Emily Blue on going solo and connecting through music

By Carolina Garibay

It’s a common practice in the music industry for members of a band to break off as a solo artist in a decision to explore their own musical (and personal) identities. Often, it’s difficult to distinguish these solo artists’ sounds from their bands, making it a challenge for listeners to view them as their own entity. Emily Blue has successfully avoided this phenomenon.

Blue, an Urbana native, was once a part of Tara Terra, a Champaign-based band that toured all over the U.S. Now, Blue is focusing on her solo work, which she described as “experimental pop” and “full of energy and color,” which  might surprise those her followed her work in Tara Terra. “I love to kind of throw people for a loop,” Blue said.

She finds more value in presenting people with something they aren’t expecting from her rather than giving them a sound they’re already expecting. “I think that’s a lazy thing for an artist to do,” she said.

Blue’s sound is not the only thing that has changed since she started her solo career. Her creative process has changed in a way Blue hasn’t experienced before. While in a band, she described the creative process as “very democratic” because musical and stylistic decisions were made as a group. Now, she’s making most of those decisions on her own.

“In many ways, it’s super empowering, and in other ways, it’s really intimidating,” she said. There aren’t as many people giving her validation or opinions all the time like there were before. Though aspects of her solo career are daunting, many are exciting. Blue was recently in Dallas and is traveling to New York next week. She’s also announced a show at Sleeping Village, a new venue in Chicago.

Blue has relocated to Chicago recently, and though she loves the city’s diverse, fast-paced music scene, she also values the sense of community that Champaign-Urbana’s music scene offers. “There are so many more artists and there are so many more shows in Chicago. In Champaign it feels a little bit more like a close-knit community rather than this richly diverse community,” she said.

On October 28, she’ll be returning to her hometown when she performs at Canopy Club, sharing the stage with local acts We the Animals and Melvin Knight. “It’s going to be super high energy and fun,” Blue said.

Champaign-Urbana is not only Blue’s hometown but her college town. She was a creative writing major at U of I but was in and out of school in order to dedicate more time to her music. “I was just so focused on my craft that I almost felt like being in music and just doing it on my own was more important than being in school at the time,” she said. But Blue graduated, and she acknowledges the ways in which the creative writing program gave her the freedom to explore herself.

In spite of her hectic schedule, Blue still values self-care, which is one of the reasons she’s not currently doing a big tour that would require her to be gone for months at a time. “Right now, I’m really pouring love into myself and into my friendships,” she said.  She’s also focusing on building her brand, something that requires her time and energy.

Another passion of Blue’s is advocating for the prevention and awareness of sexual assault, which Blue herself has had experiences with. Blue released her debut solo record “Another Angry Woman” in 2016, which commented on the prevalence of sexual assault in society. Blue described the record as her version of therapy that allowed her to express a lot of her feelings through her music. “So many things in my life personally that were really difficult were happening or had happened months before, so I just got to a point where I couldn’t not say it,” she said.

“Another Angry Woman” has also allowed Blue to build connections with other people who have had similar experiences. Her music video for “No Pain” presents a series of individuals writing down their thoughts and experiences with sexual assault. “I was a little flabbergasted by how many people had the same needs as me,” she said. “They needed to be heard and they needed to be believed.”

All of the sales from “Another Angry Woman” go to R.A.C.E.S., a rape crisis center in Urbana. “If you are reading this article, people of America, please buy the album!” she said.

More recently, Blue released “*69” (pronounced “star sixty-nine”). The title, a phone pun about sex, previews the premise of the album which Blue describes as “sexual relationships and love and the different feelings that surround experiences with them.” She plays around with different old-timey phone sounds and conversation samples that add a whole new layer of ingenuity to the record. “It’s like all of my early 90s and 2000s pop influences meeting the music I like to make today,” she said.

Though Blue’s work is a representation of herself, she notes that she draws inspiration from other artists. Singer-songwriter Dorian Electra creates music videos that complement the music really nicely, and Blue has started to apply that mentality to her work. She also cites Lady GaGa as a major influence who Blue has looked to ever since she was growing up. “[GaGa] said she wanted to take sex appeal and just make it absolutely absurd, so I actually try to do that too,” Blue said.

Since her transition to a solo act, Blue has shifted her priorities and is no longer as concerned with performing perfectly and hitting the right notes every single time. Instead, she’s putting an emphasis on making the audience feel the way she does when she performs. “If the song’s about bold sexuality, I want the audience to feel bold and empowered,” said Blue.

Blue might still be in the early stages of her solo career, but she has already proved herself as a talented musical experimentalist whose music has the power to inspire and empower. Though Blue describes her music style as “spastic” and “all over the place,” she hopes that the central message of her music remains. “Your stories and your experiences are valid, and we are moving into ‘go kick some ass today’ territory.”