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Breaking Down the Savior Complex with Jen Aldana

Though her life is looking a little different than what she planned, Jen’s faith spurs her on to create bold, authentic anthems of worship.

Girl with Micro Braids

MARCH 17, 2020

As I came to sit down with my cup of tea to write up last week’s interview with the remarkable Emily King, I discovered half my notes had been lost. A little part of time was lost forever, and a little part of me cried. But in the very same light, upon returning to sift through my mix of emotions from the evening, a ringing wisdom revealed itself: that you must find the beauty with what you have. That is what Emily King is a certain master of.


Walking into her backstage room at Somerville’s Theater, we met Emily King, donning her makeup in time for a meet and greet with a crowd already forming in the lobby. With the bare minimum of one chair, mirror and rather harsh white lighting, she oozed warmth and presence - which was only amplified on stage later that evening.


Growing up in a musical family meant her early exposure to music guided her gently into pursuing it as a career and craft. She explained how she was not sparked by one definitive moment, but instead she embodied her craft from inside out. In our short delve back into time, it became evident that one cannot disentangle good, bad or neutral experiences from one another: if you’re living it, it just is.


Thus when I queried her about moments which shaped her early on, gigging in the bars of New York - her instant response was that ‘I learnt that I got food!’ Specifically? ‘Hamburgers and fries.’


She went on to explain how, through her extensive travels, and touring with artists such as Sara Bareilles, Alicia Keys, Chaka Khan and Maroon 5 - her family always stood by her, as the most important force of support in her life. Through these tours she was exposed to many ideas and diverse talent within the industry - a thing, she says, is tempting to make her want to do it all. Like, for instance, seeing P!nk twirling in swathes of fabric, over the audiences in her legendary Grammy performance. However, she says how important it is to be honest with yourself in accepting that you are not great at everything. And in realising that - to focus on what you do enjoy and excel at.


She’s a close friend of Sara Bareilles, having toured and written in collaboration with her. Joking with the audience during her show, she pretended to introduce Sara to the stage - sparking up the hopeful eyes of many around me. Although it was a playful joke, in our chat, she had mentioned how she was inspired by Sara’s breath control on stage. Yet what really stuck with her was how Sara ‘leads with kindness’.



The fluidity and depth of her performance reminded me of the art of great entertainers like James Brown, Prince, and Etta James. Most of all you can feel how tangible her love for music is. She totally embodies the groove, emitting the story through impressive vocal versatility and stunning dance and stage presence. With a delicate, husky tone capable of reaching beautiful heights and depths, the effortlessness with which she performed - singing and in storytelling interludes - left me with a warm, inspired and hopeful heart. In one interaction with the very vocal audience, her knack for charming honesty knocked a rounded chuckle out of the room. She explained how she took the popular saying ‘love yourself’ literally, slipping into ‘Can’t hold me’, and encouraging us to put on her song and do just that upon returning home.


Towards the end of the show, she explained how Boston holds a special place in her heart. After parting ways with J Records, she picked herself up and started to gig at a restaurant bars, as an independent artist. One night in Boston she was met by four fans after the show - who had found her on Soundcloud and had come out especially to see her. That her music touched people, despite the circumstances, she says, is what ultimately kept her going. And on the final night of her US tour, the sold out Theater in Somerville was a testament to the combination of hard work and love Emily King pours by the bucket load into her craft. And I felt so honoured to be able to experience the results of her inspiring journey thus far, and I can’t wait to see what she creates next.


As Berklee Groove asks every interviewee, I asked Emily how she ‘gets in the groove’. She explained how she knew how to get out of the groove, motioning to the act of doing drugs. However she continued, “to get back in the groove, you have to be creative and sing”. She explained that when she’s on stage, that’s when she’s in the groove because she doesn’t have her phone and social media.


“Music is meditation and I find that the truth comes through you whether you know it or not.” Catching the eyes of two guys hovering by the door, Jeremy Most - her mastermind songwriting partner, and fabulous onstage accompaniment and tour manager Mike, she explained how she gets back in the groove “through my friends – they slap me out of it!”

However, she explained how staying creative is the most important thing, because “it brings you back to sanity, when everything else can be a good distraction. Use music as a tool for your soul. If you’re sad and listen to Radiohead all the time, maybe listen to some Stevie Wonder every now and then.”


Listen to Emily’s album Sides HERE. Check out her Spotify playlist of “good songs”- Evening Time Tunes HERE.

Emily King

CREDIT TO: HOLY SMOKE PHOTOGRAPHY

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