Em-Haley Walker first started creating a buzz with her 2015 track Silver Second, released under her then-moniker Plum. By the time her Josh Fountain-produced single Roam was released in late 2016, she was recording and performing as Theia, with a self-titled EP waiting in the wings. Alongside touches of electronica and RnB, Theia’s sound is described as ethereal, glitter-pop. She talked with Sam Vegar for NZM.
“It’s ethereal and edgy and strong, and it’s kind of everything that I suppose my music represents,” Christchurch’s Em-Hayley Walker reflects on her adopted artistic branding. “I wanted a name that would encompass everything; my aesthetic visually and sonically, and something that could take me forward. I will always be growing. I don’t want to become stagnate, so I suppose my music and myself as a person will always be evolving, but I wanted something that I would be able to grow old with – and that was it.”
‘Theia’ was titaness in Greek mythology, and has become the name Walker is more commonly known by.
Released late last year, her debut single Roam blew up large in NZ and gained her international recognition. Looking back on where she started in 2015, Walker is breathing a confidence that she has grown through patience and a carefully laid out game of waiting – until the right time to blossom into the public eye.
Even from a young age, she has been an artist at heart.
“I suppose I’ve just been doing it for a very long time. I started writing at six or seven. I’d write at school, I’d write at home, both poems and songs. I’d come up with a top line and then a little tune. I’d find such a joy and comfort in writing. I’ve always had a pad beside my bed. When I was going through things, if I couldn’t sleep I would write. It has just been this organic thing that has happened. It was never, ‘I’m going to write a song,’ it just had to happen for me to feel content or at peace.”
While also developing an interest in fashion and arts as she grew, the idea of pursuing music as a career became a given in her future.
Wisely not leaping unprepared into something she cared so deeply for, Walker allowed herself time to grow and mature into the woman Theia encompasses today.
She studied a BA in Christchurch, majoring in Te Reo Māori and indigenous studies, then went on to a post graduate degree in film and television production.
“It taught me so much as a person. I learnt so much discipline, so much knowledge and care for other people, awareness, and all of those things. I just felt like it was a really important thing I had to do. I’m really grateful that I’ve collected all this knowledge and grew myself as a person. Through school, I just wanted to jump into music, but I really felt like I had to hold off, and spend some time growing. That was really important, I just had to wait for the right moment.”
Having graduated she came back to music, saying it’s the only thing that’s happening right now.
“By then I was a little bit older and a little more comfortable with myself, and then it happened, and now I am here.”
Signed to Warner Music, Theia released Roam in September 2016. The single had a charmed, slow-building run in the local singles’ Top 20 chart, sticking around until year end.
Now living in Auckland, Walker began work on her introductory EP.
Released in July 2017, ‘Theia’ shows an eclectic mix of inspirations, ranging from real and raw emotions to fashion and art.
“Silver Second was the first track that I wrote. Roam is a thing in itself, where it was my first studio session with Josh [Fountain], and Champagne Supernova came about because I was reading a book at the time called Champagne Supernovas, all about ‘90s fashion. Basically what I’m trying to say is there is no formula, they are all very different, and [when writing them] I will have something that I feel needs to be told or spoken about or dealt with.”
In her passionate presence, it is clear that she is a very spirited woman who strongly feels for her songs.
“I’d write because I need to in order to stay sane. But also it’s enjoyable and a way of overcoming or healing or dealing with my own issues, whether they are fabulous or heart breaking. That vehicle of a song can also touch or help other people as well, and that’s the whole reason that music’s around.
“That’s why I’ve been so impacted, and why other people that write music that I enjoy and admire have touched me, because they write from their experiences and I can relate to that. I think that’s so brave and beautiful.”
Again, looking back on where she started not long ago, Walker has always kept her identity close to her heart, where it has and will continue to be a defining strength in her music.
“The lifestyle has been very intense, and that’s kind of grown me so much as a person. My identity has been something that I definitely find important for me to maintain. It’s so important to know who you are because if you know who you are you’re not going to try to be someone else or feel the need to try and form yourself into an image or idea that really isn’t really true. Looking back, things have really happened at the right time, and it’s such a blessing.”