Interview – Emily Estefan

emily-promoEvolution is never a straight line, there are zigs and zags everyone must encounter to reach their full potential. Marred in self-doubt, young Singer-Songwriter Emily Estefan questioned her artistic abilities, but thankfully has found her creative muse in music.

The daughter of 19 time Grammy Award winning Musician/Producer Emilio Estefan and iconic, award winning Vocalist Gloria Estefan, Emily Estefan, like anyone born into such talented riches, feared she would never measure up. Going on to attend the esteemed Berklee College of Music up in Boston, MA, Emily Estefan began to see the light of her path, and thus dives into a career in music full of possibilities.

Recently releasing her debut album, Take Whatever You Want, Emily Estefan offers a uncensored look into her vast musical influences and the end result is something extraordinarily honest and unique. Recently we caught up with the aspiring Estefan to talk her self-awareness, growing up surrounded by music, the work behind her album, plans for the future, and much more. – You have been surrounded by music your entire life and now release your exciting debut album, Take Whatever You Want, in 2017. First, tell us, when did you come to the realization that music was something you wanted to pursue professionally?

Emily Estefan – It was definitely a very long process which involved a lot of struggling with elements of my life that I couldn’t understand at the time. For example, if you’re born into something, to a certain extent you always feel like you belong to it in a way, but you are not sure if that is what you are meant to do. Since I was two years old, there are videos of me where you can see that I was clearly so enthralled in the idea of pursuing music.

I was around seventeen years old and I was deciding what I wanted to do with my life. I thought, “Okay I need to pull away from music,” to see if that was what I really wanted, because I wasn’t too sure. I’ve always had this subconscious thing that I don’t feel that I measure up at times. That’s understandable, because I heard my parents are pretty good musicians (laughs).

So when I separated myself, I was thinking about going to med school, I started pursuing that and I just wasn’t happy. That’s when I decided to go all in and that’s when I knew I wanted to study music. I made the decision to get into Berklee College of Music and try to earn my own musicianship. That is a lifelong lesson, but that’s the first step. – Well it sounds like an interesting journey you took to get to that point. You mention, obviously, growing up around music, a very rich history of music in your family. Usually parents pressure us unknowingly into certain things, but they do not mean to do that. That said, what was it like growing up in such a wonderful musical family life?

Emily Estefan – Honestly, the crazy thing is I never got any pressure from my parents to do anything other than be myself, which is pretty awesome because people always ask, “What’s it like for them to be your parents?” and I always say, “It’s just that,” they are my parents and they are amazing, amazing parents. They always say “Do whatever you want, don’t change your plans for me, etc.”

Since I was two, I was already standing on stages feeling a nine-piece horn section vibrating two feet away from me. That instilled this kind of respect for the field and how challenging it could be at times. It kind of gave me some indications of how hard and how beautiful a part of music can  be as a career. I think it is also the way they approach a lot of things in life that aren’t even music. I had an amazing childhood, that’s for sure. – Well it sounds great. Now, speaking of your music, your new record just came out back in February. This is really a great collection of songs you put together here, the music is quite diverse and the lyrics are very potent as well. What was it like writing and recording this album?

Emily Estefan – Well, I didn’t sing until I was eighteen. It took me a long time to begin to understand myself. The point is, I went up to school and I was alone for the very first time. I knew that I had a voice in me that I just wasn’t being honest with myself about because I was afraid. I went over to school, I did a lot of thinking.

My first break, I came back and I was playing guitar one night at a beach house, in Vero Beach, and I said to my mom, “Listen, I have to do something, I need to do this in order to be able to grow into myself.” I sang for my mom and when I went back to school, I just started making music between the hours of midnight and 6AM, then I would go to class. Honestly, it just happened, I didn’t know I was making an album. I was discovering myself in a way I had never done before. I barely ate or slept, I lost 20 pounds, I was just exploring.

For me, the way that the album progresses, the first song, “Ask Me To,” everyone always thinks it is a love song. It is a love song from my former self to my new self granting me permission to take this walkabout. That’s why maybe people think different genres and ideas, because I was just exploring myself, and exploring the world with brand new eyes. Keep in mind this album was done in two months, and it was completely three and a half years ago.

I’m a very different person now, but it captures the energy in my life. I would say I think very lowly of myself, but if there’s one thing I can vouch for is when it comes to my music, I am always honest with myself, so that’s why it’s called Take Whatever You Want. When it gets into your hands, I want it to equally be as much yours, and you be able to pull from it what you want and what you need, and what you don’t.

Alien Shrimp Records, LLC. – The album does have a lot to offer to pull from. People can hear different genres within it, there is Pop, there is Rock, it is all in there. Would you say that this record shows all your faces, all your influences? Or are there perhaps more sides of your musical influences that we are going to see later on?

