her bedroom. She chats to Danielle Hao-Aickin about her latest single Self-Care and what’s in store for the future.
Nominated at the 2021 Pacific Music Awards for Best Pacific Soul/RnB Artist, Tongan-born Muli has been working hard behind the scenes juggling a 9-to-5 job alongside her bedroom-bound music career during the pandemic. Her second single, Self-Care, was released as part of the RNZ Fresh Music Daily series, and entirely created amid the 2020 nationwide lockdown, with her band recording the different parts from their own bubbles.
“It’s just funny the origin story of the song… because it’s literally us in our bedrooms, so that was a cool process!”
Self-Care is all about taking care of our mental and physical health, and Muli is acutely aware of this, having had to hold down full-time employment while developing a pathway in the music industry.
“I’ve built my own coping mechanisms on how I can do this… And I’ve also learnt that if I over-commit myself I’ll burn out really quickly. So it’s all about finding the balance.”
Muli grew up within a musical family, but her real musical journey started when she was 16, posting covers on Youtube, one of which had over three million views.
“Music wasn’t an option at my small high school, so I told my parents I was going to study a music degree and study popular music at Auckland Uni. University helped me make awesome connections with the industry and with friends who are my bandmates now. And then in 2018, I did the Parachute Artist Development Programme when I released Rhythm & Truth.”
She has also represented the Pacific region at the recent Commonwealth Youth Awards, performing her newest single, Hiva Ma’a Tonga/Himi 114, a tribute to the Tongan eruption and tsunami in January 2022. Sung in English to the 3-minute mark, the song ends in the Tongan hymn Himi 114, and also features the House of Misfits, a collective of Pasifika singers and musicians that Muli is involved with.
Looking forward, Muli is working on some music to be released later on in the year and re-setting her brand and story.
“I think I’m still trying to figure out what that looks like. I’ve gone through a cool journey of learning lots of things. A lot of experiences that I have will shape this next body of work, establishing my story for people to know me in a musical context.”
With a style heavily inspired by Lauryn Hill and India Arie, she already brings strong messaging in her songs, but says she wants to be able to connect to listeners with even more intention through lyricism and storytelling.
“There’s a message to share with their music. When you listen to their lyrics, there’s always a deeper meaning… So I think, with this next body of work I just want people who know nothing about me to listen to the songs, and then they’ll be like, ‘Oh yeah, I know who she is.’”