Home Interviews The Lockdown 2020 – Mitchel Emms (Don Airey / The Treatment)

The Lockdown 2020 – Mitchel Emms (Don Airey / The Treatment)

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Talent shows are often knocked, and rightly so. Their habit of promising the earth to young singers only to callously spit them out, used and utterly shattered at the end, has seen multiple casualties along the way and some potential future stars thrown by the wayside, regardless of their talent.

Sometimes, just sometimes, a genuine star will rise up and beat the system, escape from the constricts of the factory system and become their own person, having their own career. Mitchel Emms is one such survivor and from the very first notes of his performance of ‘Best of You’ on The Voice, the world sat up and truly listened. 

He soon found himself snapped up to replace their recently departed frontman by Cambridgeshire rockers The Treatment and then spent the next two years touring all over Europe, playing to packed venues and recording their ‘Generation Me’ album.

Their truly punishing schedule eventually caused him to step down and he concentrated on his long-held ambition of releasing a solo album and in 2019 ‘Vertigo At History’s Edge’ was released to great reviews.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBOpFp40wtU&w=560&h=315]

Since this time he’s been incredibly busy, writing and performing with a wide range of people ranging from stints with rock legend Don Airey and as a vocalist for the live band that featured every week on the huge television behemoth that is ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. As with many other professional musicians, it’s been a tough time but it’s a very upbeat and positive Mitchel Emms we find chatting with us. 

First off, and most importantly: How are you doing? 

Considering the circumstances, not too bad! It’s been a very strange and unprecedented year, especially for me having been used to constantly working on music / traveling and performing as a working singer & musician for various bands and projects, to suddenly being stuck at home. It’s been very uninspiring but It’s also been a good time to reflect on life pre-lockdown and what I’d like to do next once things are closer to normal again. 

How have you been keeping yourself busy? 

At first with lockdown, my initial thought was to try and work on as much new music as possible with all this spare time. However, I ran very quickly into writer’s block as I’m the kind of person that needs fresh experiences to feel inspired and create. So, I’ve tried to do the complete opposite, which is to take a step back and focus on my overall health.

I’m very lucky to have a few open spaces nearby so I’ve been keeping busy with exercise, sorting out my diet and keeping myself spiritually and mentally in check. Sometimes we put ourselves aside to chase our ambitions / fulfill our commitments, so it’s a better time than ever to focus on some self-improvement and allow the music to come when it’s ready, hopefully from a fresh mindstate. 

 Have you been doing any online live shows or seen any good ones? 

There’s been too many to count! I think it’s been a wonderfully positive thing to see so many people broadcasting performances from home. I haven’t taken part myself as I think lockdown affects us in a myriad of different ways, for me it was beneficial for me to take the performer hat off for a while and focus on time with family, my other interests and just be. 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVkjkFQS52w&w=560&h=315]

 Have you had to change your way of writing material? 

In terms of technicalities, my last album Vertigo At History’s Edge was done entirely at home, so that aspect hasn’t changed at all. However, as that was released only a few months before all of this, lockdown has made me realize again that I have to slow down and not push myself to burnout when it comes to writing. If it isn’t there, it isn’t there. That there may be a personal barrier / lesson to overcome, learn from and absorb before throwing myself into another full set of songs. And to accept that during times of uncertainty, you might not be as creatively charged as you may romanticize, you’d be, and that it’s okay.  

It’s also made me realize the importance of keeping on top of my health to create; that your mindstate can determine what you make. I think we sometimes can really push ourselves to emotional limits to create something that we’re passionate about and believe in and that there needs to be a recovery period. In the case of my last album, that was a culmination of a lot of turbulent personal experiences that I needed to get out of me and a summation of everything that I was at that point.

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I’ve never wanted to be the kind of artist that just makes something without expressing anything personally important when it comes to writing my own material. With such drastic changes in 2020 for everyone, I think I’ve had to recognize that as part of the process for the next thing I make, it’ll require absorbing this whole event and whatever personal changes it’s brought about within me, harnessing the power of patience to develop a deeper well of new inspiration to draw from. Instead of releasing half-inspired music, hopefully it will be worth the wait for anyone who supports and enjoys what I make as a solo artist. 

Do you keep in touch with your fellow bandmates / other musicians much? 

I think like myself; it’s offered an opportunity for others to focus on their own lives, hobbies and family lives, but we keep in touch. I’ve reached out on Facebook a few times to discuss personal inspiration and writers block and many other fellow musicians have brought me some awesome support and advice.

And also, a few people have reached out to me to collaborate on songs and musical ideas which has been really cool and a nice break from my solo process. All of us are going through a very similar experience.  

 What plans have you had to change this year? 

Pretty much everything! As a working musician, all of my gig-work got canceled or postponed in early March and I was planning to do a lot more traveling this year for recreation.

I get to travel a lot as a musician but anyone who knows what that’s like, you see more of the loading area of a venue and the local hotel than actually taking in the full vibe of a place. I haven’t been on a proper holiday in many years.

I was hoping that it would allow me some mental rest and to have a clearer mind to work on the next solo album / project and start preparing a live band to perform my solo material live, as well as take on my other obligations as a working musician with more energy and enthusiasm. However, the plan is now to make the most of the time off by focusing on self-improvement. 

What do you think of the social distancing gigs (like the one that happened in Kansas recently – 229 people in a 1,100-seat venue) or the thought of drive-in gigs as has just been announced by Live Nation? 

I think it’s a very strange concept. A part of what I love about performing is the connection you get with an audience. Even when I’ve performed on bigger stages, I always find a way to get down into the crowd and have never enjoyed the idea of being disconnected from them. However, if it’s a way for people to enjoy live entertainment during unprecedented times and get musicians on a stage doing what they love, I’m all for it.  

How do you think the music industry will have changed after this period of lockdown? 

I honestly have no idea at this point, I can only speculate and guess really. People may appreciate and want live music more than ever, which would be amazing. But depending on how badly it affects the economy, it’ll be a case of whether there’s anywhere to play anymore, because as far as my knowledge goes, it seems the UK Government is rather passive about the fact that live venues all around the country are on the brink during this crisis.

Music could become increasingly more and more a digitally focused area of entertainment as a result but I’d like to think that people will still hold out for the spirit and experience of engaging with live performances, as an expression of joy, community and interacting in real life.  

What plans have you got for when the isolation finishes and gigs start back up again? 

Hopefully, I’ll remember how to perform and sing! 2020 has thrown me such a curveball in regards to my ambitions as a musical artist, but I’m still holding out hope that I’ll be able to create and release a new solo album that I’m proud of and be able to bring it to the stage to share it as a live experience. But overall, mainly to do the things I put off or was unable to do pre-lockdown.  

How can people support you during this time?  

People can support me by liking / following my social media profiles. I’m most active on Instagram, which I prefer over Facebook / Twitter for expressing myself and keeping people up to date, but YouTube as well.   

But most importantly, streaming my debut album “Vertigo At History’s Edge” online, whether that be adding it to your Spotify playlists or sharing it with friends, or purchasing it online in full quality. 

I created that album as a reflection / meditation on life, the ups and downs it can bring us, and finding self-love, understanding and motivation in the face of existence (heavy stuff, right!), which I feel is more poignant and relevant now than it was months ago when I released it pre-covid-19.  

As a self-released album, listening to it, engaging with it and finding connection and personal meaning in it for yourself and sharing that with others is the greatest way to support what I do as that’s what the music is all about.  

 https://www.instagram.com/mitchelemms/ 

https://facebook.com/MitchelEmmsOfficial/ 

Interview by Paul Monkhouse for MPM

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