From the outside looking in, 2013 was good to Emma Louise. At 21, the singer/songwriter, then based in Brisbane, released her debut album Vs Head Vs Heart, which peaked at number 12 on the ARIA charts, and her 2011 hit single "Jungle" was remixed by German producer Wankelmut and re-charted across Europe. But Emma Louise had been feeling the weight of increased scrutiny over the past two years and the pressures, both external and self-inflicted, had taken the fun out of making music.
"With that album I had such a different mindset to now, I was very judgmental and critical of myself," says the singer, now based in Melbourne. "It wasn't a very pleasurable thing to release and record it, it was painful."
At the same time that she completed the album, her relationship ended, and for a time, she stopped music altogether.
"I think I was leaning on it too much like it was my everything," she says.
The next two "erratic" years were spent travelling to Japan and through Europe and contemplating other pursuits – she considered starting a fashion label at one point. It was almost begrudgingly that Emma Louise agreed to meet with producer Pascal Gabriel (Dido, Ladyhawke) at his studio in the village of Sablet in the south of France, at the behest of her management.
"They were like, 'He lives in a castle, just do some sessions. If you hate it, you don't have to release it'," she says.
The castle, complete with a tower, had a magnificent view of Gabriel's vineyard, the leaves changing from orange to bruised blue with the cool of winter. Gabriel's wife Pippa, "the best fucking cook in the universe", provided nourishing food, and with Gabriel's encouragement, Emma Louise started to enjoy creating music again.
"Before, I'd had my confidence whittled away from me," she says. "I didn't surround myself with people that nurtured my creative beast, they stifled it, they made it scared, and when I went over there with Pascal he was like, 'Come out', and I wasn't afraid to grow."
Emma Louise's maturity is palpable on new record Supercry, an emotionally charged, elegant collection of songs about loss and renewal. "I guess what it says about when I made it is that it's sitting on the cusp of two different times, coming out of a dark kind of time and coming into colour," she says.
These days, she's less attached to the outcome of her work; the pleasure comes from the doing. "I'm really excited about this next album, and about music in general," she says. "I feel like how I felt about it before 'Jungle'."
Time and perspective have also allowed her to reflect on her debut in a new light.
"If you asked me a year or two years ago I would have said something negative about it, but I only feel good things about it, it is what it is in the time that it was," she says.
"I know that it was real and honest and that's all that matters."
From issue #777, available now.
Topics: Emma Louise