Emma Phillips has wanted to be a musician ever since she was a child wearing a feather boa, singing "Summer of 69" and holding an upside-down guitar.
A third-year student majoring in both popular music and film studies, Emma's list of extracurriculars speaks volumes about who she is. She's the incoming head soph for music next year, has a weekly show at CHRW, and is involved with both Theatre Western and the Western Undergraduate Film Society.
She also sings in not one but two bands, one called The B-Club, and another that's yet to be named (after a change in guitarists, they can't call themselves Emma and the Beards anymore). All of this is on top of a double major.
"I said to my mom the other day on the phone, 'I would just have the most well-balanced life if I didn't have to go to class!'" Emma jokes.
She joined The B-Club on a whim, agreeing to sing with them at a coffee house an hour before their show, and spent the bus ride there learning the songs. Months later, she's the band's lead singer.
For a musician, it would be hard to have a more impressive resumé. She's been writing songs since high school, and she's spent almost two years working on an album.
Emma knows music is a tough business, and it's hard to make a living doing it.
"If you're in music, you've kind of accepted that it's gonna be hard to pay rent for probably ever," she says. "You do it because you can't do anything else."
Her ambition for success isn't what drives her to keep trying to make it in music, though. For Emma, if one part of her song — a line, a chord, anything — has an impact on one person in the audience, then she's done her job.
She lays it out in a lyric from one of her songs, called "Running." The song, an ode to her own worries about how hard it can be to make it as an artist, gets to the root of what drives her to continue.
"There's a line in it where I'm talking about how I'm scared that I'm not going to be successful, but that's not the point of why I do this; I do this to connect with the girl who's in her bedroom saying, 'What the hell's the point of it all?'"
Music has always been part of the fabric in Emma's family. As the child of an open adoption, she has musical influences from two sets of parents.
"I can't imagine a time when music wasn't in my life," she says. "I got my voice from my birth mom, who is a blues artist, and a little bit of my writing style from my birth dad, a screenwriter, but I got my music from my dad. I grew up listening to just ridiculous oldies music, from like the 50s and 60s in Ohio."
Those competing voices have taken Emma in all sorts of directions when recording her album, appropriately titled All the Extremes.
"It's a little bit of a hodge-podge between some beautiful quiet songs and some like 'Fuck it, let's just add a million instruments,'" she explains.
Over the past year, Emma's had people tell her that she shouldn't be doing this, or that she shouldn't have a job. She hasn't let it faze her, though.
Emma points to some inspiring wisdom she saw on Instagram the other day.
"If people are hating on you, you're doing something right," she says. "As long as you're not being a dick and breaking laws, don't listen to it."