Meet Emma Cole, the Artist Behind the Music
Emma Cole Delivers a High-Octane Elixir of Strength and Personal Empowerment
With emotionally charged lyrics and a voice that floats effortlessly across the musical spectrum, Emma Cole delivers a high-octane elixir of pop, rock, R&B, and soul. At points, her retro-accented musical mix reminds me favorably of an American Amy Winehouse. However, this is a songbird who has faced down her own personal demons and dared to come out stronger on the other side.
Meet Emma Cole, the artist behind the music. You'll not only be mesmerized by her sound but also find yourself, like me, rooting for her success.
In her 2018 debut album, If You Don't Holler, No One Will Hear, the singer/songwriter shares her personal journey through heartbreak and loss. The album is autobiographical, with her journey conveyed in chronological order. Listeners can easily connect with the raw emotionality that infuses her music. "Authenticity cannot lie, and that's what I'm counting on," Emma said.
Her haunting and achingly mournful song, “Is This but a Dream,” will make you ponder what the hell could provoke such pain. Meanwhile, the gritty Philadelphia girl‘s roots burst through sassy female empowerment anthems like “What’d You Say?” and “He Will." Finally, the bluesy feel of “High Times” reflects proclamation of triumph after flourishing in the face of adversity. This is an artist who wears her emotional scars as badges of honor for having lived, lost, loved, and survived.
Authenticity cannot lie, and that's what I'm counting on.— Emma Cole, singer/songwriter
Good Girl Gone Awry
Emma Cole grew up in a Philadelphia-adjacent neighborhood jumping rope to the throwback music of The Supremes. The oldest of four kids, she recalled always being the good girl. But then her parents divorced when Emma was 12, leaving her to fill an adult role for her three younger brothers.
Over the next several years, Emma rebelled against the added adult responsibility, and her young life began to unravel. Hanging out with teens who touted “tough boy attitudes,” Emma met her first boyfriend through mutual friends. He was a drug dealer, and she was just shy of 16. The good girl had gone awry.
Emma embraced her defiant side and a lifestyle that she acknowledged was "negative, ... rugged, and dangerous." She took drugs on and off and made drop-offs for her boyfriend. The doe-eyed teen who initially viewed the hard living, take-no-shit life as exciting, found herself mugged during a drug run. She also suffered physical, emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse at the hands of her teenage boyfriend.
By her junior year, Emma was failing in school, and by age 17, she was pregnant. The dope-dealing father of her unborn child left her for someone else when she was six months pregnant. Her daughter was stillborn nine months into the pregnancy. Stillbirth affects one percent of all pregnancies.
"Why didn't I know this was a possibility? ... It was 2001, and I attended a very progressive high school that educated young mothers and allocated resources towards them... There was even a local hospital training me to fulfill my role in taking care of my baby, but no one talked about stillbirth," she said. As traumatized as the tragedy left her, she still wonders how other mothers with fewer resources cope.
Emma had a dreadful premonition that came to her in the form of a dream the night before learning of her daughter's death. The blurry sense of unreality forms the basis of that haunting song, "Is This but a Dream." Later in the hospital, a surreal scene unfolded as "I awoke sedated with my school principal standing over me telling me, 'We're passing you.' They gave me that leniency."
Escaping Then Finding Herself
People who don't process their trauma often run from it. As Emma struggled valiantly to move on, she eked out a high school diploma, attended beauty school with a focus on fashion, and then moved to New York City. The small-framed Philly girl with big dreams signed with an agent and worked with Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and other designers doing makeup.
Emma Cole had made it. She was big league and fortunate enough to travel the globe. However, what was missing from her life was music, something she always valued. She had also suppressed her personal trauma for the better part of a decade, and it lurked just underneath the surface, waiting to be addressed.
For years, Emma had been "borderline addicted ... partying, but I never went over the edge. ... The music, fashion, and entertainment industries are all the same when it comes to partying and excess." (She added that those excesses are not normal or healthy behavior.)
I empowered myself and took control. My message is that we are each in control. You hold the power.— Emma Cole, singer/songwriter
Healing from Within
"Seven years after my loss I went to sing along with the radio and found that I had lost my voice," Emma said. "I had always taken singing for granted, so when that happened, I asked myself, 'Who am I without my voice?'" It was a transformative experience which pushed her to seek therapy and make important changes in the direction of her life.
Emma used Reiki energy to help heal. Reiki is a complementary health approach involving touch-based techniques to facilitate the body's innate ability for self-healing. She opted for a spiritual approach to wellness, relying heavily on meditation so that she could hear the voice of loss that wove its way into her everyday life. Remarkably, Emma also reached out to the drug dealer boyfriend from her teen years and finally made peace with him. "I empowered myself and took control. My message is that we are each in control. You hold the power."
Over the next year-and-a-half, Emma took steps to pursue her dreams of a career in the music industry. "I left my job and my family in December 2011 to move to California. I was going for it!"
Because of her direct experience in coping with devastating loss—"What could be worse than losing a child?"—Emma felt responsible for becoming a voice for overcoming adversity. Her desire to inspire others as they confront their own personal challenges prompted the singer/songwriter to share her story the best way she knew how—through music.
"I actually got the idea for the album on the 10-year anniversary of my daughter's loss," she said. "It was time to tell my story." She calls her music "cinematic soul" for its vivid storytelling. Although her specific experience of losing a child is rare, she explained that each of us faces struggles of our own. Emma thus hopes that her audience can identify with her powerful message of survival.
Making the album, If You Don't Holler, No One Will Hear, took Emma three years, but the album was worth the wait. When her first single, "High Times," was released, she finally felt free. Upon first performing it, she understood artistic expression on a whole new plane. "It's my story speaking. It's me being able to express my story. Instead of carrying the weight of my daughter's loss and the drug lifestyle I once lived, it now lives in my art rather than in my being," she said. Particularly for someone who has survived such adversity, Emma retains a remarkably positive spirit.
It's my story speaking. It's me being able to express my story. Instead of carrying the weight of my daughter's loss and the drug lifestyle I once lived, it now lives in my art rather than in my being.— Emma Cole, singer/songwriter
If you are inspired by Emma's music and the phenomenal artist behind it, Emma Cole's debut album, If You Don't Holler, No One Will Hear, is available in March 2018 on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music, and all major streaming services. Robb Torres produced the album.
As she looks to her future in music, two key goals serve as personal beacons for her success. Emma wants to use her music to "connect with people—all people," and she hopes to share her sound and her personal message on tour. "I've always wanted to [tour] on a charity platform, talking at events and sharing my story." She is particularly interested in helping advance nonprofits associated with domestic violence, troubled teens, and parents of stillborns.
When Emma isn't singing, writing songs, or collaborating with other artists, she practices her yoga and meditation, spends time with her boyfriend, and pursues photography. She also volunteers for Play Like a Girl (PLAG), a community organization dedicated to supporting women and non-binary artists.
Her dream duet would be with rapper Kendrick Lamar because "he tells it like it is and comes from a tough background." After having come face-to-face with domestic violence, the drug culture, and an intensely personal loss, Emma Cole is no bubblegum pop music artist. She's the real deal, reaching to her emotional core to deliver music that stirs and inspires. I'm reminded of Ernest Hemingway's famous quote when I think of strong, resilient people like her: "The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places."
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