Emily & the Woods is a family affair. When FFS caught the band at the Folkroom at The Queen’s Head pub in London, frontwoman and songwriter Emily Wood was joined by her father and brother. Unamplified, Emily is not afraid singing quietly and the audience is spellbound by her songs with their lively lyrics and melodies that are both catchy and delicate. After the show FFS spoke to Emily about working with Laura Marling, philosophy (FFS: beginners, Ms Wood: advanced) and how excruciating it is to reread your teenage diary.
FFS: You’ve just come back from university, did you play a lot of gigs there?
Yes I went to university in Exeter – I played a lot and it was really great. I worked at the student union bar and they were really encouraging so it was really really helpful to be there. I got to do lots of things and everyone was really supportive.
How long have you been writing for?
Emily: I’ve been writing songs for ages before I started writing them on the guitar I was just writing, I had a little tape – it’s lost somewhere in the house somewhere I need to find it – when I was 12 and I was just writing about whatever I was writing about and thinking ‘I need to put this to music but I don’t know how to play’.
Are the songs we’re hearing today new?
They’re a real mixture – the oldest songs are a couple of years old. An interesting point about the songs at the moment is whenever you hear an artists first album it’s always a collection of everything they’ve gathered together which is quite nice. So at the moment there are a couple of older ones and some really really new ones.
You’ve got an EP out, are the songs on it different from the ones on your MySpace?
I think I’ve combined them so that they’re different now. We’ve got Never Play on the MySpace but that’s the demo version – we rerecorded it for the EP and Old House is on MySpace too, we did that for Folk Radio. There are a couple of other demo tracks but I’ve taken them off and replaced them.
It sounds like you have quite a lot of material.
Yes there is, but there’s always room for more! The ones that have stuck are done and I feel really pleased with them and I feel that a lot more work has gone into them.
You said on stage that you used to write when you were revising at uni, do songs always come from the same sort of place?
It’s really funny it’s a real mixture, I think I’m just learning… I’m working out what the ideal conditions are. I think part of me thinks what I need to do is give it loads of space and loads of time – direct your thoughts and organise yourself and get on with writing a song. Another part of me thinks ‘oh it’ll come’ and I don’t know which one’s best. Part of it is circumstance, so when I was at uni I used to come home after being out or whatever and end up playing my guitar and writing. That’s something that I don’t think will ever change. So I suppose giving myself loads of time I might well actually lose that. A lot of its about working out what you’re thinking about trying to make it clear to yourself.
Do you write a diary or poems as well as songs?
Diaries! Oh my goodness I kept a diary from when I was 12 until last summer. I just have a kind of strange… I think it’s a slightly depressing selection of things!
Have you gone back and read your earlier ones?
I have and it’s so awful – especially the ones from when I was about 16 or 17 because I thought I was so sorted but actually I was so weird! I don’t know what I was thinking about. So yes, I used to keep a diary and I only just stopped about a year ago because it became a bit of a chore and actually I felt a bit bound to keeping it – like I needed a record. It became something a bit morbid, writing down everything that I was thinking just in case someone would read it and find it and know that that was what I was doing in 2009 or whatever… And then Poems – I had a phase. I did a poem a day
Yeah it was really good I really recommend it. It was after a thing happened and I suddenly realised loads of stuff about life but also about poems. How that in a poem – and this is the same as in a song - when you write something you can use language in any way you want so you can just arrange the words and make sense of something in a way that’s so particular to the fact it’s a poem or the fact it’s a song I think discovering that is really exciting because when you learn that about art it’s quite sort of freeing because you think I can make anything happen. Does that make sense?
You can do anything you want within the form.
And that’s really exciting. It’s just quite interesting.
I like forms of anything, I like the format of a sonnet but I also like that about albums, they’re all the same size and shape and around the same length, but the music and artwork is really different within that.
The thing is that that’s actually what people are like and it’s weird because you don’t think about but actually a CD or a painting – the idea of a canvas – you’ve got all of these canvases they’re all really different but actually they’re all kind of the same. And they’re all essentially the same because that’s what people are like – it’s really interesting. It’s quite an exciting philosophical thought, I quite like it.
You obviously come from a musical family [Emily plays with her dad and brother] is your mum musical too?
She’s just over there, you can ask her! She’s not as such, she’s an art therapist, which certainly added to my whole attitude towards creativity but the family is musical I suppose that’s what we’re like. My dad, as you’ve seen tonight, but also that’s his job. I’ve grown up thinking of it as something that I would never ever do. ‘Why would you be a musician?’ But I’m not sure I really had a chance to get away.
You’ve grown up thinking it’s a job…
It’s a really interesting point, because I think that’s a really important part about how I feel about my situation because being creative has never been something that was bad, It’s always been an important part of life, not in a wishy washy sense but just like there are certain ways of thinking about things and certain ways of expressing things and they’re really valuable which means you can commit yourself to that without feeling too bad. And I know that not every musician is in that position at all.
How did you end up working with Laura Marling?
Well we are friends, we’re just really good friends. We’ve known each other for ages we met each other in London about a year before she moved up.
Did you play here before you went off to Exeter?
No I didn’t I played just to myself and to my friends. It was all in the very early stages at that time. The first thing we ever did hanging out was have a jam and it did not go well I’d been playing the guitar for about six weeks. But we just knew each other and I was at her house and we were talking about music and demos and stuff and I played some songs and she was like ‘do you want to record them’ and I was like ‘yeah, lets do that tomorrow.’ and it’s been lovely because she encouraged me to set up the MySpace and we did that in a couple of days.
Are you going on tour with Laura?
I wondered, I thought she mentioned it on the radio. But it seems to be The Pins according to the internet.
No! I don’t know where that came from. I did go on tour with her last November we went to Scotland with Pete Roe and her. I wasn’t playing I was just hanging. It was dreamy because we’re both obsessed with Scotland because it’s wonderful. So we had a really really nice time. It was really gorgeous and lovely.
Find Emily & the Woods on MySpace
Buy the debut EP here
Listen to Emily & the Wood’s Folk Radio UK session