Mash-Up Sensation Emma Horan
Lurgan singer-songwriter on generating hundreds of thousands of YouTube views, sharing the iTunes number three spot with Ed Sheeran and writing original material with the help of Generator NI
Your mash-up compositions, fusing two or more songs together, are pretty impressive, involving music by the likes of Labrinth and Chris Brown. When did you first post a mash-up video online?
It was actually Facebook where I first uploaded a video of me singing. I had been playing around with an arrangement, mashing up some of my favourite songs, and thought I’d upload it so that my family and close friends could have a wee listen. I never really thought anyone else would watch it. That was in May 2013 and it all started to kick off from there. It still feels very surreal that 100,000 people now want to follow my music and updates on my Facebook profile. It's crazy.
Up until now you've mainly been covering other artist's material, with your take on Mumford & Sons' 'Little Lion Man' ultimately reaching number three on the iTunes singer/songwriter chart. Did you envisage that kind of success when you originally recorded the video in your bedroom?
I’m totally shocked and in awe of all of the attention that my videos and covers get. It’s so flattering and I love chatting to all of my fans online and meeting them out and about. I’ve always been a people person and have been involved in performance – dancing, drama and singing – since I was four years old, so I just hope I can continue to entertain people by doing what I love.
How many covers have you compiled, and which have been your most popular videos thus far?
A really amazing experience was working on my cover of 'Little Lion Man'. I love Mumford & Sons so much and wanted to do my own version of the song. When I released it, many people listened and shared and the feedback I got was amazing. It then got into the UK iTunes singer/songwriter charts and went to number three – what?! – alongside the amazing and talented Ed Sheeran and Tracy Chapman. I never thought I would see my name next to theirs.
I’ve found that my mash-ups go viral. I enjoy working on these because I love such different types of music. It all started when I thought, 'Why don’t I try to mix them all together?' So I sat and played three simple chords and made all my songs fit into one performance.
It takes guts to video yourself singing a well-known song and then upload it to a social network where potentially hundreds of thousands of people will view it. Is it necessary to be an extrovert to succeed in the modern music business?
I think it’s more about your talent and making sure that you love music. If you’re passionate about it and work hard enough then I think you deserve to be noticed.
When did you first fall in love with singing?
I first started singing when I was six years old. I started with musical theatre at Grade One and knew from then that music was all I wanted to do. I performed in many competitions and have worked my way up to my diploma, which I will be doing in April 2015. I sang everywhere, the stage was what I longed for. I’m sure I annoyed my parents and older brother and sister dancing and singing around the house as a kid.
What drew you to Facebook and YouTube as platforms to promote your talents?
I only created a YouTube account about a year ago, as a way of reaching out to people that didn’t have Facebook. I think it’s fab to be able to mess about and sing a wee song that can instantly be shared. I’ve always just used my iPod to make my videos, but Santa was very good to me and got me a shiny new laptop, so I’ve been teaching myself all sorts of fun stuff on Garageband lately.
Do you follow any other YouTubers? If so, what have you learned from them?
I’ve always admired [American artist] Christina Grimmie because, despite being the most amazing singer ever, she sings worship, which I love. Listening to it gives me goosebumps. I love getting inspiration from other performers. There are so many amazingly talented singers out there and I think it’s brilliant that you don’t need fancy computer software or a recording studio to be heard.
I think I have learned from other YouTubers that it’s important to give people the opportunity to get to know me and my personality, so I’ve now started doing some vlogs. I’m really just learning so I'll probably mess it all up, but it’s a good laugh.
In what other ways has the Internet helped you as an artist?
I’m so grateful to Facebook and YouTube for giving me an audience that like to listen to my music. I’ve been able to link up with lots of other artists, which has led to some cool collaborations, performances and friendships. I’ve loved performing with Giles Potter, from The X Factor, on two of his tours to Belfast, as well as joining in the Mac Music tour in Dublin with people like Bars and Melody from BGT.
I’ve got to know the guys from Ratchet Clothing really well and was chuffed to appear in their retail store as someone they sponsor. I love getting asked to perform at lovely gigs like the Belfast Children’s Hospital, and a really class experience was being the warm-up act for Janet Devlin on her Delirious tour.
You have started working on original material through the Generator NI music development programme. How is it going?
It’s been such an amazing help. I’ve always wanted to write my own material and have been working on my own stuff for a couple of years but Generator NI have set me up with amazing producers and writers across the UK. I’ve received amazing mentoring and real artist development. I really value all of the advice from these experts and it has been so much fun working on some tracks, but I’ve still got so much to learn.
Which writers have you worked with so far?
Some fab musically talented people from my hometown and elsewhere. Paul Aiden, singer/songwriter and producer from London has helped me a lot. He has challenged me and made me a better songwriter. Travis Gilbert – and his band Travis Is A Tourist – has really inspired me. His music is amazing and I was so honoured to do backing vocals on some of the songs on his recent EP.
You recently toured with Janet Devlin. Was it a challenge going from performing in your bedroom to facing large audiences in arts venues across Northern Ireland?
It was brilliant. I love performing to an audience, so I enjoyed every minute. It is certainly different to singing in my bedroom, but a good different. Janet is so cool and hopefully we’ll get to perform together again in the future.
What's next for you in 2015?
Apart from GCSEs? (Haha.) I’m going to keep in contact with all of my followers online as they mean so much to me and hope to keep posting videos of songs that they request and songs that I love, new and old. I’m definitely going to keep gigging when I can, to get the buzz of a live audience, and with Generator NI I am way too excited to release a co-written song this summer.