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Interviews: Val Emmich

Val Emmich: Interview
December 2008/January 2009
By: Lauren Jonik

photo of Val Emmich copyright Lauren JonikEmbracing the diversity and challenge of different creative mediums, Val Emmich can be considered equally proficient as a musician, writer and actor. The New Jersey native recently released his sixth album, Little Daggers, has completed his first fictional novel and currently can be seen on the television show Ugly Betty. With instantly catchy and often upbeat melodies, the songs on the album belie the slightly darker lyrics cloaked within the music. It is this dichotomy and balance that Emmich strives for. "I think it's more interesting to have that complexity. It is a lot more like real life- you're not always feeling one way. I think the song Hurt More Later is a good example of that feeling," he explains.

Driven by following whatever he is feeling at the moment, Val Emmich's songwriting process encompasses both tapping into his own inner world, as well as momentarily stepping into the lives of others. "I almost exclusively write in the first person, even if it is someone else's story. I will adopt that story as my own and make it sound autobiographical. I feel like that is the most dramatic way to tell stories. And, it allows me to go through the process of empathy with others," Emmich says. It is this understanding that brings a sense of universality to his music. Committed to artistic growth through his writing, Emmich notes that, "My main mantra just as a human being no matter what I do is to test my limits. Every time I write a song, I try to write in a new way and I feel a sense of satisfaction as an artist."

In the first single, Get On With It, a song about finding the courage to ask someone out, Emmich sings, You've got a little dagger stuck inside my chest / I'm about as ready now as I'll ever get. The comparison of a dagger to love extends beyond even the idea of romance. "The songs themselves are the daggers. A dagger is an old weapon that was used as a secondary weapon. They would normally use a bow and arrow or spear when you could be far away from the enemy and I used that as a metaphor: how do I draw people in and then, go in for the kill. The goal of the record was to have these songs that sound happy and inviting and catchy and sugary and then, lyrically drive the dagger in once I have them close," Emmich shares.

In addition to promoting Little Daggers, Val Emmich can be seen as Jesse on Ugly Betty, in which he plays the main character's neighbor. "On the show I'm a musician, which is cool because I get to play a lot of my own music and there is a love interest story line going on that will continue." Emmich has been acting for the past ten years and values the different kind of outlet it allows. "Although I enjoy writing my own message the most, acting is a nice break where it is not your message. You're just the conduit of someone else's message." Emmich shot his first lead role over the summer in the independent film Fighting Fish, a tale of a young man who assumes the responsibility of caring for his younger siblings.

After bringing words to life through music and acting, Emmich recently breathed life into a story on the literal and metaphorical blank page by completing his novel, A Break In The Weathers. "It is probably the thing I'm most excited about. I don't know if it is because it's the newest, but I also enjoy that it is not image-based like the other two." Described as a coming of coming of age story with a touch of humor, Emmich observes, "With this book I didn't care if I could write or not, I just trusted the fun I was feeling and I think that led to something that people who have read it are liking." This axiom of trusting yourself and going forward into every unknown frontier that calls to you is a thread that binds all of Emmich's endeavors. "Near the end of my life, I would love to be able to look back and say that I did whatever the hell I wanted to or what I thought I could do, I tried."

Interview originally appeared in IndieSoundsNY (Issue #39 Decmeber 2008-January 2009).