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Emily King’s New Album Is Out: That’s A Special Occasion

Written by on May 11, 2023

The beloved pop-soul singer/songwriter dropped a brand new album May 5 and is in the thick of a US tour, all while evangelizing a positive outlook on life… despite an acquaintance with the spectre of heartbreak.

The past week was a whirlwind for Emily King. After the release of her latest album on Friday, on Sunday May 7, Emily King was featured on CBS Mornings to discuss Special Occasion and the heart healing that was a result of the recording process.

On May 11, she hits the stage at the Chicago’s House Of Blues, but On May 10, en route to her tour date in Chicago, she caught up with Reclaimed Soul on Vocalo’s Ayana Contreras over the phone to discuss the lessons she’s learned on tour, ways in which her new album is her ‘saving grace” and why she calls her fans “cuties”.

Emily King, photo courtesy the artist

Emily King: Hello!

Ayana Contreras: Hey. Hey, superstar.

EK: Hey, you, superstar.

AC: Oh no, you are on the TV. That makes it real.

EK: Who watches TV anymore? That’s my question.

AC: Well, I saw it on the internet that you were on TV, that still makes it real.

EK: Oh, that’s funny. I know. Yeah. Listen, it was very sweet. I didn’t expect to say all that, but Anthony [Mason] is so good at asking the questions, so.

…How are you?

AC: I’m doing good. I’m doing good. I’m just trying to run around a lot.

EK: Okay. Oh my God, are you in this beautiful day?

AC: Yeah, man. I mean, Chicago, it’s gorgeous. It’s incredible. You’re going to be here, what? Tomorrow, is that right? Thursday?

EK: Yes, tomorrow.

AC: How’s the tour been going?

EK: It’s good. We had our third show yesterday and every show is a little different, we’re still working on our set to make it the best it can be. And I have a great group of musicians with me who, they’re really paying attention to details, so they’re keeping me on my toes.

AC: Yeah, absolutely. So Special Occasion is out, and one of the things that is so exciting about it is it’s been, I guess 2019 was that last album [Scenery], so in fact it is a special occasion, right?

EK: Yes, I think so. It’s been some years. They fly by of course, but I have been working slowly but surely on developing this new record, and so it does feel very cathartic to finally put it out.

AC: Right. And it’s cathartic for a couple of different reasons. I know we spoke earlier and one of the things you talked about was that you were getting over some personal situations and one of the ways that you did that was through this material, right?

EK: Yeah. It was interesting because it was a process of, I don’t even know how to explain it, working through a relationship intimately but also making the record. So there was parallels to it and the music was very much the only way through these emotions. It was kind of the saving grace.

Emily King, photo courtesy the artist

AC: Yeah, the saving grace. Absolutely. One of the things that we also talked about that I thought was an important point is, I don’t want to make it seem as though between 2019 and now you weren’t also in the kitchen in lots of different ways, one of the things that was exciting was you just had that Ever After tour (in 2022), which I caught it in Chicago, it was amazing.

EK: Aw, thank you for coming.

AC: Yeah, you did that cover of Mary Jane Girls “All Night Long”, which I thought was incredible.

EK: Thank you. It’s funny because depending on who is in the audience, we’d either get a big applause for that or like, “What’s? What’s this song?”

AC: But I mean… it sounds so good. You do such a great job, even if they don’t know it, I would hope that they fall in love with it.

EK: I think you’re right that it is such a great groove that it’s kind of irresistible, the way that it comes in with that keyboard line. And it’s always fun to work in a cover if it kind of flows naturally. Oftentimes we’ll just be rehearsing and something will just naturally flow into something else and we’ll say, “Oh, we can put that in instead. That’ll be fun.” So thank you for catching that.

AC: Absolutely. But it wasn’t like Ed Sheeran just happened to do “Let’s Get It On”, live right? I’m just kidding. Jokes. Is it too soon? Is it too soon to joke about that?

EK: No, I don’t think so. Jokes are always good. Laugh at life.

And now it’s a blessing and a curse that it’s just so instantaneous, boom. So, I think the only thing that I’m trying to be aware of in my life is to not to be on the phone every second of the day, which is a little bit of a challenge for me because it is nice to communicate and share what’s going on and get that instant response from people.

AC: I think that’s right. The other thing that I wanted to mention that you were up to is you were part of Black Radio III, the Robert Glasper project, right? And then you wound up in the inaugural Blue Note Napa Valley [Festival], which I felt like was almost like Black Radio III Live in a lot of ways.