Emily Estefan – Oh yeah. Once again, I try to really stay true to myself. For example, if you’re an artist, you evolve. I believe in evolution of the art, because all we can do as people is change. That is something I have learned a lot from people around me. It is pretty funny because when you think about it, the one that you can depend on is for things to change. As long as you’re being honest with yourself and the direction that you’re going in. 

Since then, I’ve had other musical projects that aren’t out yet, things that are very different, I have another solo album that’s a little bit different, but what I mean by different, it’s not like I made a Metal album. You grow into yourself musically. I have a hard time listening to my own music, I cringe, but as I make more music I definitely think there is more to be discovered and more to be learned as I go. – Exactly. It is about growth and evolution, we do that as human beings as well. Taking something away from this album, this album seems to be about artistic and social freedoms. That said, it is a very cohesive piece of music even though it is very eclectic. Tell us a little bit about some of these inspirations behind these songs.

Emily Estefan – It’s funny because you said that it feels like a collection of songs, because the time and genres may vary for different people. It was a very intimate moment in my life and the songs were written very close to each other. A lot of the times I would finish the lyrics and literally five minutes after I would sing to the song. When we came to Miami, the only thing that I changed when we were recording from my apartment in Boston, was that overdubbed live horns. I tried to retape, but I couldn’t, because the emotion wasn’t the same. It wasn’t as potent, because I was removed from the emotion, so I kept all the original tracks.

I digress, the inspiration for the songs; a lot of them were just me processing things in my life. For example, “Purple Money” is about being born into my situation, family-wise, and kind of dealing with that. “Ask Me To” I told you was about giving myself permission to go on this walkabout. “Dreamcatcher” is about daydreaming and what you enjoy, it’s more than reality and you get snapped back out of it and it’s really uncomfortable. For “Rains,” I made up a story, and kind of explored that avenue of writing and getting in another headspace.

It’s interesting because when I play live too, I don’t like to say too much about where the songs actually came from. That is because I don’t want it to blur where the songs are coming from for you. I haven’t told anybody yet what that song is actually about, because I think it would skew their ears if I told them what the songs was actually about. It’s fun and it’s interesting, it becomes yours. There are all sort of fun emotions involved. – Very cool. It is compelling to hear more about the work that went into this album. Toward the end of the record, you have the track “Take 5” where there are sound clips of Hillary Clinton, amongst other people. It is certainly very telling. We are living in times where there is a lot of social distress and it seems people have drawn a line in the sand, not actually hearing one another. All this in mind, do you feel like music can help us understand one another better?

Emily Estefan –  Oh yea. I mean, again, going back to my mission statement if you will, which is, as an artist, you have to be honest with yourself. It’s getting to the point where it’s really easy to say, “Okay, let me sit down and write a socially conscious song because, you know, the world needs it.” There’s so much gray area when it comes to intention, and art and that’s what I think makes art so rad in the first place. You can’t really define it, but you can recognize it.

When it comes to the climate of the world right now, in many different ways, it’s really easy to say, “oh, we’ve come so far,” or “We haven’t come far at all.” Like we spoke about earlier, evolution is not always that we’re moving in the right direction or we’re living in the wrong direction, it’s that we’re taking different forms. I think it’s a really interesting time to be alive right now.

For example, there are things I notice about myself, that I hate and it’s difficult to detach from. Another example, technology, it has a hold on kids my age. I’m not gonna lie, I am guilty of it. There are moments when I’m like, “Wow, I’m controlled by this a little more than I’m comfortable with.” I think a lot of people are doing that with their opinions. They’re not sure which opinions are actually their own, they’re getting information in snippets, everybody’s attention spans are diminishing. It’s a difficult time, but there is a lot of beauty in the world, but there is a lot of stuff to work on.

I always choose if I’m feeling something and I’m passionate to include it in my music. Again, that song, funny enough, was recorded three and a half years ago, so long before the election, or anything like that. I think you have to say what you mean and mean what you say.

Alien Shrimp Records, LLC. – Right, absolutely. We are all guilty of this sort of attachment to technology. Like you said, sometimes, if you actually sit back and evaluate it, it is rather uncomfortable. It is almost as if many of are living life vicariously through posting things on social media and not actually living in the moment.

Emily Estefan – Oh, yeah, and by the way, I think social media is incredible. For example, if you have a platform to be able to share an opinion, or share something that matters, and you have people that are actually listening to you, I think that’s a big responsibility.

That’s also interesting because, for example, it created a dependency where, let’s say, I don’t want to take my phone somewhere and I want to try to live in the moment. If somebody calls me and they can’t reach me, all of a sudden there’s a dependency of I’m expecting you to answer, or else you’re dead, or else you’re in trouble. That’s just not how life has been.

I didn’t have a phone until I was around sixteen years old, and now I see two year olds with phones. It freaks me out. I’m trying to work on that personally. It’s hard, it’s really hard. I don’t know how we got to this point, but it has a lot to do with music too. It has a lot to do with how we distribute it, and how we listen to music as well. – Very true. It seems like our lives are on our phones. It will take teaching young generations and developing a balance.  

