"Oh, you poor thing. You should probably rest your voice," Emily King says, sounding more concerned than annoyed during our interview. At the beginning of our phone conversation, I've informed her that I'm suffering from a bad case of laryngitis. "I'll rest later," I reassure her with the focus more on our interview and my looming deadline than my irritated vocal cords.
- Emily King performs at Visulite Theatre on July 8. (Photo by Shervin Lainez)
King is patient, listening to me squeak out words, sigh, and start sentences over again when my vocal cords fail. King is also lucky, she's never had laryngitis while on tour — and that's a damn good thing for someone who relies on her vocal cords so much. Hers are soulful and smooth, coating those pop and R&B melodies that have earned her much praise in the music world. And then, there's genetics. King comes from a family of musicians — her mother and father that she knows of — and was exposed to the stage earlier than she can remember. On her latest album, 2015's The Switch, she sings about the positive effects that her family has had on her life and career.
"For Them" is a song for, well... them.
"It's an ode to my family, who is made up of artists," she says. "We're all very individual artists but were also family so we support each other kind of in all aspects of life, careers and everything else. I think it's definitely one of the more sentimental songs that I have on the record that really represents how I was raised and how we still help each other develop our craft."
Though they haven't worked together on any projects, King credits the early exposure and ongoing support from her parents to helping her hone her skills as a singer/songwriter.
Her debut album, 2007's East Side Story, earned her a Grammy nomination for "Best Contemporary R&B Album." And while she didn't take home the award, she felt surprised and lucky to have been a nominee so early in her career. While proud of East Side Story, King struggled with a major record label's rushed recording process.
"I think I wasn't mature enough to understand the importance of sticking to my guns and trying to find my own voice. I'm glad I was able to come out of the other side and have the time to figure myself out. But I try to look at it all with gratitude because I learned a lot."
In 2008, after parting ways with the label, King decided to embrace a more DIY approach to making records. 2011's Seven, a self-produced EP that was recorded in her home, is the by product of that decision. King's second studio album, The Switch — being released as a deluxe album with extra tracks and demos on July 8 — continued her self-guided approach and was released in June of 2015 on her own label Making Music Records.
"My limitations always slightly influence my music and force me to work harder. It changes the sound of the record in certain ways because we work with the tools that we have but it forces us to be more creative when we're doing things with limited equipment or limited instrumentation and things like that. It's been an important process for me and it's wonderful to now know how to engineer my own sessions, which is what I prefer to do."
In her musical approach, King writes and records most of her songs before figuring out how the live arrangement will be orchestrated. But sometimes while on the road, she finds the time to experiement and map out songs prior to recording them.
Since she's opened for an array of popular musicians over the past years, she's been exposed to an assortment of diverse audiences. But now, she's ready to stand on her own two feet. She comes to Charlotte for a headlining performance at Visulite Theatre on July 8.
The last time she was in Charlotte, King recalls, she was opening for pop songstress Sara Bareilles in 2014. King has also toured with acts like John Legend and Floetry. She launched her own second headlining tour earlier this year.
"It's been amazing and it feels all the better because I have had the experience of opening for artists for so long. I'm thankful for that experience, but now that I know what it feels like to have my own show. I just want to keep going from there because I feel that's the only way I can really fully express myself as a performer is to give it that full concert. It feels amazing to have people come to my shows."