Written by Kelly Holm

When you’re a young woman trying to conquer the music industry, it can be hard dealing with those who believe they know better regarding your craft than you do. and Sometimes, it takes a will of steel to assert that ultimately, you command your own destiny.

Take it from Emma Zander. This twenty-something singer-songwriter and NYU grad knows what it’s like to battle unsolicited advice, but knows that her individualism is what got her to where she is today: a featured artist on top-rated tracks like Bryce Vine’s “Bella,” and now as a chanteuse in her own right.

“When you put yourself and your work out there for the world, you are definitely subject to criticism and outside opinions,” Zander tells Elicit. “And while listening to criticism can be an amazing learning tool, you ultimately have to trust yourself and your gut. I try to create a balance of listening and growing while still staying true to myself,” Emma says. “I want women to feel empowered always, and if my music can help someone feel beautiful or understood, I’d be so happy.”

Like many musicians, Zander started out as a theatre kid.

“I started doing plays in fifth grade, and never stopped,” she said. “I grew up in New York where theatre was everything.”

Zander boasts a degree from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, but moved to California after graduation, where she shifted her direction to the pursuit of original music.

“Once I got to the West Coast, I immersed myself in the music scene and really started my own music, which I found is my true love,” she said. “My first time performing my material was in a tiny bar in LA. I was so nervous, because it felt more vulnerable than the theatre performances I had done, like I was baring more of my soul.”

From there,  Zander sought to soak up all the information she could about how to find success in the business, learning everything from the ins and outs of publishing and marketing, to how to stick to her guns in a roomful of dissenting execs. It paid off: she finally landed a manager who lauded her for her self-acquired “business savvy,” and from there the tunes rolled out, the latest of which is “Down.”

“I wrote ‘Down’ at the beginning of summer, and I feel it has that young summer love vibe,” Zander says. “It has that teenage, nostalgic, warm weather feeling, like time is passing so slowly and so quickly at the same time… the melodies and songwriting are just different from anything I’ve done.”

Another track to look forward to is the emotional piano ballad “Worst Fight,” which Zander’s performed at several of her recent concerts. It will be officially released in 2020.

“I’m writing so much new music,” she says. “There’s so much more coming, and I’m starting to release music much more frequently.”

She’s a poet as well, and often her words provide the inspiration for new songs.

“I write one page of poetry every single day. I write down my stream of consciousness, whatever it is that day, and really try not to judge anything I’m writing,” she shares. “Sometimes it sucks, sometimes it becomes a song, sometimes it sparks an idea for a song.”

Above all, Zander wants to remind herself, and her fans, that “you are your own biggest advocate, and no one will hustle for you like you.” She longs to collaborate with Jack Antonoff, and yearns for the day when she can perform at one of the most sought after amphitheaters. 

“One of my big dreams is to play the Hollywood Bowl! It’s such a magical place,” she says.