Sounds European! is proud to present an awesome interview with one of the most talented singers of Belgium. One of her singles was listed by us as one of the 50 best songs of 2016. And she was as sweet as her voice is in her music: the conversation was absolutely delightful! These are our 10 questions for Emma Bale:
Sounds European!: Let's start this talk with looking back on the past. What artists did you use to listen when you were growing up? Who were your musical inspirations? At what age did you start singing? And when did it go from a hobby to your profession?
Emma Bale: There were many artists that I listened to, and that inspired me. I grew up listening to Rihanna, Beyoncé – for me, they were the queens – and Michael Jackson. I think they influenced my childhood, they were my biggest influences when I was a kid.
Singing has actually always been there, for me, but I have never thought about it, because it was all so natural. There's this one memory that I have, when I turned five, my grandmother gave me this microphone, a toy, with effects on it. She gave me that, and I used to perform in front of my family, at Christmas parties, and it has never stopped. Then, when I turned 14, I participated at a singing competition, and that's where it all started.
SE!: You took part of The Voice Kids in Flanders. What can you tell us of your experience in the show? What lessons did you learn from that period? Last year, a kid sang your song "Run" during the blind auditions. How does it feel to go from a participant of the show, to an artist children are inspired by?
EB: I was quite nervous about it, because it was the first time I really got to participate – the previous years, I had applied for auditions, but I never got a response. Then that time, I got to participate, and it was the first time that I sang on a huge stage, so it was exciting and overwhelming. I just loved to work with everyone, and all the other kids were so talented. It's an experience I'll never forget.
During the show, I got to know myself better. When I was singing on that stage, I really knew that was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I didn't care about winning. When we were practicing, it all felt so magical, to sing with other people and share that experience. I felt so happy! For me, it just meant it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life – so I never stopped, I simply continued, even after I got out of the competition.
[Watching the girl singing "Run" during the blind auditions,] I felt like the circle was complete. It was weird, cool and bizarre, at the same time. I didn't know what to think, it was so strange. It was my song, and I used to stand there, on that stage, with shaking knees... I was very happy I inspired this kid, because that meant I was standing where I always wanted to be.
SE!: Your songs have already reached millions and millions of streams, besides charting in both regions of Belgium, Flanders and Wallonia, plus the Netherlands. How do you feel when you see people are enjoying your music so much, and your songs are often playing on the radios?
EB: When my songs play on the radio, it feels like I am the one playing them. It feels like I am listening to my demos, or something like that. I think it's super unreal! I am very happy people like my music. But I get shy, I can't really find words to express how I feel about it.
SE!: And your success is not limited only to the audience. You are also critically acclaimed. You are the youngest ever winner of MIA (Music Industry Awards), and you won the MTV Europe Music Awards for best Belgian act in 2016. And you are only 18 years old! How do you face all this success, at such a young age?
EB: I try to stay with my feet on the ground. My parents help me, and I surround myself with good people who support me. It's important to keep being who you have always been – there is no reason to change, because people like you for what you do, and if you changed that, maybe people wouldn't like you anymore. So I think it's important to stay who you are, with your feet on the ground, and be realistic about everything. One day, my career can be over. I just need to think about everything and realize I am very lucky for being able to do what I do.
SE!: You said, during an interview for the TV show Van Gils & Gasten (and you have just said it again to us, now), that you think about the possibility of your career failing, at a point – and you want to study, to have a plan B to your music career. Do you really worry your music career may still fail? Are you finding time to study? And what do you dream of studying?
EB: Yes, because I have seen it with a lot of artists. One day, they have a huge hit; the other day, no one knows them anymore. I worry about it, but it's not like it's always in my head or something. I just need to think it can happen from one day to another. No one can predict what is going to happen in music, so that's why I want something, a leap of faith, I can fall into if things go wrong. But I hope that won't happen!
I am about to study this year. I am going to study Communication Science. I chose it because it's a very general subject. I am already doing what I want to do, so I thought of something I could use in my music and life. It's interesting: it contains Politics, Sociology, Philosophy and Languages, so I think it's a good subject for me.
"I just need to think about everything and realize I am very lucky for being able to do what I do" (Picture: official Facebook page)
SE!: Belgium offers a very unique situation, musically speaking. You have Flanders and Wallonia, two regions with different cultures and tastes in music. But you manage to be successful in both regions, and with pop music (even though local charts have a lot of electronic music). How do you see the Belgian music scene? And what challenges did you face to find your space in it?
EB: It's true there is a lot of electronic music here. About Belgium being divided in two regions, it's both an advantage and a disadvantage. If they wouldn't be separated, it would be easier, because there would be more people to reach. As it is, you have to do promo in the Flemish part of Belgium, and then you have to do promo in the French part of Belgium. But I think it's interesting!
To be successful, you need to be out there and release a lot of music. But I don't really have the key to success. I am just letting my heart speak and do whatever it thinks it's good, whatever I like. So I am quite lucky people like it too!
SE!: You record your songs in English. And that is a very common choice for Belgian artists. Do you feel that, since your country is divided between Dutch-speaking and French-speaking people, English is a simpler choice? And why did you, specifically, choose English?
EB: In fact, I have never thought about it, because it has always felt natural to sing in English. But, now that you say it, it's actually a very smart choice!
SE!: What are your professional projects for the near future? What can your fans expect? And what do you still dream of achieving in your career?
EB: I have been busy writing new songs and going to the studio. I am recording a new EP, and that should be released in the end of November, I think. So that's what they can expect: new music! And I am also focusing on my very own concerts, because I have always been the supporting act for other people, and now I get to do my own shows – and that's quite exciting.
There is still a lot I dream of achieving. I would love to be able to perform in other countries, perform in huge festivals, like Glastonbury and Lollapalooza. There is a lot I dream of! It would be nice if my music spread all over the world – but I am starting in Belgium, and we'll see where it goes.
SE!: You said you worked in concerts, opening shows for other people. You also released songs with other artists, such as Milow. Can you name some of the people you worked with? And if you could choose anyone, who would be some other Belgian and international artists you would like to collaborate with?
EB: I worked with Lost Frequencies, he remixed my song "Run". I have worked with Milow. I have been the supporting act for Lena – that was quite fun, too – and some other Flemish artists, who are quite big in the region.
If I could pick one artist all over the world, I think it would be Florence Welch, of Florence + The Machine, I absolutely love her. From Belgium, I would love to work with Oscar And The Wolf, maybe.
SE!: We would like to finish this interview with a song of yours. What is your favorite song by Emma Bale, and why?
EB: I think it's "Curaçao". I love singing the song, and I love to see people's reactions to it. It just has a special meaning. I love the song very much, I love the melody, I love everything about it! We worked so, so hard to make it – we restarted it over and over again. It wasn't perfect, and we worked until it was perfect. So I think that's why: because we worked so hard on it. I am super glad that I could do everything my own way, and I got to choose everything until it was perfect for me, so that's why.