Interview subject: Emma’s Imagination
Location: Waxy O’Connors, Glasgow
Background info: Emma Gillespie got her lucky break last September when she won the now-decommissioned TV talent contest Must Be The Music on Sky1, pocketing a cheque for £100,000 for her troubles. Using the stage name Emma’s Imagination, she released her debut album Stand Still less than four months later, which debuted at No.14 in the UK charts and No.2 in Scotland.
I don’t profess to know Emma Gillespie, but on the odd occasion our paths have crossed in the scrubby bars of Glasgow she has struck me as a very fun, interesting and forthright individual.
However, whenever I’ve read an interview the 27-year-old has given, the line of questioning inevitably goes over the same old topics of her busking background, what she thinks of The X Factor and how often she speaks to Gary Barlow (he signed her to his label, Future Records).
Therefore, in an attempt to stop us from boring each other to tears, we agreed to have a conversation in which the only rule was that we were banned from mentioning music, which we managed heroically until precisely 7 minutes and 44 seconds when Emma cracked first. But it made for an entertaining experiment…
Emma: “I went to school in quite a few different places because my dad was in the army. We lived down south, in Newcastle, and we lived in Germany for a while, but my main school years were in Dumfries and Galloway, where I went to St Ninian’s Primary School and St Joseph’s College.
“Everyone thinks I’m 22 or 23. I think I get it from my mum, she looks very young for her age. My mum and dad split up when I was six years old. It was really tough but everything happens for a reason and we got on with things. Me and my brother went to live with my mum and we saw my dad at weekends. I’ve got a good relationship with both of them. It’s funny, they live in the same town now, just down the road from each other, but they’ve both remarried.
“I’m really thankful that my parents left me to make up my own mind about religion. I don’t follow religion at all. It’s not that I don’t believe in God, I just don’t feel like there’s anything missing from my life. I’m quite a spiritual person. I guess the religion I can see the most sense in is Buddhism, it’s really open-minded. Some religions have gone a bit corrupt. I hate to hear about people abusing high positions, there are quite a few dodgy folk.
“I have always been very free. I think it’s just my brain because I’ve got quite a creative mind. Things like politics, maths, anything that’s boring, I can’t absorb it. A lot of people will think, ‘That’s terrible, you should be having a say in what happens with the country’ but I don’t really know.
“I used to be a bit of a hippy. I had dreadlocks and I lived in a Mongolian yurt by the sea in south-west Scotland where I did random jobs and then went away travelling for months or a year at a time. It’s just the way I am. I spent six months in India, I went to Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, the Andaman Islands, New York, and I’ve been around Europe a little bit. New York is one of my favourite places ever, it just really inspired me, it was a turning point in my life. It opened my eyes and made me realise what I wanted to do.
“I got chatting to the lead singer from Arcade Fire at a party after the Brits. We were comparing our journeys – how they took a long time to refine their sound before they got signed, whereas I got swept up. I’ve not really had a chance as an artist to develop.
“I’m not famous by any means. I walk down the street in Glasgow and the odd person will say, ‘There’s Emma’s Imagination!’ – it’s not like I get mobbed or anything. To imagine, for example, if you were Lady Gaga and to reach that height of fame, it’s absolutely terrifying. I don’t think I could handle that. Being famous is something I’ve never aspired to be.
“It’s a crazy new world that I’ve stuck my head in and I’m looking around. There’s more pressure on women in this industry to look half-decent – I would get criticism if I turned up at a gig with no make-up on. Image is more of an issue for women than it is for guys. I like to look nice but not completely worry myself about how I look all the time. You’ll never find me in a tiny little mini-skirt, high heels and a boob tube and my hair all back-combed. If someone said, ‘Look Emma, we feel your next album cover should be you lying in a car and in a bikini’ then I wouldn’t do it.”
Emma’s Imagination – Faerie Lights