Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Spain’s Emily Gray. Together we discussed their time performing music for over ten years, their mental health advocacy, their EP “The Homegrown”, and so much more!
1. Mustard would like to thank you for being here! How are you?
Thanks so much for inviting me! I’m great thank you- my summer holidays have just started, so for me that means more time to focus on music. And I’m also going back to visit my friends and family in England for the first time in three years soon hopefully!
2. You’ve been writing and performing music for over ten years. Do you remember the first song you wrote? Or the topics of the song?
I vaguely remember writing and performing a song to my parents when I was VERY young… Maybe around six or seven? I can only remember one lyric and it’s terrible:
‘Uh oh, uh oh- I heard a noise.
Oh no, oh no- It was a voice!’
So I don’t know maybe a horror song? I was a strange child…
3. Performing in bars, pubs, and festivals seem like they would provide their own unique experience. Where do you feel most comfortable performing? Is there a venue you’d love to perform at that you haven’t yet? For those who have stage fright, do you have any advice?
I like performing in different venues- they all have their good and bad points for sure. Playing on big stages at festivals is great ’cause you feel like a bit of a star, but in my experience the crowd has been a little thin and it’s a bit impersonal. Small pub gigs always look busy (even if there’s only 10 people) and it’s so nice to hear people singing your own lyrics back to you! It’s been a while since I’ve experienced that because those types of gigs don’t really exist here in Catalonia. It’s more like performing outside while people eat- which is also great because there’s not so much pressure… people are more focused on their conversations rather than what you’re doing.
There’s no particular venue that I want to perform at, but I’d love to do a festival again soon! In terms of stage fright, I am still figuring out how to deal with it myself! I’m partial to a glass or two of liquid confidence before taking to the stage, but I hope to kick the habit one day.
4. Mustard interviewed Bebe Barry from London a few months back. She was also influenced by David Bowie. Could you share more about the power of David Bowie? Mustard is mystified by this artist. What about his art helps influence your own? Do you have a favorite Bowie song?
I love this question! Bowie was a pioneer for the strange and unusual- he showed us that you can be exactly who you are and people will love you for it! So he inspires me to un-apologetically be myself and to trust that people will gravitate to that kind of honesty. A favorite song is almost impossible to pick, but if I had to, I think it would be Space Oddity. I remember my mum showing it to me in the car when I was little and I felt like the music teleported me right into space, I felt so sad for poor Major Tom! The instrumental at the end paints such a vivid picture of his struggles on the dark side of the moon! Incredible songwriting!
5. You’re an advocate for mental health. Do you have any advice for any human who may be struggling with theirs?
Reach out, don’t suffer alone- and trust that you can get through this. I’ve struggled with poor mental health all my life, and as a result I’ve also wrestled with some poor coping mechanisms. I think it’s really important to try to replace these unhealthy vices with positive ones- I know it’s difficult and it’s a long journey, but you can take the right steps by doing a 5 minute meditation each day, going for a walk when you feel suffocated by your own company, or writing your thoughts down when you feel anxious. I think as kids, we’re not really taught to look after ourselves as adults- so we all have to learn what we can do to help ourselves. It never completely goes away, but you can learn to understand your own mind and it helps!
6. In 2020 during the lockdown you released your first EP called “The Homegrown.” Could you share more about this EP? How did being in lockdown influence your songwriting?
So actually I wrote these songs in the years leading up to 2020- I just recorded them all and put them together during the lockdown. It was a really unique experience for everyone, but for me in particular, it was actually really positive. Around a year before lockdown, I got very ill. I lost a lot of weight and couldn’t really eat because I was in so much pain. I had just moved to a new country and I wasn’t on the healthcare register yet- I was exhausted and depressed and in pain, so I was just getting through the days. Then the lockdown happened, and one day the hospital called and told me to come in- basically I was diagnosed with Crohns disease, started treatment, and instantly felt SO MUCH BETTER. Suddenly I had all this time and all this energy! That was the moment that I decided to put everything I had into my music. So I recorded my E.P in my bedroom, (it’s a bit rough around the edges!) drew the artwork myself and put it out into the world! You can find it on my Soundcloud if you’re interested. For me it was a really big milestone because I actually had something tangible after all those years.
7. “Depths” tackles being our own worst enemy sometimes and changing to our environment. Could you share more about the inspiration behind this song?
Sure! I think we all feel the pressure to be what other people think that we should be… to look a certain way, to behave a certain way. In the music industry you’re so often told that if you want to ‘make it’, you have to sacrifice your integrity and change into something that sells. ‘Depths’ is really an exploration of that, how it feels to be trying so hard to be heard when no one is listening- and also the crippling anxiety that we get when the impostor syndrome kicks in. But I think that overall the message is positive- maybe the last lyric in the chorus can be seen as ambiguous:
‘I’ll drown, drown, If I don’t stop swimming,
I’ll give it everything that I’ve got.
I just hope that it’s enough.’
But to me, it means that I’m going to keep fighting, even if it isn’t enough- we have to keep swimming because what other choice do we have?
8. How has social media platforms such as TikTok helped you as an artist?
I used to HATE social media, but honestly I’ve completely changed my mind on this over the last couple of years! If you look in the right places, there’s an amazing community of musicians out there, looking to collaborate and support each other. It’s so beautiful and affirming to work with such talented people, to all share a common goal and try to build each other up! I think people so often think that other artists are your ‘competition’, but that couldn’t be more wrong! We’re all in different stages of our journeys and we’re all able to offer unique insights and perspectives to help each other improve and grow and it’s so inspiring! Of course, social media also really helps for building a fanbase too- I value and appreciate everyone that follows me. I think it’s a really useful tool, TikTok in particular, is essential for aspiring artists these days.
9. “Hidden Message” is your most recent single that tackles what some humans may consider coincidence. Did you come across this a lot while working on this single? What inspired this single?
‘Coincidence’ has really been a running theme throughout my life. There have been times when I’ve fixated far too much on coincidences and the ‘meaning’ behind otherwise arbitrary occurrences and I just kind of realized throughout the years how unhealthy this can actually be! It bleeds over into your personal life and relationships- always trying to ‘read between the lines’ and find the ‘hidden message’ when really you’re doing a lot more damage than good! Of course I recognized that these signs and superstitions can be positive and give people hope, and I’m not devaluing that, it’s wonderful when they do! ‘Hidden Message’ is more like a warning not to let it take over your life. Actually this song started from a poem, which turned into a minute-long TikTok song, and then sort of took flight as a fully blown single. Funny how these things happen!
10. Do you have any upcoming projects or shows?
Yes! I have a new single in the production stages called ‘England’, it’s about finally returning home to visit all this time. I really hope that it will actually happen this time, the last few flights that we booked were cancelled or we were forced to cancel them because of Covid. Three years is a long time to be away from your friends and family and your home country, it’s going to be an experience going back! It also so happens that my next couple of shows will be in England. On the 23rd of July I’m playing a support slot with my friend Drop Dead Sally and some other amazing bands at Eriswell village hall, and on the 30th I’m supporting my good friend Chris Asker at the Brewers Arms in Ipswich. I’m so excited!
11. Where can readers listen to your music?
Readers can find me all over the place! I release regular content on Instagram and TikTok under @emilygraymusic. I have a YouTube channel that has a bunch of different covers and original songs- and just recently, the video for ‘Hidden Message’ which is actually performing quite well! I have a few tracks on Spotify, too under ‘Emily Gray’, and you can find my E.P and some of my older covers on my SoundCloud page, if you search ‘Emily Gray Music’ it should come up!
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me, Mustard!