Premiere: Emily Vaughn Puts Herself First on New Single “Priority”

Premiere: Emily Vaughn Puts Herself First on New Single “Priority”

We talk to the rising artist about her confident new single, the female experience in the music industry, and writing break-up songs long after a relationship.

We talk to the rising artist about her confident new single, the female experience in the music industry, and writing break-up songs long after a relationship.

Text: Jake Viswanath

While building her career, rising artist Emily Vaughn has had to deal with a lot of other people’s bullshit, including multiple relationships and abusive experiences with someone she’s previously worked with in the music industry. But not anymore. Today, she unveils “Priority,” a bouncy new single that redirects focus entirely on herself for the time, premiering exclusively on V. “I've never written a song that I haven't said the word ‘you’ in until ‘Priority',” she explains. “It’s completely self-focused and independent and it’s just one hundred percent where I'm at in my life right now, and it's the song that I needed to write to solidify that for me.”

Rather than give an raging angst-filled stormer in response to her experiences, “Priority” comes from a place of contentment, as if she’s already truly moved on. The minimalistic but confident production, with beats that’ll make you snap your fingers and chorus melodies that are bound to get stuck in your head, only exemplify her self-assuredness. We sat down with Vaughn to talk about “Priority,” what it’s like to be a rising woman in music, and her journey in the industry, which includes a 80’s popstar mother.

So let's go back to the beginning. So how did you get your love for music?

Well I grew up in a musical family. My mom actually did pop music when she was younger.

What's your mom's name?

Kim Vaughn. She was Kim Lion at the time, so she has literal cassettes and I had her posters up in my room. So I started taking piano lessons when I was six and just started doing school musicals and plays. Anything that I could indulge myself in as far as music goes, I was doing it. I was writing songs and performing them in my living room for my parents, so it's been a lifetime thing. But as far as doing pop music goes, that's been about the past two years.

How did you get into it professionally? How did you know that was what you wanted to do?

So I was actually going to a music school in Florida after I graduated high school and I went for a year, and I went out to LA. I was producing my own music, it sounded pretty awful. I'm not a producer, I'm a songwriter, but I was trying to produce my own music. I was actually sitting on the plane next to this guy, and he said the reason he sat next to me was because he thought I wouldn't talk to him so he could sleep, and then he ended up being the person that produced my first two songs I have out.

So he was wrong, you started talking to him. 

Absolutely. We're still really close now. He's one of my producers now and he was the first person that was like, "You have a really dope voice, your writing style is cool, do you wanna like try and produce?" So two years ago was the first time I ever heard my voice produced on anything. Other than that, I've been writing songs my whole life.

So what made you want to do pop music specifically?

I think I was always writing pop music even when I was fifteen and I was just writing for myself on my piano. I didn't know it because it wasn't produced, I was just writing these stronger melodies. To start, I wanted to be somewhere between Banks and Taylor Swift, because I love the darkness and edginess of Banks, and the pop melodies and marketability of Taylor, so I wanted to be somewhere in the middle. I feel like I lean toward down-the-middle pop but still that's my core, so if things are a little bit darker, that's fine. I heard my voice produced for the first time, and I realized that I was doing pop music. I didn't know it, but I was writing pop music the whole time.

Do you think your mom's career inspired you in that direction too?

I think so. I honestly haven't been giving that credit until I went home two weeks ago to see my parents, and my mom had her cassette tapes playing and I remembered being like "this is so cool" when I was little and wanting to do it, which is really nice because my parents are super supportive. It's also what I do and they're both musicians, so it ties in and everyone understands each other.

Were you your mom's biggest fan?

Yeah absolutely. She is mine too. Oh my god, she is my biggest fan.

Does she have posters of you in her room now?

She should. She hears all of my demos when they're still vocal notes, she hears everything.

That's so cute. Let's get into the new track "Priority." Where did it come from? 

So I have been a relationship person, I still am a relationship person, I really like meeting people and getting to know as much about them as possible, so I feel like I've gotten myself to just be in relationship after relationship. This is the first time since I was 15 that I've been really single and focused on my career and my friendships, work and family, all of the things that I'm prioritizing in myself. And I feel like I've always put so many other things in front of myself, in front of what I want out of my life.

That's awesome, because I know in the past you've been very outspoken about your experiences in the music industry and that's where you started writing from, so it's interesting to see your journey from that to now. Do you feel that was intentional in a sense?

I feel like I've grown with my music. All of it is very honest because I will write songs and then I'm like "This is where I'm at, I'm gonna release it, and I'm gonna scratch whatever else I was going to release" because I want to be honest and I want people to know where I'm at literally. I would intentionally put music out when I'm going through something so that I could be honest with people and have to listen to myself, because that matters to me. I scratched a release last month actually just because it's not where I'm at. There was a whole video for it, but I was like "It's fine."

What made you become so open to talking about your experiences?

I think I'm just an honest person, and I feel like I'm such a relationship person. I honestly feel like I know my fans and my listeners pretty well just from social media. And I think honesty is important and it's more interesting anyways. So I kind of just roll with that, and if people get pissed off about it, that's fine too.

Do you think your past experiences still somewhat influence what you write today, or are you solely focused on the present?

I definitely am constantly pulling from past experiences to write about because I'm writing all the time, and there's only so much going on in the present. But I've noticed my music is becoming a little more empowering, a little bit sexier, just because I feel very confident in where I'm at in my life and my career and everything right now. I feel like I'm writing form the place, but obviously I could still write a song about a fuckboy or getting my heart broken. I got that on lock.

That's where your Taylor Swift comes in. 

