Em Hoggett explains how music saved her : interview
Em Hoggett is a piano-based indie artist.
She was raped.
Music healed her.
Now, there’s something she wants to say to you with her new EP that’s giving a voice to the voiceless.
“What I Want To Say To You” has a clear message. What would you like to say?
The EP is a totally raw expression of my feelings and experiences. The songs are vulnerable and unapologetic and I hope that this vulnerability will encourage others to come forward. I want to say that it is OKAY to speak up. Speaking up changed my life; the weight that has been lifted since telling my friends and family what happened is incredible. I can’t imagine still living every day carrying the experience around on my own. Now, I have a fantastic support system. I’d say to other survivors out there: if you feel ready, tell someone your story. I think you will be surprised at the response. And if you are afraid no one will believe you, I will. You can message me directly at email@example.com and share your story. I will listen, and I will believe you. But getting it off your chest, even to one person, makes an incredible difference; at least it did for me.
To those who know little of rape or its effects, I’d like you to hear this EP and gain more understanding, and feel what it is like to go through this experience. Rape is still a taboo subject and it shouldn’t be. I am determined to continue to speak and sing about it until people listen. The lack of music and media that deals with rape makes it easy to turn a blind eye from what is happening. I hope that hearing these songs will inspire people to actively make a change. Once they truly hear and feel the pain, I hope it will move people into action.
And to the perpetrators and enablers, I’d like to say this: we are stronger than you will ever be.
How did the music become your salvation?
I’ve been a classical pianist since I was 4 years old, and a songwriter since 13. Music has always been my ‘go to’ for expression; I’ve expressed myself through music from such a young age. Whenever I feel overwhelmed with emotion, the only thing for me to do is to sit down and write a song. It always makes me feel better; it gives some sense of relief, some sense of getting the experience or emotion further away from me… out of my body.
After the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and some triggering events in my personal life, I wasn’t in a good place. I really felt on the verge of a breakdown. At the peak of this, I desperately made my way to a piano late at night and wrote ‘Get Out’, the fourth track of the EP. Music saved me in this moment of utter loss. I felt like I would totally breakdown, and the ability to be able to just get those feelings out through music and lyrics helped so much. It cleansed my body and mind.
For each song, I feel like if I didn’t write it, I could’ve just exploded with overwhelming emotion. Each song was created not out of a desire to express, but a need to.
Now, I see music not only as a salvation, but also an incredibly effective way to reach others. This EP has the ability to help people, and I hope it brings comfort to those who are suffering. I also hope that music’s ability to help me through this will inspire others to express themselves, to put their feelings into art.
Your songs are unapologetic, brave and an anthemic voice for the voiceless. Do you feel that your music is helping other survivors to not only heal, but also give a voice to those who are afraid to speak up?
I hope so. One of the main aims of releasing this EP is to encourage others to speak out. I hope that hearing such unapologetic and truthful lyrics will help others to understand that their feelings are completely normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Anger is quite a violent song, and something I normally wouldn’t want to associate with. But it is so important to share this song because it is real and truthful. It is NOT shameful to feel this way… it is entirely natural. For those who are afraid to speak up, I hope that they find comfort in hearing that they are not alone; that I too feel what they feel.
But, I really encourage survivors to speak up. firstname.lastname@example.org is also a place where art and stories can be shared. “What I Want To Say To You will” share the stories of those who would like them to be shared. Email your story or art/music/poetry – whatever form of expression you choose, and we will feature it on our social media – there are so many of us, and all of our voices deserve to be heard.
I hope that I am giving a voice to those who haven’t spoken up, but really, no voice is stronger than your own. Join me and tell your story. Stand up with me and say THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. You deserve to be heard, and I will listen.
How would your career path in music have been different today had it not been for the attack?
I’m sure it would be similar, but possibly less impactful. I’ve been writing songs since I was 13, and I have over 300 songs. I never released anything in the past because I never had the finances or a producer to do so. But I have so many songs just waiting to be recorded, which have nothing to do with the rape. So, I believe I would still be recording songs as a singer-songwriter, but without the ability to help so many people that I feel I now have.
What made you decide to move to Los Angeles and how did the Harvey Weinstein scandal affect you?
I had studied at drama school in New York for two years as an actress. I decided that I wanted to pursue more film, so I moved to LA. Music has been a huge part of my life since I was 4, and it became a bit less of a focus in New York. I moved to LA to pursue film but I met so many musicians here and found that the music scene is equally as amazing.
The Harvey Weinstein scandal definitely affected me. Seeing all the news every day, reading all the #metoo posts. I just felt so angry, sad, disgusted. Just in total disbelief that this is such a huge reality in our world.
But, I also felt empowered and happy that everything was finally being revealed. People were finally starting to stand up and say THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE. I wish it was said thousands of years ago, but it definitely felt like a shift in society and that people were really saying, “this is enough”. I hope that my songs inspire more people to come to that conclusion.
At what point did your personal feelings of writing the songs as a coping mechanism turn into advocacy?
Pretty quickly. In 2016, I wrote the first song, What I Want To Say To You, and released it two days later, in the hope of helping others. Using music as a coping mechanism and my advocacy for the cause have gone hand in hand. I write the songs to express myself, but I share them so that they can help others.
I’d really wanted to record the whole EP for a while, but didn’t have the means to do so, so meeting Bruce was a gift which allowed me to spread this message sooner than I anticipated.
What was it like to work with GRAMMY-nominated producer Bruce Witkin (Johnny Depp, Marilyn Manson, Joe Perry) on this EP?
It was amazing. Bruce is such a creative and innovative producer. He was constantly bringing new ideas to the music. He was incredible at creating an environment for me that felt so safe, which was essential in the recording of this EP. We had a lot of fun; Bruce made it easy to try ideas and have fun with the music, even though it is such a serious subject matter. His ability to keep a lightness in the environment was invaluable; it would’ve been easy to have been constantly overwhelmed with emotion, but the studio always felt like somewhere I wanted to be. He created a very special place for me. Bruce is so knowledgeable and such a talent. It was a pleasure working with him from start to finish.
You also turned your songs into a physical –theatre, musical performance piece that debuted at the 2018 Hollywood Fringe Festival to critical acclaim. What was it like to create a more visual interpretation of your experience, and songs, for the stage?
My partner and I were already producing a show at the Hollywood Fringe, and we were in a meeting one day and I had the idea. I thought, “How can I spread this message even more? Well, we have to visualize it”.
We spent five weeks devising a physical theatre/dance piece with a full story. The EP runs around 12 minutes and the show was 30, so we added a lot of story in there. It vulnerably shares the story of a woman’s experiences with rape. The focus is the aftermath of the rape and the different emotional states she ventures through. The whole EP was featured, each song expressing a different emotion that I experienced.
It was a very challenging experience. I relived my rape every day for almost two months. The rape comes into my head every day, but often just as passing thoughts. Where as for this, I was actively focusing on the rape every day. It definitely had a huge impact on me and there were many times where I wanted to give up on the show. But in those moments, I had to ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” and I would remind myself of the people, even if it were just ONE person, in the audience who I may be able to help. And I kept going.
The desire to help others was really what pushed me through this show. It was so painful for me to constantly relive my experience, but I believe it was worth it. We received incredible reviews and standing ovations, which was extremely emotional for me, to know that people listened to my story and were so moved by it. Many people told me the show had helped them, which was amazing, because that’s really the reason I’m doing any of this. I can’t change what happened to me, but I can help others in the future, and that is what I choose to focus on. I like to think of the power I do have, as opposed to the power that my attacker thinks he stripped from me.