‘Phases’ from Emily Jackson: Loneliness, Life & Love

After almost 15 years of having walked away from a record deal, Emily Jackson, the Brooklyn-based artist who uses a mix of indie pop, and rock to create exciting and innovative music is back in the industry, but this time, in her own skin.

During the pandemic, the also actress -that can be seen on shows such as House of Cards-, has immersed herself in a deep exploration process to discover who she was and how far she could go in the development of her musical art.

From that pushing of limits, the mixture of sensations such as loneliness, the value of life, and uncertainty of love, ‘Phases’ was born. A highly emotional EP in which the artist exposes her most vulnerable and sensitive side and shows herself as she is, with no pretensions and in the search for meaning and strength.

But something is not modest on the album: her powerful voice guiding guides the entire proposal, leading the listener to feel what she feels. Perhaps a nuance of her acting career is allowed to sneak into her singing career.

Emily, you are now releasing the ‘PHASES’ Ep, after a big hiatus from the industry. What were you looking for to express with this production consisting of 4 songs?

I really was interested in exploring my musicianship for this record.  I wanted to lean into my songwriting and production knowledge to create something that felt really authentic to me, what appeals to me sonically, and what I was going through personally.  I tried to let go of any outside pressure that the music had to sound a certain way.

So, if you would have to describe or conceptualize this album, what would you say?

Hm.  That’s a good (and hard) question!  There wasn’t really a concept outside of following the journey of each song and not being concerned if they sounded like one another.  Maybe my concept or intention was to try and push myself out of the pop genre.  

Let’s talk about your level of participation in the album because we know you were involved in so many different ways on it. Why? Was it something that came out organically or something you had the intention to try?

I’d say it was a mix of wanting to push myself to see what I could achieve, but also just a product of being in quarantine!  I wanted to show myself that I was able to produce and write exactly the way I saw/heard it in my head, but then Erin (Tonkon – who mixed and produced) had me do all of the instrumentation on my own.  That was, again, partially because we were working entirely remotely, but it’s also what makes her great at what she does.  She helped me amplify my unique voice as an artist.  

‘PHASES’ was born in pandemia. How was the experience of working locked out especially for you as an artist which needs so much inspiration and freedom to create? Where did you find that inspiration?

It was a wild experience.  As I said before, I had already intended to try and make something on my own, but the lockdown forced me to make that happen.  I had to do it alone for a while, and I had a lot of time on my hands to write, learn, fail, etc.  I think it really challenged me to focus in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise.  I then just ended up producing before I started working with Erin because I wanted to make sure I had taken the songs as far as they could go before I brought her on.  The inspiration for the songs came from a lot of personal turmoil that hit right before the pandemic (when I thought I had problems haha!). A lot about loss, love, and the female identity.  Again, things were only amplified once the world stopped in 2020. 

‘Wolf Moon’ is one of the singles and is a very emotional song that brings pain, nostalgia, and sadness. Your voice on it feels so deep. What’s the story behind the song?  

Thank you for saying that.  It’s an incredibly personal and exposing song, so I appreciate that it elicits something within you.  This was the first one I wrote for the record, and I started writing it in January 2020.  I felt like I had come to a crossroads with everything in my life, but especially my relationship.  It’s basically the ‘do-I -stay- or- do- I -go’ song.  The question it asks: “so If I am not the one for you today, can I still be the one for you tomorrow?” is about loving and identifying with something so much, but it maybe just isn’t right, so which road do you continue down? And the pain that comes with that sometimes unanswerable question.

Phases, Better Days and Simple Life complete the EP. Can you describe in a few words all of those songs?

More explorations in existentialism!  Just kidding.  (sort of haha).  Phases is about waiting on someone else to make a decision, and wondering if they are just keeping you around because they can’t own up to how they really feel, Simple Life is about the desire to have a stable cookie-cutter life, but being an artist and woman in your 30s – and how those things just straight up don’t align, and better days is a true pandemic song; about all the uncertainty and things we lost then.  You get it.

You are also working on your first full-length record. What can you tell us about it?

It’s definitely going to be even less pop and more alternative rock.  More sonically exploratory.  That’s all I can say for now.

There was a time in your life when you stopped your music career because you were doing music you didn’t love. Looking back, how do you feel about the music you are doing today?

It’s hard to look back on that sometimes.  I often wonder what would have happened if I had decided to keep making that music, but the journey led me here.  I’m so proud of this record and I can honestly say that these songs would not exist if I hadn’t taken my exact path because these songs are all born from the life experiences I had over the last few years.  I’m glad it ended up the way it did.

We cannot imagine the courage it took from you to say no to something you loved, because we know you love music.  And even more, the courage to follow your dream on the right terms.

Wow! I never thought of it as courage. I kind of always felt like I quit, and had some shame attached to that.  But it’s meaningful to hear you say “courage” because I guess you’re right.  Even at a young age, I knew that music was not true to who I was, so even though it took a while I found my way back to it and was able to start making things that are really authentic to who I am.  

You are also a great actress and that leads me to the last question and that is if you think that your facet as an actress has influenced your facet as a musician and vice versa. Do you think it has happened? How? Has it been for good or for bad?

Thank you!  Another good, tough question.  I think music greatly influenced my acting because having a second passion/hobby helps me detach from all the rejection of acting.  I can just let go and have more fun with it all.  I think that aspect of this made me a much better actor.  But being trained in tapping into emotions as an actor helps me uncover a lot of what I want to say in my songwriting.  I definitely feel like I have a different kind of access to what’s going on inside of me as a result of my acting training.

Phases show the progression and development of Jackson’s music as she combines indie rock styles of 90s grunge with a brand new, contemporary approach. The singer plans to make a return to touring early next year, so don’t miss it.


WOLF MOON out 11/3 on @headbtchrecords
Photos by Greg Hermann