EMALINE DELAPAIX: SPEAKING OUT
“Through all my struggles, my constant companion was music and through it I found my true voice and expressed the pain I was going through at the time.”
Emaline Delapaix is a singer, songwriter and activist; based in Berlin, born in Australia. She travelled Canada and Europe, battling depression and becoming a spokesperson for mental illness. She is also a vocal vegan and donates a percentage of her CD sales to animal welfare. Her performances are raw and enchanting, a self-taught musician, she sings about times in her life that troubled her, which makes for an emotive and captivating performance for all who fall upon her music.
What first got you into writing and singing, especially with such raw emotion and dedication?
"My father was a DJ and really into music so from a young age I was exposed to all sorts of styles from The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Madonna, Prince and more and at the age of 2 declared that I wanted to be a singer. As time moved on and my childhood became very difficult I escaped into singing and music as a way to survive, eventually writing lyrics to accompany the melodies. From early on I discovered I preferred more thoughtful music and discovered Tracey Chapman, Billy Bragg, Nina Simone and Kate Bush, artists who told stories and took risks. In Australia somehow the dream I had to sing was drummed out of me for many years. I was told it was ok to do music as a hobby but I had to be realistic, that I could never make a living from it. Because of this it took me into my 30’s to finally get the courage up to teach myself instruments and to try and be a full time musician. Through all my struggles, my constant companion was music and through it I found my true voice and expressed the pain I was going through at the time including abuse, depression and confusion about sexuality. That’s probably why I am quite raw. It’s completely honest and a lifeline for me."
I feel that there is a kind of Nick Cave mixed with Kate Bush and Patti Smith in your song writing, who are your greatest influences?
"That’s very funny as I’ve never listened to Nick Cave or Patti Smith but that’s good company! I would say Tori Amos, Ani Difranco and Kate Bush are huge musical influences for me as well as Scandinavian songwriters Stina Nordenstam, Anja Garbarek and Anne Ternheim. I also love The Finn Brothers, Nina Simone and Richard Shindell. She was so brave and he writes the most amazing Americana folk songs with vivid stories, often from the woman’s point of view."
How can you spread the message of animal rights and women’s rights through music, so efficiently? you do this with such an element of subtlety, nothing is over bearing but your songs provoke thought...
"To be honest with music I never set out to do anything deliberately. Most things I write come from my feelings/emotions/ anger/passion about a certain topic. I have 3 animals rights songs including one about the Canadian Seal Hunt. That came about when I was doing demos in Canada about the hunt and people on the street were such ignorant assholes, the next thing I know I had a song. It’s called ‘Seal Song’ and will be on my upcoming EP ‘Turmoil of Winter’ which will be out in November. It’s stripped back and more folky. Definitely a little influenced by Billy Bragg but in my own style. I just find it easier to express myself in song rather than in conversation.
In regards to women’s rights, Tori Amos and Nina Simone were huge influences and I have found that as I have matured I have begun writing more feminist type songs. I think it’s because I am getting older and seeing how women are treated in the music world especially. Over the past year I have had so many venues try to find younger looking photos of me online, refusing to use current photos. In general there is a lot of sexism in this industry which frustrates me. I also recently wrote a song called ‘Smoke and Light’ about my hunger to discover new female acts that are doing something unique, that is bold, strong and on their own terms instead of what they think they need to do to ‘get somewhere’ or to ‘fit in’. It’s a bit of a tribute to Kate Bush and Tori Amos in the style for sure."
"I am pretty sure most of those songs were written in about an hour because I was strongly feeling something. Pomegranate is a song I wrote about waking up one day really unhappy with my life and asking myself ‘When did I lose myself?’. I was severely depressed and cutting my wrists and I was broke. My relationship had ended and I was too scared to try and play instruments properly or become a full time musician. Between Breeding Seasons came very quickly after Pomegranate in the same time period because of the depression I was going through. It’s actually me trying to describe how I am feeling while in the depression, dealing with the end of an abusive relationship and people just kept saying: be positive, get on with things, stop being negative. I felt like such a failure and wanted so badly to try and express to these people what it was really like being in this dark place.
Greetings from the Snow Desert is a semi fictional song inspired by real events about two lovers from different parts of the world who meet up once a year to rekindle their love affair in secret. It’s beautiful and sad and ultimately doomed. The words for this song came in a stream very quickly, a sort of poem but the melody and the counter melody at the end took a bit longer to come together. I’m really proud of this song as it’s the first one I recorded, played and mixed completely on my own on my shitty laptop."
When and Why did you become vegan? How does being Vegan influence your music?
"I became Vegan in 2010 and then fell off the bandwagon back to vegetarianism again. I was back being Vegan in 2011 and that’s how it’s going to stay. I think it influences my music because I am more thoughtful and aware of what’s going on around me and in the world. My first songs, a lot which you would have heard on the Between Breeding Seasons EP were all about me. I am happy to say Veganism has taught me to think more about others including our furry friends."
Do you think more places are changing now for the better?There are now over half a million Vegans in the UK. How is it working over in Europe? Are you feeling some progress in the vegan community?
"Yes for sure. Things have improved so much since I have been living in Germany, especially Berlin which is vegan heaven. 4 years ago it was hard to find any vegan options in the area of Berlin I live, now it’s so normal. The only issue is that some of veganism got popular here for health reasons and not for animal rights. I hope in time this shifts more."
What other sorts of activism are you involved in?
"I am a mental health advocate. I have two songs about dealing with depression including ‘Turmoil of Winter’ which will be the title track of my new EP out in November. I have battled with depression since I was a young woman. It has stopped me achieving as much as I would have liked and I still battle with it daily though it’s a lot better than it was. I talk about how it’s important to bring mental health issues out in the open during my shows. It’s not about complaining or whining but being able to be honest about this illness that so many people suffer with, a lot who feel alone and misunderstood.
I am really proud of this song and I am hoping that it show others that they are not alone. I also suffered mental and physical abuse as a child and have an old song about it that I am reworking. I feel I have stepped away from that part of my life, maybe to survive but as I get older I am reconnecting with my past again so would love to do something in the future to help kids and women who have suffered abuse if I can. In the past I have done a few fundraiser concerts for shelters. Maybe I should look into that once more."
There’s an authenticity to Emaline Delapaix which is rare to find these days. Her honesty and openness in discussing her experiences of mental and physical abuse is inspiring. Her tenacity in pursuing her dream despite being faced with adversity and negativity tells us something of her determined character. She continues to write and perform, exploring her mind. It’s from there that her true voice can be heard.