Music interview: Emma King

Emma King was 11 years old when she knew she wanted to be a singer.

Emma King
Emma King

“By the time I was 12 I was singing most weekends, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, doing bar gigs,” says the Hull-born performer. “I’d make my dad take me, he was my roadie.

“My parents at the time didn’t want me to go out that many times a week but I was so persistent, I was a bit of a nagger, so eventually they let me do it.

“I did a little bit of theatre as well alongside so I’d done probably all the bars and clubs in Hull by the time I was 13. I’d been in more pubs than my dad!”

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    Emma King

    Later she decided to go on to further education to study music. “I saw in The Stage magazine at the time there was a chance to win a scholarship to go to the Brighton Institute of Music. I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford to go there unless there was a scholarship; luckily Carleen Anderson awarded me the scholarship. I was really pleased.”

    Anderson, who formerly sang with the Acid Jazz groups Young Disciples and the Brand New Heavies, was to be one of her tutors at Brighton. King says she learned important lessons from the star.

    “Mostly breathing techniques and never to sing quietly and just to remain confident, how much posture is part of being a singer, and really to sing and perform well. She really did give you confidence and just watching her sing and perform really did encourage you to want to learn and be as good. I could have watched her all day.”

    After two years at the Institute, King decided to go to the USA. “It was a big decision but I’d already said to my parents when I was 12 or 13 that I was going to go over to America because I was a big fan of Elvis and Johnny Cash and everything you saw on TV or in Maverick Magazine or any of the magazines or publications that I read at the time always mentioned Memphis and Nashville so I always had in my head that I’d have to go there at some point.”

    Emma King

    She funded the trip by working in a couple of jobs and making an album. “I probably did about three or four trips over there before moving over there for five years, it was a big step,” she says.

    King found herself at home in Tennessee. “I’m from Hull originally and I found Memphis very similar, it’s very industrial, the people are very open.

    “Moving to the place for five years there are certain things that you have to get used to but it was pretty easy – and my band at the time I made them come with me.”

    In Nashville King worked with Chas Sandford. “He’s worked with Fleetwood Mac and a number of people,” she recalls. “He was really great, he knew just what to do with a vocalist and you would learn so much from him.”

    She also hooked up with Milan Bogdan. “He’d worked on Elvis Presley’s records. Sadly he’s no longer with us, but he’d worked with with so many people from Dolly Parton to Shania Twain. Spending time with those two I was able to learn so much in quite a short amount of time.”

    King was also able to record at Sam Phillips’ legendary Sun Studios. “I’d been to the museum a couple of times then when the opportunity came to go and record there it was absolutely brilliant,” she says. “It was at the time when we were needing to demo our songs for the album, it was the very early stages of the album’s beginnings, and we thought that would be the perfect place to record the songs completely live all in the same room in the purest form because we thought that would help the selection process for the songs for the album.

    “We all got in there and used Elvis’ microphone, Jerry Lee Lewis’ piano and we recorded onto tape as well. I’m a really huge music fan so this was like a dream come true. I don’t think I’ve ever stood in a studio and had goosebumps before but it was definitely one of those goosebump moments.”

    Half of King’s self-titled album was written in the US, the rest she completed back in the UK (she’s now based in York). It was mastered at Abbey Road.

    As a songwriter, King says: “I always try to write in an authentic way, I don’t ever like to force words onto a page. I don’t like to sit and go, ‘I’m going to write a song today’, I like things to just come naturally.

    “Hopefully people find my music authentic, it’s from a real place. I just write about experiences, the places I’ve been, the people that I’ve met.”

    Her first single, Devil City, is out now and has already had radio play. The album will be released on May 27.

    She supports Colin Blunstone at Hessle Town Hall on April 16. For details visit She will also be at Willowman Festival on June 17 and Beverley Folk Festival on June 18.

    For more information visit