Born into a family of accomplished jazz musicians, singers/composers Marion Cowings and Kim Kalesti, Emily King has been around music even before she can remember.
After graduating high school at the early age of 16, her
mother introduced her to a friend at Sony music publishing. Soon after,
King met Bad Boy Entertainment’s famed Hitman studio team member Chucky
Thompson. They hit it off immediately.
While searching for a suitable label to harvest her eclectic sound, Chucky and King got her demo into the hands of Clive Davis. Emily King was signed to J Records and the three have been working together ever since. On her debut album, East Side Story, Ms. King shares her message of anti-racism, love, and family.
After talking to Emily King for a couple of minutes, it’s hard to believe that she is barely old enough to drink a Sour Apple Martini. Possessing the wisdom of her elders, but the carefree spirit of a child, Emily King finds balance between the two.
HipHopRnBSoul.com: How was it growing up with two parents who were so passionately involved in the music scene?
Emily King: It was an amazing experience. It was very challenging. We went from the fanciest hotels one day, to the dirtiest motels the next day -- you know, just living off a musicians paycheck. Also, being around so much incredible music. We were in the jazz world so I was with Dizzy Gillespie one day to Clark Terry the next day. It was an incredible learning experience. It was my education. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it definitely influenced me.
HRS: Do you have any specific memory from your childhood about your parents’ musical influence?
EK: I have a bunch of being back stage and knowing that they are about to call me on to sing my little song (laughter) and being extremely nervous about it. I mean, I was in the womb when my mother was doing gigs. They have a memory of me walking on stage in the middle of their concert at some big venue and I pulled on my mother’s dress and asked her when it’s going to be over (laughter) and then walking me off. So I thought that was kinda cute.
HRS: Why did you choose to title the album East Side Story?
EK: I’m born and raised in Manhattan. I’m from the East Village, Lower East Side area. I just thought it was kind of a cute kind of spin, like a knock off of West Side Story but it really just sums up where I’m from. It is broad enough that it includes all the different stories and all the different experiences that are on the album.
HRS: How has growing up in the extremely diverse Lower East Side influenced who you are today as an individual and as a musician?
EK: Totally, a lot! I come from a mixed background and it was incredible to be in an area where there’s all different kinds of people, like you. And just to not have any hang-ups about race or gender or anything. There’s so many different types, it takes all kinds of people. It definitely has a big part of who I am now.
HRS: When did you realize that music was something you wanted to pursue?
EK: It was always there. It was always a part of me. It was something that I always knew was going to happen -- you know, whether it was on this major of a scale or if would I be just singing in a cafe or wherever. It was just something I had to do no matter what.
HRS: Being totally immersed in the songwriting process of the album, what have you learned about yourself?
EK: A lot, definitely a lot. I’ve learned that if I take care of music, it’s always going to take care of me. I’ve learned that I can be in a relationship and not be too clingy (laughter). Over the course of the album, I was in a heavy relationship and I had to focus on writing and expressing all my feelings at the same time, and just knowing that music should always come first. I just learned that I can do what ever I really want to. I can do it. Everything takes work, so you gotta be prepared at all times.
HRS: How is it working with Chucky Thompson?
EK: Chucky is incredible. He plays every instrument. You don’t know it until you’re hanging out one day and he like leans up against the bass and starts playing it. He also falls asleep all the time, which is interesting. He’ll be playing a bass line and he just dozes off and it’s like “wake up!” (laughter) We have some funny pictures from that. Man, that’s another story. Chucky is incredible. He’s a great guy. He’s fun to work with. He’s extremely open to different ideas and new things, which I love about him. He doesn’t pigeonhole himself. He’s great!
HRS: If you could have collaborated with anyone from the past, who would it have been?
EK: Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, and John Lennon.
HRS: Who do you look forward to working with in the future?
EK: So many people. From CeeLo to John Mayer. So many people like Rick Rubin, Kanye perhaps.
HRS: How do your parents feel now that they have seen you blossom into a beautiful musician?
EK: They’re ecstatic. They’re very happy. My mother is my biggest coach. She’s with me in every deal, in everything. I’m really fortunate to have them, they are amazing teachers.
HRS: Now that you have gone on tour and seen other cities, could you see yourself living anywhere else besides New York City?
EK: I love New York! It’s like its own country here, even with all the other states -- it’s so different. I am definitely going to be here forever. I would love to have other houses in different places, maybe in Europe, in L.A., in different places. Always traveling, but it’s great to have a solid home foundation.
HRS: Even though it’s next to impossible, if you had to sum up your style in three words...
EK: Three? Hmmmm. Three? (laughter) Free, fun, and cool.
HRS: Any words for your fans or soon-to-be fans out there?
EK: Just that we all, as people, have a message for this world. What’s your message?
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