We caught up with Christchurch-based musician Emma Dilemma (on a crisp frosty but sunny Canterbury day) ahead of her Spit album release to chat about embarking on this solo project, the journey of creating the record, visualisers and performing live. 

You’ll likely recognise Emma as the lead singer of local band Decades. They’ve been on a bit of an extended break which is linked to the other members of the band focusing on their families. They were in the middle of working on creating a new album but a perfect ‘solution’ came out of all of it which Emma shared with us. “We actually started writing it together after our debut album so the process probably started in 2017. Once the guys started having babies we kind of had a meeting and they were like we don’t know if we can time commit and financially commit to the band for the next couple of years and I was like well that’s quite good actually because I feel like the songs I’ve been doing are kind of a solo project. It’s kind of been in the works for 4 or 5 years now but as an Emma Dilemma project, we finished recording in 2020 and I was ready to release it then the pandemic happened.” 

Rewinding a bit to the actual creation of the music on the album, Emma mentioned that “none of the songs we were working on then are on this album” and that there had been many trips to Australia to work with producers that she had become ‘obsessed with them and their energy’ and the way they could collaborate since 2018/2019. This album has had a lot of work (years worth!) put into it and I could easily tell how excited Emma is for people to finally have it in their hands. After having it recorded since the beginning of 2020, Emma shared that “it’s been impossible but here we are, yay” when I congratulated her on the record release day (finally) approaching.

I also spoke about creativity with Emma, specifically in terms of her music videos as the recently released visualiser for one of her songs off the album, Temporary You, was super fun. What you may not know is that it was made on a super ‘shoestring’ budget of around 100 dollars by Emma and her friend Amber Beaton who has directed previous music videos of hers. “The songs inspire the videos so basically going into this project I knew I wanted to make a music video for every single song, so I just listened to them and did whatever the first idea that comes to mind and then my team will tell me if I can afford to do it or not [laughs]”. Temporary You is an example of Emma’s vision coming to life, but just ‘compromised’ as she didn’t have the $20,000 she ideally wanted to create it (there was a special tech machine on the dream list). “We just nailed up a green sheet in her spare room, the idea was still the same – colours, heaps of outfits”. Sometimes you’ve just got to work with the resources you have – you can give it a watch below, I think it looks incredible and I wouldn’t have picked that was how it was made!

Furthering the conversation around producing music, we talked about inspirations – Emma is a very late ’80s baby’ so grew up in the 90s which definitely has had some influence from growing up to now. “I love the sounds of that era, even though while I was living in that era I was only exclusively thrashing Michael Jackson and the Spice Girls. Looking back at that era, appreciating the rock which I was maybe too young to really latch onto at the time.” Now Emma has her own way of putting together her tracks saying that she and the producers develop the song ideas to suit whatever genre it may feel like instead of having one specific genre. “I kind of identify with the post-genre era where an artist should just do what the artist is inspired by at the time or what suits the song as opposed to putting yourself in a box. I feel like if you’re an artist, exploration is the funnest part.”

Emma is heading out on the road this July and is looking forward to performing the entire album, but especially the electronic dance tracks like Vulnerability and New Attraction as they get the crowd moving and Emma’s a big lover of having a groove! Emma also shared that she’s building a studio at her house and one thing she hopes to achieve over the next 12 months is to write ‘the best song ever’.

We can’t wait to hear what she’s cooking up but for now, we can listen to Emma’s new album Spit, available now! You can keep up with Emma via her Instagram.