Emma Hewitt is a recognizable voice in dance music — you may know her tracks “Carry Me Away” with Chris Lake, “Not Enough Time” with Cosmic Gate, and “Waiting” with Dash Berlin. We sat down after her performance with Gareth Emery at Royale Boston, where she told some wild travel stories on top of work-related topics like her and Gareth’s Avicii tribute, struggles writing during the EDM explosion, and upcoming collabs.
Thanks for meeting me, I saw you while I was visiting Texas a year or two ago at Lizard Lounge.
■ That might’ve been two years ago. Thanks for coming out. I lose track of time — when I’m traveling all the time, I have no concept of seasons. I feel like it’s April. I think I’m losing weeks being on planes. I even wrote 2017 on something the other day.
Do you travel with your manager or solo?
■ I’m usually by myself. It’s awesome being with these guys and I get to travel with somebody else for once, but usually by myself. If I go somewhere that might be unsafe, I’ll take a tour manager with me.
I was talking to tyDi and he told me about the time he got in the wrong car after landing in Russia…
■ That’s right, I remember that happened to him — that’s crazy. It’s kind of scary. There was a time in Syria when they wouldn’t let me in and they thought I was a prostitute because I had an artist visa, and artist means prostitute apparently in Syria. I didn’t know, so they came out with their machine guns and took me in a back room and took my passport away and I was by myself and wondered if I was going to get thrown in prison. I didn’t know what was going on.
Do you have to research everywhere before you go?
■ Now I do.
Where was the first place you performed away from home?
■ Egypt. Actually that was really crazy, too. The next day — I was by myself — I naively decided to go to the pyramids and the taxi driver who took me out there put me on a camel. I was like, “I don’t want to go on a camel,” and he was like, “You must go on a camel. I’ll take you back.” He took me out on the camel; I got halfway around to the pyramids and then they go, “You must give us all of your money otherwise we won’t take you back.” Luckily I had like 40 dollars on me, not a lot, but they would have taken everything so I gave them that and they took me back to the taxi. I could’ve been robbed. I was so naive and I’ve learned my lesson a few times.
I’m sure you get this a lot, but I got a lot of requests to ask you how it is being a woman in this industry.
■ To be honest, for me it’s never really crossed my mind. I’ve never seen it as a divide. I just think if you do what you do and you love what you do and put everything into it, then everything else will fall away and you’ll rise to wherever you’re supposed to be. It’s not something I have problems with. I know it is a male-dominated industry, but I don’t see myself in competition with anyone else, know what I mean? I’m in competition with myself and I want to do the best I can do. I don’t pay attention to anything else; I’m not like, “Men get more shows.” I don’t think of it in that way. I think some people have had bad experiences, but for me, the guys I work with are really lovely.
How did you meet Gareth? Was your first time meeting business-related or social?
■ It was business-related for sure. I think actually we did a song called “I Will Be The Same” together years and years ago before we ever met, so we were just talking on the internet at that time, but I think the first time we ever met was at a show we were both performing on and we had already done a song together so there was that common ground. Probably about seven or eight years ago, I guess. Now it’s awesome to tour with him; he’s such a great guy and so talented.
And the Avicii tribute you guys just did — when did you decide to do that and how long did it take to prepare?
■ It was very quick, actually. We were doing the show together and we thought to do an acoustic song with the piano and make it special because Avicii was such huge influence of Gareth’s and he was a big influence of mine and obviously the whole industry too, so we thought it would be nice instead of just doing one of our own songs and dedicate it. We decided pretty much a few days before.
I talk with many DJ/producers about how the track composition process has changed for them over the years. For you, has the process of how you write vocals changed?
■ Not really, but the funny thing is sometimes as styles change, I struggle a bit to write songs that fit that particular style, like when the big EDM explosion happened because I write emotional songs and I still always write with a piano or guitar, and then I give it to the DJs and they create the track around it. For me, the songs always have the same spirit but when it was that big EDM explosion, everyone wanted that “Put your hands in the air” and “Here’s the drop” kind of song; that was difficult for me. People were asking for a specific kind of song I felt I couldn’t really connect to, so I didn’t really release anything in that year or two but now it’s gone back. Especially with all the side genres coming through, where people are putting a lot more emotion and a lot more thought into the lyrics and everything again which is good, so now I can write away again and hopefully get some tracks released.
I remember that explosion pretty well. Moving forward, what’s coming up in 2019? Do you have any big plans you can talk about?
■ I do. There’s a new track with Gareth this year in December. I’m working on something with ATB at the moment and I’ve got my own album coming out. It’s something that’s going to have a lot of dance remixes on it, but it’s also going to be a mix between the Missing Hours stuff I did and the electronic stuff on Burn The Skies Down, but a little current. I’ve been working on that for a while and I’m super excited. And a couple more collaborations I’m not allowed to talk about unfortunately, but I can’t wait.
Do you choose who you collab with, or is it more people reaching out to you?
■ Kind of both. I guess now after a while of being in the industry, you kind of get to know people so you kind of chat when you want to make something happen. Sometimes it takes a few years, like with ATB; and also with Markus Schulz, even though we’ve known each other for years — it took maybe four years or so for the right song to come up for both of us to vibe on.