Totally, I’m always writing breakup songs. I'm gonna be married one day writing breakup songs. My husband will be like, "Are you over him?" Like no. Until I can't sing melodies anymore, I'm probably gonna sing about him so sorry about that.

What was the creative process behind the song? 

So it was [produced by] one of my dudes in Nashville actually, and I was there for a trip a couple of months ago. I went over, and we didn't really plan on getting a whole lot done, we were just like, "Let's vibe out to something." We started building it from the ground up, and all the melodies just came super naturally, the concept came super naturally. One of my best friends, Chelsea Lankes, she's a pop artist. I texted her because that's how Nashville kind of works, all of us just write randomly. We'll be hanging out and we'll write a song. So I texted her and was like, "Hey what's up? Wanna come to the studio? I'm writing a song. I think you'll like it." So she came over and wrote the chorus of "Priority" with me. It just came very naturally, it was very unplanned and like, "Ok we're onto something." And I realized it was the first time I haven't said "you" in a song so it was dope. But it actually improved my song.

How was it making pop music in a country-dominated place like Nashville? 

There is definitely a rising scene of pop music in Nashville that's exciting to be apart of, for sure, and I know so many pop writers and talented people and producers, but there's definitely more of a limit so it's harder to get as much done as I can get done in LA. My productivity level is just higher there. I also lived in Florida my whole life, so this was my first winter ever in Nashville and I was just not a fan at all.

I know your struggle. 

It was awful. I was like, "I do not want to wait for ice to dry off of my windshield to drive anywhere." This is awful, I need the beach and the sun. I need it to be 70-80 degrees at all times. LA is perfect weather-wise.

Do you feel like you've gotten inspiration from country music in Nashville? 

I think I've kept it strictly pop. I've never fluctuated into the country vein, I've written country music but not for myself. I think I was inspired by a lot of the songwriters there and the artists that I know, and a lot of the producers I worked with also work with amazing country artists, so if anything may have a little more of that influence. I'm definitely inspired by the artists and people in Nashville but I definitely haven't gone into the country world for myself. But watch, the next album's gonna be cowgirl boots, I'm gonna be like, "Sorry I know I lied to you."

You never know what could happen. Watch you come out with a completely heavy metal song. 

Absolutely, you're gonna be like, "Well she lied to me completely about that but it's fine."

Who are your musical inspirations? 

I am obsessed with Sia. I’m obsessed with songwriter-artists like Julia Michaels. She's incredible. I'm so excited to see her being an artist right now and doing both. It's just amazing. I'm obsessed with any girl power badasses, Betty Who, Charli XCX, girls like that. Any of the girls singing about other girls and independence, I'm a fan of.

On that note, we're at a time where there's a lot of amazing female artists rising up.

Dua Lipa, throw that in there.

Exactly. There's a lot of them. How do you feel being a new woman in music right now?

I think it feels incredible honestly. It's really nice to see women in the place of not only empowering themselves but empowering each other through that, and that's what I love so much about music. You have the ability to empower others based on solely how you're feeling and what you're writing about, which is incredible to me. It's a great time to be a woman in the music industry, I know it's always gonna be difficult.

Like if you look at the charts right now, it's a complete sausage fest. 

Oh, absolutely.

How do you think we can change that?

I would love to change that but I think what is cool to see is that the focus is just people are making music that's dope. They're making music that's touching people and regardless of the sausage fest party that I'm not attending, I'll be over here writing.

Where do you see yourself in the future? 

Absolutely an album and a tour. I've gotta write it first, but definitely once I get the EP out, I'm getting some shows in too. That will probably be the end of this year or early next year though.

Have you done performing before? 

I've played a couple of shows here and there, my focus has mostly been writing as a new artist, traveling, and just now being out in LA and finally solidified out there. But yeah I've played a couple of shows, YouTube showcases and Pop Shop and stuff like that in LA and Nashville.

How do you think the crowds are vibing?

It's been amazing. I'm excited to play the new music, once I get the new music out, I'm so excited to perform. It's such a rush that I haven't really honed in on yet, so I think my live show is gonna open up a totally different world that I haven't immersed myself into yet because I've been such a writer-artist, I do so much of everything for myself right now, I'm pretty much independent. It's just been me trying to do everything and have the funds to keep going. I think my live shows are going to be a different world for me, so I'm excited about it because it's just so crazy to see as a new artist, people singing your song back in front of you and their faces are lighting up, nothing is like that.

Even seeing an artist, it's just such a different rush. 

It is. Every time I go now, I'm like, man I need to be this.

Who are your favorite people you've seen live?

Dua Lipa. I actually saw her in Orlando, it was a little bar probably like six months ago, not that small of a bar but I was shook by how small it was in retrospect and how big and rising she is right now. But she just doesn't need anything, she just completely kills it. Her voice, dancing style, everything about her I'm just obsessed with. Charli XCX is an incredible performer, obsessed. I might even go back to say Britney Spears honestly. The performance game is insane. You would love me at parties. Every time I get an aux cord, I just literally put on every Britney Spears song. Everyone's like, "Where's Emily? I know why this is happening."

What's coming next?

I'm working on so much music right now which has been my issue with releasing the EP because I've just been writing songs that I like better and just reflect me so much better than what I was writing six months ago or a year ago that I was planning on putting out. So the process of actually getting music out is taking longer than you would think after you write a song. I keep writing better music and I want to give my listeners the best I can possibly give them. I'm wrapping up an EP right now, I'm pretty sure I'm solidified. I'm not gonna change it up, so I'll just keep releasing singles throughout the year.

Credits: Photo: Austin Combs

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