los angeles, ca • july 2017
interview + photos by rheanne cruz
As of June 2017, 21-year-old singer and songwriter, Emmit Fenn, released his debut EP Prologue. Garnering over 700k monthly listeners on Spotify, and collaborating with singers such as Yuna and Nylo, Fenn’s art form is no stranger to the spotlight. We got the chance to meet the man behind the black and white filter - his beginnings and the story behind his favorite songs in the EP.
So, how do you handle going to school and investing yourself in a music career?
I don’t actually go to school. What had happened was I moved to UCLA three years ago, and I was originally going to school in Virginia. I hated it. So I came here, and my friend had an extra room that I could stay in, I moved down, and I knew I really wanted to do music. One of my friends who went to UCLA, and was in the music program, was just like ‘Hey you should come to one of my classes one day’; it was a songwriting class. I went and really liked it, and everyone thought I was a student! So, when I went to the class, I was just like ‘I’m just gonna keep going back, see if anyone notices’. And I end up taking the whole class, like for a whole quarter.
You didn’t have to pay for it or anything?
No, I just turned in everything like a normal student. I kinda just kept going to classes; I took a music and dance collaboration class. Basically, a dancer would pair up with a musician, and the musician would make music for the dancer, which was so fun. I’ve taken like 10 classes at UCLA, which is crazy. I took a history of EDM class – I basically took ever class I wanted to take. Like a philosophy class, I just sat in and no one guessed.
Since you’re not an official student, you don’t get credits for it, right?
Well no, but there’s one teacher I emailed before, and I was like ‘hey man- ‘, it was the music and dance collaboration teacher, ‘-I really wanna take this class, I know I don’t go to UCLA, but my mom was a dancer major and I just really wanna take it’. He was just like yeah, just take the class, and he would give me a grade at the end of the semester. We’re still really close now.
Would you say what you learned here went into your album?
Yeah, a lot of the songs I made for class are on the album. Blinded and Stones were made for class, and one of the songs sampled one of the teachers playing the cello.
I’ve seen you’ve done a lot of acoustic work, are you planning to release any of it?
Yeah, Yuna and I are doing a live acoustic video! Next week – next Wednesday** and I’m doing a couple acoustic versions of the songs.
Do you have any music that only “true fans” would know, if they followed you for a long time?
When I first put out my first song, there were a couple other beats on my SoundCloud page, and when it started getting traction I just decided to take all of them off.
So we’re never gonna find them again?
Nah, we’re never gonna find those again.
If you were given three words to describe your album, what would they be? (You don’t have to do three.)
I would say, honest and adventurous. Honest - I think like all the stories and all the writing in it is super personal to me. Every song has a very distinct memory to each one; I guess open is another word. People listen to the album, like friends of mine, and they’ll understand like ‘This is Emmit’s stuff’.
Do you have a favorite story?
For Blinded, it basically has the same two lines over and over again – I’m a huge fan of repetition. The story behind it is, I wrote 20 different stories about how I felt blinded by different people, and each line is representing a different story. Stones, I had a really rough first year of college and Stones is about that year and feeling absolutely hopeless. Thinking a lot about absolute nothing, and being in my room all the time by myself, stressing over things that didn’t mean anything.
And why’d you choose adventurous?
Each song is like, one of the first ones I made in like an electronic space. For me, each song is a whole new adventure to be on. Painting Greys is something I’ve never made before, and the next song I made, 1995, was the first one I really sang on. It was an adventure of myself and capabilities as a musician.
Is there anything you’ve learned from making this album that you know you’d improve on for the next?
What’s that Steve Job’s quote? ‘Stay foolish’, I really like that one. Just trusting yourself and not thinking too much about things. Trying things that don’t make sense y’know, just staying foolish.
Since you’re from California, do you experience a different kind of pressure to be successful in a place where it seems like everyone is doing so well at your age? But I mean since you’re young and successful I don’t think it applies too much.
I don’t know, I came from a really creative family; my mom’s a designer, my sister is an artist, and my dad is a photographer. When I was young, I saw my dad quit this huge job to be a photographer. It’s not just about success, and I think seeing my dad do what he loved to do was really inspiring.
Are you planning to tour soon?
Yeah, we’re still figuring that out. I’m so excited, I just did a little mini tour in Europe. It was so fun, and I did some acoustic shows and an electronic show in Sweden.