If you’ve heard Emma Louise’s voice before, prepare to do a double-take when you press play on her new record, Lilac Everything.
For her third record, the Australian singer-songwriter has pitched her vocal down so low that it’s completely unrecognisable. For a musician who has spent her career building a devoted fan base using her naturally stunning voice, it’s a risky move. But she manages to pull it off with such ease that you can’t imagine the songs sounding any other way.
Emma splits her time between her farmhouse in Rosebank, just outside of Byron Bay, and her fiancé’s place in Los Angeles. When we speak on the phone, she explains that it’s been a lifelong dream to live on a farm, somewhere removed from the city—but she’s still getting used to it. “We ran out of water! We run on tank water, and we didn’t have water for like four or five days, and then this morning we figured it out… and it was incredible. We rang up the previous owner, and it turned out there was just a lot of air in the pipes. So we unscrewed a filter and the water just kind of exploded out, and it was a great feeling,” she says.
For Emma, an even greater feeling arrives this week with the release of her latest record and the introduction of Joseph, her new voice. “I mean, I didn’t want it to be like another character or anything like that, but when I was 19 and recording my first album, I recorded it on tape and we slowed it down and I called that voice ‘Joseph’, and I was like, ‘I want to do a whole album like this one day!’” Though the idea to pitch down her vocal has been floating around for years, it wasn’t until Lilac Everything was written and recorded that Joseph actually got to see the light of day. “I made it in my voice first and it was in the very last session that I pitched it down, so I never intended on it being pitched down. But in the last session, my producer Tobias [Jesso Jr] and I were like ‘Yes!’ and then everyone else was like ‘No!’ Thankfully, she went with her gut and did it anyway. “It sounded exactly like it should. Just like, artistically, it had to be done. And it made the album, really.”
Gender equality within the music industry is a huge issue right now, so it’ll be interesting to see how Emma’s more masculine vocal is received. I wonder if the record will face the same scrutiny, or if it’ll gift her more freedom, more radio play, and more media coverage. It’s something she’s pondered, too. “Totally. It was definitely a relief to pitch it down and make it genderless in a way, or for it to be separate from my identity,” she says. “It kind of alleviated a lot of pressure that comes along with that kind of thing. I’m curious to see how it will be received. The two singles that have come out have been received pretty well, and I’m super proud of the album and I think it will be interesting.” And now that she’s had a taste of living life as Joseph, does she think it will be hard to go back to who she was before? “Um, I’m not really sure, I’m holding it all pretty loosely. I’m writing the next one now, and I’m not sure yet.”