Emily Estefan – Amen to that, I think balance is one of the most important words, that’s my personal opinion. I’m so young, I’m only 22, and I have so much to learn. Repeatedly, as I turn corners in life, it’s all balance, that’s the key. – That is a good outlook for sure. You mentioned about performing live, will some tour dates be announced soon? 

Emily Estefan – Yeah, we actually just got home from a few really fun showcases and shows. We’re heading out again because we’re going to play SXSW, which will be a blast, and I’m super excited for that. For me, a live band, being able to play my music like that, I love it.

I grew up gigging bands since I was thirteen playing drums and such. Live music to me is just one of my favorite parts of this whole thing. Some of my favorite moments in life have been playing and transmitting music that way, it’s super powerful. – Absolutely, there is no substitute for live performances. There is no better way to connect with listeners. 

Emily Estefan – And another thing too, if you look at concert videos, people are watching the show with their phones while they’re at the show. It’s painful.

Alien Shrimp Records, LLC. –  It is interesting you should say that, how does that affect you as an artist when you see the audience watching your performance through their phone? Is that frustrating? It is not fair to take it out on people personally, but how does that make you feel as an artist?

Emily Estefan – For me, when I perform live, what I try to do is create an energy between the band, I, and the audience. Sometimes the phone and technolgy get in the way of that because you are altering the experience. Now, I understand and I can’t blame them because, like I said, I know what it feels like to be, “Oh crap, why do I feel like I need to be filming this?” What’s really the point? That’s really what the bottom line is, because if you film it, and you want to show somebody a week later, there are live videos online.

It’s about feeling like you have to share your experience. I understand, can’t blame people, because the climate of the work is different. I think we have some work to do.

One of my favorite artists right now, his name is Allen Stone, he does like Soul music and it’s just really rad, and at every show he does, he says, “Listen guys, no phones please, like be here with me, and I’ll give you two minutes where you can film and I’ll be all crazy” and I respect that. I am not sure how I will handle that yet. – That is a good approach. Living in the world we are living in, it seems like, for the better, we are becoming more open about different types of music and cultures, which is nice. It is very refreshing. 

Emily Estefan – Right. I mean, everything comes full circle. I just played at a festival that I can’t believe happened, and I can’t believe not more people know about it. I played at a festival called the GroundUp Festival. Their is a band called Snarky Puppy, and the bassist, Michael League, organized this festival called GroundUp.

I think personally, because it’s what people really need to be keeping an eye on in music, for what they stand for. I really think we’re going in the right direction, it’s just they need to get more exposure. It’s funny because we’re in the day and age where you can look up anything online, and not a lot of stuff is really accessible when you think about it. Somebody at the top can say, “Everybody is going to see this now,” and everybody sees it, but it doesn’t mean it is a concept that should be seen (laughs).

ATO Records
ATO Records – Very true indeed. Now, I have one last question for you. My last question for you is pertaining to movies because on we cover all types of music, but we also cover Horror and Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of the genres, what are some of your all-time favorites?

Emily Estefan – Horror movies are my thing. Ever since I was a little girl, Horror movies are my thing. I love anything that has good Horror and that kind of stuff. I loved haunted houses and all that good stuff, so I’ve always loved Horror movies.

Don’t laugh, because this is a very strange one, but I love the movie Burnt Offerings (1976)! My mom, my brother, and I, we love Horror movies, and we’d always go searching for good ones. I thought I was hot shit when I was around twelve, and we picked up this movie at the store, and said, “Mom, it’s rated PG, it’s not gonna be scary,” and it scared the hell out of me (laughs). I’ve just had it imprinted in my mind ever since, so I love that movie.

I actually love the made-for-TV version of The Shining (1997), of course you have to hit all the Stephen King stuff. My brother introduced me to Dario Argento a long time ago. I love it! – It is great to hear you are so into the Horror films. Do you have a favorite Argento movie? 

Emily Estefan – Well I think I was taken into another dimension by Suspiria (1977). Again, I think I may have been watching this stuff a little too young (laughs). 

MGM Studios
MGM Studios
International Classics
International Classics – Fantastic choice. What about newer films? The older ones were always the classics, those were the ones we grew up with, but have there been any newer ones you enjoyed? 

Emily Estefan – I haven’t been to the movies in I don’t know how long, and it’s sad, because I really used to dive into movies. Recent, there is a film I saw called Another Earth (2011).  It is not a Horror film, it’s more supernatural and kind of philosophical, but I really enjoyed that a lot. I loved It Follows (2014), it was amazing! I have also been watching the Netflix’s series Black Mirror, wow the conversation you just had right now, Black Mirror covers all of it. 

Tour Dates:
March 10-19 – South By Southwest Music Festival Austin, TX (More Details to Follow)
June 29- July 2 – Essence Jazz Festival – New Orleans (More Details to Follow)

For more on Emily Estefan: | Facebook | Twitter 

Purchase Take Whatever You Want: Amazon | iTunes

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