Emma Jayne Seslowsky is a student at Boston University and a new SFTL contributor. She is also an Emmy Award nominated singer songwriter. She inspires us with her beautiful voice and lyrics but also with her wit, candor and authenticity. Welcome to the Fit List Emma Seslowsky!
- Tell us about your career. How did you get started? What have some of the high points been? What’s out there on the horizon for you?
I’ve always always always loved music. My parents put me in piano lessons at the age of six and I began learning how to play classical. When we moved to Chicago, I slowly transitioned into Jazz piano, a genre that influences a lot of my music to this day! I dabbled in theater, and finally, after getting a ukulele for my eighth grade graduation present, I began writing some songs. I brought these songs and my ukulele with me to sleepaway camp and my cabin as well as a lot of the counselors seemed to like them! One day, I ditched pool, and a counselor and I recorded my first song “Promise Me” in the fire circle. I put it on iTunes, and the rest is history!
.2. We’re intrigued by the ukulele. What made you pick it?
One of my best friends to this day, Sloane, got a ukulele and I was extremely jealous. I had always been a piano player and a singer, but I had never ventured into the stringed instrument realm. We’ve both always been musical, but when we hung out, it wasn’t always about making music, but rather just hanging out. Tension started to grow when Sloane realized I was hanging out with her more often than usual just so I could play with her ukulele. She told me to get my own, so I did!
- Who are your musical influences?
I’m a big fan of singer-songwriters like Jason Mraz, Eric Hutchinson, Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson, and John Mayer. I love that they have cultivated a persona surrounding their craft and have the ability to pack so many genres into their songs, blues, Pop, funk, Motown, alternative, indie, even though they’re all under the singer-songwriter umbrella. I tend to connect with bands like “Lake Street Dive” with a strong, soulful, inspiring front-woman that puts a lot of passion both into the music and the lyrics. I’m a big lyrics gal.
- As you get more exposure, do you ever feel intimidated? What do you do to keep your confidence up?
I almost always feel intimidated when I’m performing at a new venue or find myself interacting with established, professional musicians. Sometimes before gigs or before I’m jamming with musicians I know have a hell of a lot more experience than I do, I utilize some good-old fashioned, corny, positive self talk. Usually I’ll go to the bathroom, splash some cold water on my face, look at myself in the mirror, maybe wink at myself a few times (God, that’s so embarrassing I haven’t told anybody that before, haha!) and remind myself either in my head or out loud that I am able and deserving of this experience. It sounds strange and kind of heady but it works!
5, Do you ever have an off day? What do you do to keep your game face on?
Of course of course of course I have off days! For example, my first Boston winter, also my first winter as a college student, I was incredibly depressed and couldn’t bring myself to write. It’s hard when you get into shame spirals like that; when you adopt a mentality that none of your work is worthwhile and perhaps you’ve reached your peak. I have to remind myself that these feelings and emotions are valid but not always true. I set reasonable goals for myself (i.e. sit at the piano for half an hour and develop a chorus idea) rather than ones I’ll disappoint myself being unable to achieve (i.e. get an entire song done in the next hour!) These accomplishments, no matter how small, remind me that my craft is worthwhile and I do have talent. That helps me get back into the game and ready to write!
- She’s Fit to Lead is all about networking confidence. What’s your biggest confidence builder? Confidence killer?
I’d say music and sharing my music is both my biggest confidence builder and killer. I’ve had some awesome moments in music: making two news performances, being entered into worldwide competitions, receiving Emmy nominations, playing a huge gig in downtown Chicago, and even selling out shows. I’ve also had some extremely confidence killing moments: messing up a lyric or phrase on stage, not getting chosen for a gig/solo, losing battle of the bands, not being able to write, or even realizing my theory/musicality is not up to par with some of my fellow musicians. It’s easy to think about the times we’ve failed and repeat them over and over in our head. But we can’t give our failures full control! We have to take them as learning experiences, and embrace our successes and realize that no one failure or success can define us.
- What is your favorite part of what you do?
Of course I have a soft spot for writing the music itself and completing a song; the entire process feels equally cathartic and rewarding. But my favorite favorite favorite part is definitely bringing the songs to life when I get to play with other musicians either in the live setting, the studio setting, or just jamming out.
8. What do you do to regroup after a particularly tough day?
This might be a bit cliché but I’m all into vegging out and doing something mindless after a hard day. My go-to mindless activities include watching Scrubs or various reality shows hosted on the Food Network. These viewings usually take place in my bed and with a big plate of nachos.
- What’s your favorite power meal? By the way, we don’t think that Nachos are a food group. Are we misguided here?
Are you kidding me?! Nachos are so multifaceted! Nachos are definitely my go-to snack…the chips, the cheese, the guac, the sourcream, the salsa, the beans…ahh, it’s harmonious the way the flavors all work together (I’m not crazy!) Usually before I perform I’m way too nervous to eat. I’ll likely pig out after a performance with a big bowl of mac & cheese or, if I’m feeling fancy, some Sushi!
- You have school, your music, your friends, your family and your other interests. That’s a very full plate. What’s your advice on keeping it all balanced?
It’s a full plate indeed but I’ve kept a handle on it by making my agenda my closest friend, writing down all of my commitments and prioritizing them based on a color-coding system (I’m a dork!!) Also, I’m learning to take time for me, which is an important priority that I haven’t been, well…prioritizing! I do this by taking a look at all my activities and knowing which ones I need to let fall through the cracks/lower my commitment to in order to have that important me-time we all desperately need!
- What does She’s Fit to Lead mean to you?
Leadership has become something, due to its portrayal in movies and TV shows that appears to be unachievable. A sense of grandeur and perfection is associated with the leader. She’s Fit to Lead doesn’t mean the loudest person in the room or the person who makes the most obvious impact. She’s Fit to Lead is a girl who takes into account the interests of everyone involved and takes initiative to make change, no matter how big or how small it is. She’s Fit to Lead is synonymous with empowerment, and the leader gets that empowerment in healthy ways; she gets it from herself.
- What did we miss? What should everyone know about you that we forgot to ask?
Music and creativity bleed beyond my solo career: I’m really fortunate to sing Alto/Tenor for the Boston University Treblemakers, Boston University’s BEST Co-Ed A Capella group (http://www.butreblemakers.com/)
I’m also involved in WTBU, our university’s radio station! I run audio-productions for the station and also DJ. (http://www.wtburadio.org). You can check out my music on http://emmajaynesings.com or on my Youtube channel, http://youtube.com/funnywithfreckles (really gotta do something about the dorky YouTube username!) You can also look up “Emma Jayne” on Spotify and iTunes. Expect a new album before the end of this year!