Make Music Champions: Lyrics or music? For Emily, lyrics come first

Make Music Day

Emily McNally is a singer-songwriter and performer from Brooklyn. She has loved playing guitar and piano since she was a kid. She has been making music for about 15 years. She is currently a full-time musician and freelances on Fiverr.

How did you start making music?

I started playing piano when I was 6, and I did that all through high school. I started taking voice lessons when I was 10. As I was always listening to music, I think it was like a form of escapism for me, so I naturally gravitated into writing it when I was a kid. I wrote songs like a kid writes songs about silly things, and definitely about serious heartbreaking middle school. But, I never really shared it with anybody until I was a senior in high school when I performed my first original song at a talent show, and I got nice feedback about it. So, when I came to New York for college I decided to pursue music more seriously. I started writing more and sharing more, and slowly building a fanbase over time.

How would you describe your music?

I like to describe my music as genre-fluid, so I like to focus on the story I’m trying to tell. After having the lyrics, I think about what genre could suit the new piece I have. But for the most part, it tends to fall into folk-pop and soft-pop vibes. I’m really flexible and I take a lot of inspiration from different genres in my writing.

You’re a songwriter, do you do covers?

I did covers all through college for a long time until I built up a good-size YouTube fanbase in college, and nowadays I don’t post them as much anymore on my social media. I usually do include a couple of covers on my shows, but I mostly focus on my original stuff these days.

And, do you compose for other artists?

Over the pandemic, I’ve got to collaborate with a lot of producers who would send me sort of pop-dance style records. I would write lyrics and record vocals for them and send them over, and they would mix them. I love collaborations and the possibilities of getting to write with other people. For a long time, I was just doing it by myself, from when I was very little up through college. It was just a few years ago that I started writing with other people, and I love it.

Are you a full-time musician?

Very recently, as of last month, I started freelancing full-time doing music. It’s pretty new and I’m nervous, but I’m also so excited to finally get to be a full-time musician! Most of my work comes through Fiverr, where I mostly write custom songs for people to give as gifts to their loved ones.

What instruments do you play?

I started as a music education major in college before switching to performance. As part of that, I had to learn the very basics of a bunch of different instruments such as violin, cello, clarinet, and flute. But, my main instruments are piano and guitar.

How did you find out about Make Music Day?

I don’t remember exactly how I stumbled across it. I think I had been following the page for a while and discovered there was an event during winter, the Make Music Winter 2019, but I wasn’t able to participate in it. So, when the summer came along, I decided to apply for the events and performed in three different boroughs. It was cool, and I loved the experience so much.  I kept doing it every single year because I love it so much. It was so delightful; it feels very human to connect with people that way.

How would you describe what music means to you?

What a wonderful question! I think that for me music has always been about emotional connection and catharsis. I’ve spent so much of my teenage years and younger years listening to people sing about what they were going through and feeling less alone in my tumultuous adolescence, and all I’ve ever wanted to do since then is to give that back in a way and pass it forward.

What would you say is your goal in music?

I’d say the baseline bare minimum goal is to make a living entirely out of doing art and doing music. Above that, I’d love to keep growing my fanbase to a point where I can go on tour and play shows across the country or even across the world. I want to keep connecting with people and releasing music that reaches a wider audience, while still being able to have a private life, I don’t have any big fame inspiration.