About a year since her breakout success, Emily, professionally known as Em Beihold, is a numb little bug no more. She’s gone on to open for acts like King Princess, performed for mega crowds and travelled the world. Yet, she’s still trying to wrap her head around everything that’s come with the huge high – including the unavoidable lows.
When she was younger, Emily tells me that she dreamed of playing the piano after seeing one in a storefront. What she did not necessarily dream of, was making her own music, let alone becoming world famous. However, the more she surrounded herself with music – through theatre camp, piano lessons, and high school bands – the more she started embracing her creativity. “I really only started writing as this form of therapy, and then just never let it go.”
Although, if it wasn’t for Regina Spektor, perhaps Emily wouldn’t have taken to music so quickly. After hearing the singer-songwriter’s track “The Call” being performed at a musical theatre camp in fourth grade, something clicked into place. “It was so beautiful, I just lost myself in it completely. I just remember looking it up at home, and thinking – this is it, this is the one. I told my piano teacher about it, and I think he was an even bigger fan than I was, so I should give him some credit for how I got into writing music in the first place.”
Having grown up in LA, Emily wasn’t impervious to seeing fame and the arts all around her. However, her parents also raised her to be a realist. So when “Numb Little Bug” exploded out of seemingly nowhere on TikTok and beyond, Emily was already preparing for what would come in the after. “I’ve seen stardom come and go and everything. And I mean, it’s tough to kind of have all this attention on what you’re doing. I was like, I need to brace for the fall, even though this one song is doing so well. This will last a little bit, and then this is gonna come down and I just need to maintain my happiness regardless.”
To ground herself and to make sense of everything that was happening, Emily turned to music once again. In fact, her latest single “Rollercoasters Make Me Sad” was a direct response to her experience post-“Numb Little Bug.” “The day it [“Numb Little Bug”] was released, it got a million streams and just like kept growing. And I remember my calendar was like, not that crazy. And then all of a sudden, it was just like, multiple colors every day. Just like that, it suddenly became an art piece. And it was fun, but it was also super overwhelming. Even though music is what I want to do forever, nothing prepares you for a song going viral and like you’re suddenly interviewing over here and then flying over there. And then performing over here – I performed on these like huge stages, having no performance experience whatsoever,” Emily confesses. “I was as nervous as you possibly could be. Like, you’re really just thrown into the deep end. And then I released an EP in July that didn’t do badly, but it didn’t do like “Numb Little Bug” crazy either. So it was just kind of about even when you’re at the top, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re like happy and stable, because everything’s a roller coaster.”
Which, she adds, goes for not just a career in music, but also life in general. It is good advice, and certainly pertinent coming from someone who’s dealt with panic attacks and anxiety herself. It’s why people have gravitated to her music. Songs like “Numb Little Bug” provide a positive and uplifting soundtrack to feeling validated for your fears and confusing emotions. “If there’s one song from my EP that I’d like to get a bit more love, I’d pick “1,2,3,4,5”. If you liked “Numb Little Bug” at least because that song is about dealing with panic attacks. And funnily enough, I had a panic attack on tour, and I sang it to myself and was fine. So I think it works,” Emily shares with a confident smile.
There’s a certain bravery, and perhaps even recklessness that comes with writing such personal songs. Although it leads to a much more powerful sense of connection, there’s a lot of vulnerability involved – from both the artist and the fans. “It makes me feel amazing when my songs have helped people. For me, making a difference in people’s lives is way more important than like – Taylor Swift’s stardom. She has both – she makes a difference in people’s lives too, but you know what I’m saying? I’m content however knowing that I could write something about what I’m going through, and that could reach someone across the world and help them. That’s insane to think about,” Emily starts, before turning more thoughtful. “However, I’ve also been told some very intense things and I’m an empath, so that can be quite challenging. think it is a bit difficult when a lot of people have come to me with very heavy things. I think that one, I’m still trying to figure out a little bit. But I will say I used to be maybe a bit more responsive to DMs, but at this point, I get so many heavy things – I can’t really be the therapist. However, I do appreciate that people trust me so much through my music.”
It’s a heavy weight to carry, and one that Emily certainly doesn’t take lightly. Especially now that her own world has changed so much. Besides, she’s adamant to showcase not just her vulnerability, but also her versatility in music. She’s not a one-trick pony or someone who writes songs on just one topic. “It’s tough, I’m not really living the most normal life so it’s hard for me to come up with quote-unquote relatable songs all the time. Not the way it was before. I also will say, even though I’ve definitely dealt with anxiety, I don’t want to pigeonhole myself there. The mental health space is important to me, but I am expanding what I’m writing about a little because I don’t want to present myself like I can’t function and I’m so anxious that it’s unbearable, because that’s also not me, you know?”
Now that she’s working on new music, Emily is also trying to keep in mind that what works in the studio might not work so well on stage. “Live performance is something that I never thought about initially when writing songs. When I write little piano songs that are therapeutic to myself, they don’t necessarily translate the way I would like on a big stage. So I’ve been thinking about what would work better sonically in a set. I’m working on a ton of stuff and I’m just figuring out what this next phase will sound like. I have a few tracks planned for near releases as well as touring. I can’t say much but – there’s stuff on the horizon and things are happening,” she smiles happily.
So who does she look to for inspiration or a sounding board when it comes to her music? The answer is threefold. First of all, there’s Regina Spektor; Emily’s North Star. “Two months ago, before I left for tour I got to meet her and I just started bawling,” Emily enthuses. “Living in LA, we’re kind of surrounded by celebrities, it’s normalized. So I never get emotional when I see someone big, but I just admire her so much that I completely lost it. It was after her show, in her greenroom and it was more a brief greeting. I got to really talk to her at some point and mentioned that I signed to Sony Publishing because you’re signed to Sony Publishing. I think when she heard that, she was probably like – ‘That’s not the best decision, just because I did it’. I was just following in her footsteps, you know?”
Then, there are her friends in the industry. “I just did a song called “Fantasy” with Lauren Spencer Smith and GAYLE, who are two of my good friends. It’s been really nice to have friends in similar times of their careers because I think there are a lot of niche problems that come with being an artist. We just get to kind of talk about them and give each other advice – I’m super appreciative of them.”
And last, but not least – TikTok. Although, Emily readily admits it’s not as defining for her as it might have been once. “I kind of tease anything that I’m working on for fun,” she shares. “Even if crafting the song overall – to the point where I want to put it out – may take six months, or like 13 versions. I think what’s cool is after “Numb Little Bug,” it kind of opened the door for me to have a more steady audience already. There’s a foundation now. Even if I don’t really TikTok a song, there will be people that will listen to it, because it’s mine – and that is amazing! I do think less about what works on social media. Viral moments can be there, they’re nice and have obviously changed my life, but there’s also fleeting. I just don’t want to focus on being a viral artist who’s known for the one viral song.”
“My manager always says, let’s pretend “Numb Little Bug” didn’t happen, and I love that,” Emily grins. It gives her the freedom to not worry about needing to replicate the success or sound of just one track. “I’m going to keep releasing music regardless. So I’m honestly also happy with where I am now, where I’m just kind of working on more songs, doing some touring. It’s not as crazy as it was last year and I get to breathe.”