Be like Joe Strummer – Interview with London singer/songwriter Emily Capell

Emily Capell is an up and coming retro pop/rock/folk singer songwriter from North West London. As Emily’s Facebook profile states, “Her songs tell stories of celebrity lust, musical influences, and general adolescence. Capell, whose musical stylings draw from a pool deep and wide, is affectionately described as sounding like the adopted daughter of Jamie T and Billy Bragg, and a distant relative of The Clash and The Libertines. Emily has been performing on the London circuit for over a year now and her gigs are circulating buzz. Being compared to the likes of Lily Allen and Kate Nash with a more indie vibe, Emily already has a YouTube hit with “My Dad’s a Smith’s Fan” and is proving herself to be the next big thing out of London.” Her songs caught my ear and I had a pleasure to interview her. We spoke about her influences and idols, retro music, Simon Cowell, record labels and mods…

Let’s start from the song I’ve fallen in love recently – The Strut. How come you managed to wrote such a beauty!?

The Strut came about because I wanted to write a song with a dance routine. I love songs like “Mickeys Monkey” by Smokey Robinson and “Twist and Shout” by The Beatles. I became aware, around this time, of how important backing vocals are. This is one of the first songs I wrote after meeting my band and I was really eager to create BV’s and harmonies with them, so this song was sort of testing the water with that! I pulled back with the lyrics on this one too. Theres not many lyrics really and the structure is so simple, I hoped it would be catchy! I’m glad you like it so much!

Yes I do! Your songs sound like tunes from 1950-60’s. And you look like a girl from that era…

I like mods! They’re my favourite, but I also like do-wap and Motown, Phil Spector’s girl bands and blue beat, as well as ska, two tone, northern soul and reggae. I like to look different but to feel part of something, and that’s what you get with mod. I think it’s important to look smart too. I guess that everyone dresses like their idols and thats all I’m doing, but my idols aren’t as current as they once were!

Let’s talk about your idols then… On your twitter profile there is a photo of a girl kissing young Mick Jagger. Is that you in your past life?

[Laughter] No, that’s Chrissie Shrimpton. I try and dress like her, she was an early mod and I think she always looked great. She wore cool clothes but she isn’t my musical idol. That’s Joe Strummer. I wouldn’t do music if it wasn’t for Joe. Joe Strummer was one of a kind in his song writing, performing and way of life. I have never been so in awe of anybody. He could do all genres: rock, reggae, rap, ska, country, punk, everything! He never sold out either. His last gig was a benefit gig for the fire fighters, he wasn’t interested in money he was interested in music and people. Joe was the last true rock star, the definition of a legend. RIP my hero Joe!

Is music from the past in any way better than present music then?

I think music is just different nowadays, theres nothing wrong with it, it’s just evolved so much over time. Music from the past influences the music of the present and you can hear it in the songs that are in the charts now, not just with samples but with lyrics and arrangements too. You’re more likely to find me going through old vinyl for an old classic than searching Youtube and Soundcloud for the next big thing though, just cause I’m like that! But there are some great new bands out there, and genres too that are a lot more recent than the 50’s and 60’s. Look at how good britpop was! And grunge! Or acid house. You can’t knock new music or new genres even if they aren’t for you personally, somebody loves them!

Your songs represent the past, but I think they also represent the future. Do you think nowadays music is heading back to the sound of 50’s-60’s?

In some ways yeah I do, but only in certain genres. I mean how big has house music got? Its huge and thats only going to keep growing! There are cool bands like The Ceazers and Davina and the Vagabonds who have got that retro feel and are doing a great job of it! And people are buying vinyl again now which has got a different retro vibe to it more than MP3’s have, but I don’t think it will go back and be like what it was. The whole industry is so different now! People are just taking the best bits from all their favourite artists and putting their own spin on it! Look at what Amy Winehouse did with “Tears Dry Own Their Own” – that was originally “Aint No Mountain High Enough”, and she made it cool and modern! Hopefully we’ll hear more stuff like that in the future, cause that was great!

What are your thoughts on music labels nowadays? Do you dream about a phone call from Simon Cowell or any record deal opportunity?

It would be nice to have a phone call from Simon Cowell, but he hasn’t really got the best track record now, has he? The majority of X Factor winners have been rubbish and I don’t want to be anything like One Direction! I have worked with management before, but this year I decided to go at it alone and it’s been fine. I think when the time is right it will all happen. Right now you don’t need labels for distribution cause you can sell your stuff online for free and you can build your own fanbase on your own just by doing it all online. In the future I just want bigger gigs to more people and more radio play! It’s about getting your stuff out there to the people who want to hear it!

Your song “Plastic” is another my favourite. It reminds me rebelian era of The Strokes album “Is This It?” (2001)… It’s a hit song! It’s about opposition “plastic” and “acoustic”.

I wrote it before I met my band. I was just on an acoustic guitar and going round playing open mics and support slots and I didn’t think I was being considered in the same way as bands and electric acts were, so I wrote a song about it. A boy at college kept calling my guitar plastic cause it wasn’t electric and was bright blue, they called it my ‘Argos guitar’ cause it looked cheap. So i just wrote about all of that and “Plastic” happened! I wrote it at around about the same time Jake Bugg came out and I was influenced a lot by him. Lyrically this is me trying to be like Joe Strummer, I’m writing about what I know and how I feel. I was annoyed and frustrated by people just not listening and not giving me a chance. Just assuming I was a girl singing about memories and about having a perfect boyfriend. I’m not. Well, I don’t think so I am!

Listen to “Plastic” here:

But I’m sure people’s reaction to your music is great…

They usually love it, which is handy! We always get people saying nice things to us when we come off stage and that’s the best thing ever. People don’t have to say nice things, so when they do, it’s always great!

And you? What’s your favourite band/artist at the moment?

This is the hardest question ever! When people ask me this I usually have to go through my favourite band of a particular genre or of a particular decade not just one out right favourite! Which I know is really annoying. Right now I’m testing out how I feel about Nirvana, but I’m not so sure they’re my all time faves, I’ve just never really gotten in to grunge so I’m checking it out. If I had to make a decision I’d probably say The Clash are my favourite band of all time and Davina and the Vagabonds are my favourite band around currently, or Paulo Nutini… But they do change all the time!

Thank you for your time and wish you all the best with your music!

Thank you.

More: https://www.facebook.com/emilycapellmusic

Peter Balkus

Blogger. London, UK. Twitter www.twitter.com/peter_balkus

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