EK: It was a big party and I feel badly because we could have come in the day before, I heard there was an amazing party with Dave Chappelle that night, but logistically we couldn’t. So we had our fun. I think I was planning to play a round of basketball with Robert but he was busy that day.

AC: [laughs]

But definitely, it felt like a family barbecue that day. And it was so beautiful. I don’t get to Napa that often. Really pretty drive, so we had a good time.

AC: Yeah, it was really special. Speaking of covers, I remember [at the festival] you did a lot of amazing songs of your own but you also did a cover of Aretha Franklin’s “Think”. I had to take notes so that I would remember, but I was sitting with this group of people who had never heard you perform live or anything like that and they’re like, “Who’s this girl? Who is this girl?” [with curiosity] …And finally came, “Who is this girl?” [with delight].

Which, I think to your credit, you totally won them over and I know that long-term fans of you were happy to hear “Georgia” and just so many records that you’ve made that bring so much joy to people’s hearts.

EK: Thank you. Thank you for… I never know what people are saying out there, maybe that’s for the best. But it’s good to perform for people that don’t know you, I think generally. It’s maybe not as much of an instant gratification, but it’s sort of a true test because you have to do your best and put out there what you think people will respond to. And it’s not just an easy, “Okay, everyone’s going to know the song.”

So I was up for the challenge, opened for a lot of people back in the day. You get a thick skin, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy hearing people sing along with the song on this tour.

AC: Right, exactly. And I do think, is there a nickname for the people that are fans of yours?

EK: Well, I call them Cuties. I don’t know if they’ve accepted that or not, but I think they’re just, everyone is so damn adorable and sweet and cute. And I think what we have in common is that we do try to find a cuteness in life because there can be an array of things in life but there’s usually something pretty cute going on.

AC: Cool. Yeah. So I mean, to your point, you’re talking about opening up for people sometimes, but you’ve been out here for such a long time. That first album that came out in ’07, it was mostly produced by Chucky Thompson, if I remember correctly.

EK: Yes. The late, great Chucky Thompson.

AC: Yeah, absolutely. So, do you ever perform any of that material?

EK: You actually put it in my head to start doing more of that, and so last night I did a song called “U & I” [from East Side Story].

AC: Yes, that’s my jam! You remembered.

EK: I did… but I had to stop after the first chorus because I forgot the second verse, so…

AC: Awww…

EK: But yes, it was a pleasant surprise that people knew it. It was a select few that knew that song, so I figured I owe it to the song to keep them going.

AC: Yeah. I think what’s interesting is, with that album, maybe it didn’t have the legs originally because of J [Records’] promotion or whatever, but because of the internet, sometimes albums can be rediscovered. [After] people really connected with you… Seven (2012) I think is where a lot of people connected with you, they can go back in your catalog and find all this other great material, so.

EK: I’m so grateful for all the positive things that come with the internet because when I was signed to J Records, we didn’t have that option. It was no MySpace at the time, definitely not Facebook or anything so we still had to go through the certain channels in order to reach the audience.

AC: So one more question, since you’re out here performing, what are people responding to from the new record?

EK: Oh man, it’s been fun. We do “Medal”, which really sort of gets the energy going for the night. We have a little part where we all clap together real quickly, little quick clap.

AC: Mm-hmm!

EK: We’ve only played these songs a number of times for a live audience at this point and it’s really cool to see that some people actually don’t know the songs yet. They’ve not heard the record yet. And then there’s a handful of people who do know some of the more in the cut songs, so it’s been a variety but I’m just soaking it all in because I still can’t believe that I even was able to finish this damn record, so I’m still in shock.

AC: Yeah. And there’s a lot of highlights for folks who haven’t heard it. I’m hoping that they check out that Nick Hakim feature on there. I mean, it’s just a really…

EK: Oh my gosh.

AC: … lovely record.

EK: He’s my favorite. Nick, and Lukas Nelson, they really added such a pretty layer to the record. And yeah, Jake Sherman and Abraham Rounds, Rob Moose with his string arrangements. And last but not least, Jeremy Most who has been my production partner, my music partner for so many years, and the music that I’m most proud of I made with him so I’m really, really grateful to him.

AC: Absolutely.

EK: I’m going to see you tomorrow, I hope.

AC: I will be there.

EK: I’ll see. All right, I can’t wait.

AC: Okay. Well, thank you so much for your time.

EK: Thank you. Enjoy the day. I’ll talk to you soon.

AC: Okay, bye.

EK: Bye!

Emily King, photo courtesy the artist

Keep up with Emily King through Instagram and her website.

Interview, transcription editing and written introduction by Ayana Contreras

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