Emma-Louise Birdsall on finding her voice
In our August issue we spoke with 20-year old The Voice contestant Emma-Louise Birdsall. This intelligent young performer proved to us that she's come a long way since she first turned chairs with her rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Loved You)”. Check out our full interview with her below and pick up the latest issue of madison to see the full '70s inspired shoot.
madison: How would you describe your personal style? Your shoot for madison is ‘70s inspired. Is that a trend you’d normally wear?
Emma Louise Birdsall: Yes, I actually love double denim. I like a bit of everything … I take inspiration from every era and pull them all together into something that is kind of me. One day you’ll see me in boyfriend jeans, ripped things with a tomboyish t-shirt and Converse [shoes], and the next I’m in that kind of Dita Von Teese outfit – a high waisted skirt, red lips and winged eyeliner.
madison: Do you like to dress up and adopt an alter ego when performing?
ELB: Absolutely, I love that side of performance. The styling and the story around it means just as much to me as the actual song. I always told them that I was like, “Sorry, I don’t want to rehearse anymore, I’m going to hair and makeup.” Seal would get offended [laughs].
madison: Is there an era that you love to perform songs from? You seemed so at home when you performed “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday”.
ELB: I think I sit best with that whole ‘40s, ‘50s music. It’s what I’ve grown up listening to so it’s kind of an escape for me. I don’t think I could shake that from my persona now. It’s funny because ‘40s and ‘50s fashion is also resurging now. People are starting to really appreciate that more is less. I like that idea of dressing conservative sexy.
madison: How did you get into singing and performing?
ELB: My family is really creative. My mum is an actor and she used to sing. My sister, Rachel, is a photographer and my other sister Lauren is an actor and a dancer so it’s kind of in my blood. I grew up sitting on my poppa’s knee in his library listening to Doris Day and Judy Garland. That was kind of my haven as much as it was his.
madison: And do you think that shaped your sound? How would you describe your voice?
ELB: It’s classic with a twist I suppose. You instantly connect with that sort of old school Hollywood music from the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s. But in saying that I also love doing R’n’B as well. It’s Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland mixed with a little bit of Alicia Keys.
madison: What performance did you get the best feedback about?
ELB: My favourite was ‘Never Loved a Man’ by Aretha Franklin. I think that was my ’coming out’ moment. It was really fun though because I never thought I could take on a song like that. I didn’t think I had that attitude within me. But I kind of whipped it out on the night, came out guns blazing and it’s something I’ll never forget.
madison: How did you feel when you got through the auditions?
ELB: Yeah it was kind of crazy, it was one of those moments that flashed by in just milliseconds and I was so not really expecting anything going out there. I was the second to last person to audition so I knew the game was tight and I had one shot and that was it. The pressure was definitely on. I went out there and my mouth was so dry and I was so, so nervous. And to have Seal respond in the way he did was just kind of mind bobbling. That sort of solidified the beginning of our coach-artist relationship. It was a really, really good start, I couldn’t have asked for more.
madison: What was your relationship like when he was your mentor? Do you guys still keep in touch?
ELB: Yeah, it was great. He’s ever the professional. Everyone thought there was a lot of other stuff going on with Seal but there was absolutely nothing there, he’s just a passionate guy. He loves music and he loved being there to shape us in any way that he could and just help us learn. That’s what I was there for - to learn - so to have someone so wise and so experienced was just a huge privilege. But we talk; I made him promise that he would put me on his next album [laugh]. I saw him the other night and I was like “Seal, before you go back to the states…"
madison: Was he drunk or...?
ELB: No, Seal doesn’t drink; he’s very into that clean living. It was funny, it was at the wrap party and it was all noisy and stuff and he just wanted to have a chat with me - parting words before we all went to do our thing. He put his hand on my shoulder and I said: “Now before you leave, I know you’ve written a new single and I know you need to release it soon. So you better put me on your next album. I’m available and I’ll fly to LA no problem.” He just looked at me and he goes, “You know what Birdsall, that’s a good idea.” I just went, “Yes, score, I’ll hold you to that.”
He’s great and he’s said the whole time, “Don’t think about me as just your coach on , I want to help you in life in any way that I can. You just call me, e-mail me, twitter message me, and I will be there for you.” I really trust that with him because he’s just so genuine.
madison: Were you surprised when you entered The Voice and how absolutely insane the reception was from the public?
ELB: Yeah, oh my gosh, I really didn’t know what to expect. I had high expectations but it’s definitely just blown everything out of the water. It’s exceeded my expectations through and through. Words can’t really describe the emotional rollercoaster it’s been – I hate using the word journey, but it was an amazing journey. It really was.
madison: How did you feel the night you had to leave the competition?
ELB: I think I was really prepared for The Voice because, I suppose, I never really saw it as a competition. It was never a case of first, second, third place for me. I just thought, “If I go out and I stay really true to myself and I’ve done exactly what I came here to do.” So it was just a huge opportunity and to go out on that night, it was really just the beginning for me. That’s what I saw, it wasn’t the end. It was a step into the real world and into the start of life. It was bitter-sweet but I was just thrilled with the way everything went.
madison: We have to ask- what’s happening with your relationship with Adam [Martin]?
ELB: Here we go, I knew this one would come up [laughs]! I suppose I’ve stayed really quiet on that. Adam did most of the talking. Poor thing, he got probed for answers 24/7 after that. We’re really great friends. It’s so complex in a situation like this. He lives in Melbourne, I live in Sydney and we’re super busy now. So it’s just one of those things, I mean it’s just a matter of timing. I don’t rule anything out and I’m always open to love but I really want to be 100% focused on career right now. If I were to be in a relationship with someone I’d want to give them 100% of my heart and soul and I just can’t do that right now.