Q&A with Emanuel

We spoke to the Toronto based artist about his stunning new EP lt Therapy Session 2: Transformation, working with Idris Elba and his revelations this year. 

Video: YouTube/Emanuel

“Smell like Frank Ocean, taste like Khalid, feel like himself”- this was one of many comments the suave riser received in his comments for the song Need You, but comparing Emanuel to other artists doesn’t do the singer justice to his artistry. Another comment on the music video, however, read “Your voice is like warm ginger tea on a sore throat” felt like a far more accurate representation. Either way, all were said with good intentions and met with a “like” from Emanuel himself. Praised for his stirring vocals and resonating message, catching the attention of multi-award winning actor and artist Idris Elba, who had gone on to collaborate with the visuals for ‘Need You’.

To end the year, the emerging artist blessed us with his newest project Alt Therapy Session 2: Transformation. A fresh body of work peppered with soul-wrenching lyrics and aurally remedial hymns and harmonies, Emanuel wants to grab your heart and turn it inside out. With the additional songs on the EP, Emanuel explores the yearnings of the human heart. Describing ‘Magazines’, the lead-off track on the EP, as “a projection of the observation that there are a lot of people who are desperate for wealth gratification and are trying to fill their broken hearts with a whole lot of nothing” while ‘PTH’, Emanuel’s most sensual song to date, celebrates the euphoria found in intimacy. “The song is super carnal,” he says, “but it’s also really beautiful - I hold those experiences and those moments in high regard. I wanted it to be an expression of love and about appreciating a woman’s body at that moment.” Another stand out is the profound Black Woman, a track where Emanuel appreciates, apologises and praises the black women in his life all at the same time, “I not only got to write a love letter to these women who are the pillars and benefactors of my life, but I also got to speak on how the world treats black women and how we acknowledge them for the queens they are”. Alongside this single, Emanuel also launched a portrait series, highlighting five influential black women from Toronto’s artistic and advocacy communities. So we spoke to the artist about his new EP, working with Idris Elba and his revelations this year. 

Photography: Eric Miles

What’s the overall vibe of Alt Therapy Session 2: Transformation? What do you want people to get out of this project?

I think the overall theme of Alt Therapy Session 2: Transformation is songs to listen to while breaking chains. I want people to relate to it and I want them to take away a feeling of not being alone in their struggles.

As we all know 2020 has been an emotionally draining year, how do you stay afloat and inspired?

I’m constantly inspired by the people around me like my family, my friends, my collaborators, the people that show love to the music. It’s quite easy with the volume of love that we’ve been blessed to receive this year.

When did you realise that you wanted to pursue a career in music full time? Any revelations?

I think the moment I knew I needed to pursue a career in music was when I realized that even though I was happy working at the hospital and I really loved my colleagues and the patients, I still wasn’t fulfilled. It was a deep yearning for something more and I think about a year into that job I realized I needed to pursue music.

Which track means most to you and why? We particularly loved Black Woman and it's visuals.

“Black Woman” means the most to me because I not only got to write a love letter to these women who are the pillars and benefactors of my life, but I also got to speak on how the world treats black women and how we acknowledge them for the queens they are.

Speaking of visuals, Idris Elba contributed to those on Need You. What was it like to collaborate with him artistically? Talk us through the experience.

It was such an honour to have Idris Alba on my album not only as Executive Producer but also as the Creative Director of the “Need You” video. It was really dope working with him. He really took the time to get on calls, on FaceTime, and Zoom to really see what the vision was to organically add his genius to it. He’s an absolute giant to me so for him to have something special in the music that me and my team created, it was really special for me.

What else is on your personal manifesto for the new year?

For my next project I really want to dive into my heritage. I have an elderly grandfather who’s been known to carry many jewels of wisdom and is quite good company. I would like to visit my family back home in Ethiopia to immerse myself in the culture and the sound. I really want to let that experience inform and influence the sound of my next body of work.

Article written by Ashley Morris

Listen to Alt Therapy Session 2: Transformation on Spotify

Follow Emanuel on Instagram & Twitter


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