NewTracks New Artist: Emily Muli

NewTracks New Artist: Emily Muli

You might have heard newcomer Emily Muli ‘s voice when she was accompanying other artists like Aaradhna and Tommy Nee on stage or in the studio, but this time the Auckland go-getter steps into the limelight with her own material. Emily’s debut single, the groovy rnb track Rhythm & Truth, received funding from NZ On Air Music‘s inaugural NewMusic Pasifika round in February 2019 and was subsequently featured on their monthly NewTracks compilation in March. 

What’s your full name, where are you from and what instruments do you play, if any?

My name is Emily Muli. I was born in New Zealand but my family come from the Kingdom of Tonga. My main instrument is guitar but I like to play a little bit of keys and bass, as well as jam some drum pads (to make up for my non-existent real kit skills lol!) 

What high school or other music training was important to you?

In high school, we didn’t have music as a subject in my senior years so I would just play the guitar and sing at lunchtimes. I then ended up studying a Bachelor of Music majoring in Popular Music at the University of Auckland. The training I got there really improved my knowledge and skills musically, lyrically and performance-wise.

What other projects might we know you from?

I did backing vocals for Tommy Nee’s first EP – ‘Colorblind’. I also feature on a track with Chicago producer Eli Way called Stuck, which is on the Chillhop Summer 2018 Compilation. I’m a backing vocalist for Aaradhna as well, so we get to do some really awesome shows! 

How did your music evolve from your beginnings in songwriting to what it is right now?

Over the years my taste in music has changed, so I can see that in my songwriting also. I went from writing a lot of singer-songwriter alternative music influenced by my obsession with Brooke Fraser as a teen, to now writing R&B/soul/jazz-influenced music that is lyrically intentional. I think my style will always be evolving, and that’s what makes every new project exciting. 

What makes Rhythm & Truth stand out for you as a single?

For me, every single lyric line has a backstory that is important to me. You could point out any line and I could tell you what it means for me because that’s how I chose to write the song. Being my debut single, I wanted to give people something that was honest both musically and lyrically, so that’s why it stands out to me.

What is the story behind Rhythm & Truth?

I wrote Rhythm & Truth last year after many years of writing songs for different causes, other people or about different experiences and situations. While I still do that, I just needed to write something that was for me. After I got the hook, the rest of the song ended up just flowing naturally and didn’t take me long to write.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

My favourite lyrical moment is probably in the second verse – “when that th-th-th meets the rhyme, take away the e and what do you find?” I really wanted to play on words in this song and so to play on the spelling while making it funky was a cool challenge that satisfied the word nerd in me, haha. 

Who did you write/record/produce the single with and where? Got a fun story about the making-of?

I recorded the song at Parachute Studios with Nic Manders as the producer. Vivek Gabriel mastered the track too. The making of it was heaps of fun because the band was made up of really great friends of mine, so shoutout to Isaac Graham (bass), Adam Tobeck (drums), Ivan Fuimaono (keys and BVs) and Junior Soqeta (2nd guitar and BVs)!

Please describe what you want listeners to take away from this song.

Definitely, the message that it’s okay to be yourself out in the world. I think we live in a society that is influenced a lot by the things we hear, see and observe in media/online, so to go against that can feel uncomfortable and unnatural – but it’s worth it. Be authentic, be honest about who you are and what you stand for, and be yourself! 

In general, how do you work out what song would make a good single?

For me, I like to perform it or play to friends after I’ve just written it, and if I can hear them humming it later in the week or if they tell me they can’t get it out of their head, then I know that it’s something to keep working on! I also think a good single can only be created when you have a great team around you too. It’s more than writing the song – it’s the music, the production, the mixing, the external ears who can provide suggestions – it takes a team. 

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for, with this band or others?

Definitely, have an EP in the works that will hopefully be ready for release near the end of the year! In the meantime, I’ll be working on a couple more singles to release which I’m really excited about! 

Can you please tell us three other local tunes that should be on a playlist alongside your song.

Bailey Wiley ft. MelodownzSugar
Yoko-Zuna ft. Noah SleeMinority
Six60Drift Away

How many of your previous applications didn’t get funding or didn’t get included on NewTracks? Got any advice for people out there?

I’ve been really lucky in the way that the NZOA New Music Pasifika round was the first funding round I went for! Same with NewTracks. But I have put in applications for other things that didn’t go through and sometimes it can feel a little bit discouraging, but the best advice I can give is to take it as a learning tool. Ask questions to improve for the next round and keep going! Hard work and perseverance are good work ethics to have.

Was there an NZOA criterion you struggled with in the application? Which one was it and how did you work it out in the end?

For me, it was definitely the marketing and promotion planning. Being independent and not having done an application before, I had no clue what to include or how I was actually going to promote Rhythm & Truth. Thankfully, I had some really awesome people around me who were in the industry, and they were so helpful in giving me advice, contact details and tips along the way! That’s a lesson in itself – always surround yourself with people who want to see you win. Thanks, TJ, Paula, the Parachute fam and everyone else I hit up for some help!

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

I’ve been checking out Sniffers blog a lot recently and I love finding new music and videos on there. Haven’t been listening to many podcasts as of late, or even watching YouTube, but do love checking out new music on Instagram! Definitely recommend checking out @pickup__ and their other grams for some awesome musicians around the globe! I’m pretty sure it was also started by a NZer too.

How can we find you on social media?

Any last words?

Thank you so much for the opportunity to share a little bit of my story with you. It’s always nerve-racking to put something out there that you’ve created, but the response has been incredible and I’m just looking forward to making more music that people can jam to. I hope whoever reads this can also find courage in being who they are, and I’m excited to see what the fruit of that might look like. ‘Ofa atu!