Emma Garrett is a singer based in east London, and her debut EP is to be released in May. Here she chats with us at The London Word about rescuing dogs, feeling creative, and some of London’s best kept secrets.
Where are you right now, and what have you been doing?
‘At the moment I’m on a train down to Brighton. I used to live there. But I live in Kilburn. I’d always lived in east London before that. I have been rehearsing and recording with my lovely band for the last few months. Working on new material and our live set.’
What is your favourite area of London?
‘It’s really hard to say as it changes depending on my mood or a certain memory I have associated with a particular area of London. I do love the Kentish Town and Camden Town area, there’s so many lovely places there that haven’t been forced to be excrutiantigly trendy and you can walk through Regents Park and pass the back of all those crazy buildings in London and feel like a tourist!’
What is your most vivid London memory?
‘I once played a gig in east London and when I was outside with my brother a Big Issue seller asked us whether we’d like to buy a Big Issue or his dog. It was a staffy, one of the least attractive we’ve seen! We’ve had rescued staffies all our life – we couldn’t resist. We met up with him at Liverpool Street the next day and took the dog down to my parents, who had no idea what was about to happen. My mum saw the whites of the dog’s eyes and couldn’t say no. She now lives on the Sussex Coast and I’m pleased to say no longer has to eat everything with mayonnaise and ketchup so it resembles a left over kebab. She’s also lost two pounds!’
What would your perfect London day out involve?
‘If I’m feeling particularly energetic, I love to get out and about early and have a wander and feel smug that you’ve got bits of London to yourself for a bit! A lot would be based around good food – I have to say! But really I just love meeting up with friends and having a drink. My favourite moments are when all different people from your life end up in a good pub on a lazy Sunday eating and drinking!’
What would your perfect London night out involve?
‘I love going to new restaurants and feeling like I’ve discovered somewhere that nobody else knows about, which of course isn’t true! I also love the gigs at Somerset House over the summer.’
What makes London unique?
‘The love hate relationship people have with it. Everyone’s incredible desire to have a good work/life balance and to make sure we all use London to the full. So basically the answer is, Londoners! And our insatiable love of going to the pub.’
Which season do you most enjoy in London?
‘Spring, by far. There’s all the promise of summer to come with all the fun it brings, but everything feels a bit fresher and hopeful as we drag ourselves out of the long winter months. London feels really exciting on a spring morning.’
Where in London do you feel most creative?
‘At the Premises Studios in east London where I rehearse with the band. It’s a great atmosphere there and I used to live around that area. It’s amazing having hours to just shut yourself away and work on new material and play live, which is why we want to do this in the end! Oh and the cafe there is amazing! It’s quite possible to spend most of your money in there if you’re rehearsing all day. It’s a place where some great musicians have been and it really inspires me to work harder. I also love going to my producer’s studio and sitting there for hours with a small seed of a song and then leaving with a full idea of how it’s going to sound.’
Where in London have you never been, but have always wanted to go?
‘Ronnie Scotts – shameful as that’s easily solved – I’ll get on that now then!’
Who is your favourite Londoner?
‘I could tell you who is my least favourite, but not to get into politics I’ll just say: “Bring back Ken!”‘
What do you think is London’s best kept secret?
‘Well then everybody would know about it? It’s a tiny tapas bar in Beromndsey that serves the most incredible food, all cooked in front of you and they specialise in Sherries – that’s all I’m saying! It only has about three tables so I don’t want to give too much away!’
Which song, book or film do you think best encapsulates London?
‘There’s one particular song that encapsulates London for me but it’s because I associate a person with this song whom I met in London and it was a really exciting time. That would be Fleetwood Mac Go Your Own Way. I can tap my foot to that one and feel pretty lucky living here.’
What do you miss most about London when you’re away?
‘I miss my friends, the pubs, the freedom and even the stress!’
How does London drive you mad?
‘London can be the most exciting and buzzing place to be when you’re up. But I sometimes feel that if something goes wrong that can all suddenly invert and it therefore becomes a very fast, busy and lonely place to be. I also don’t like the way each individual part of London is slowly being changed and all the reasons people move to that certain area, all its charm is just then lost and replaced with what I think are now, standardised trendy places. That are actually incredibly generic.’
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
‘My brother always says: “Sleep when you’re dead”.’
Where would you go in London to revisit your past?
‘I think that would have been the London Astoria, which is sadly no longer there due to the cross rail. I used to sneak up there when I was a teenager to go to all sorts of gigs when I should have been at school. Mostly really sweaty and grimey rock gigs, the ones where the sweat would drip off the ceiling. Grim but true. Seeing bands that your parents disapprove of, which makes you just love them more.’
Where do you go in London to relax?
‘My brother and I are quite similar, we tend not to relax that much to be honest! But one day we hope to have a beer under the Brooklyn Bridge and say: “We done alright”. We tend to talk about this moment when we’ve been relaxing in a pub for quite a while!’
Who is your biggest inspiration in life?
‘I trained as an opera singer and went onto acting when I was a bit older for a while. I think Judi Dench is pretty amazing. When I heard recently she had Macular Degeneration, which my father has, I think it’s amazing that she can still produce the performances she does, having basically had the script dictated to her. She also hates being called a national treasure, however ungrateful that may seem of her, I think it’s good – us Brits love to put someone on a dusty shelf!’
What would you recommend everyone in London do at least once?
‘Go to Dans Le Noir in Farringdon; the blind restaurant. It really is an incredible experience. I’m claustrophobic, so enjoyable is probably the wrong word, but invigorating would work I think. Also, you don’t know what the hell you’re eating and the chances are it looks horrible, so best be in the dark!’
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
‘I’m currently finishing work on my debut album and I’m about to release my first E.P in May. Which is all really exciting.’
‘I think Sam in Casablanca sings it all in As Time Goes By, which coincidentally takes me back to Judi Dench in the TV series of the same name. That reminds me of a lot of Sunday roasts as a child, dreading school on Monday. Her performance in that was effortless.’
Emma’s debut EP comes out in May, but watch out for the first single This Is It due to be released on 17 March. Be sure to have a listen!