The singer-songwriter, who grew up on the estate that inspired ‘The Great Gatsby,’ will release her debut EP this spring.
Emma Gatsby describes herself as an “all-or-nothing person” when it comes to romantic relationships. “If I’m not borderline obsessed, I’m not interested,” says the 21-year-old independent pop singer-songwriter. “There’s no point if it doesn’t drive me a little crazy.”
She bottles up that attitude in her latest single, “Insane,” premiering today (March 26) on Billboard. The brooding track is co-produced by Channel Tres and 88RISING’s August 08, and laced with string instrumentals, while Gatsby’s loping vocals give the song an air of mischief.
But “all-or-nothing” is an apt descriptor for Gatsby’s commitment to making music, too — and living life on her own terms. She grew up on the very Long Island estate that inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic tale of wealth, love and nostalgia, The Great Gatsby, hence the stage name (her real last name is Handler). Music was a part of her life early on: Her mother came from a family of classically trained musicians, and Gatsby took up piano and cello as a child.
Then, tragedy struck. After losing both her parents at a young age, she bounced between various boarding schools and court-appointed custodians. She emancipated herself at age 16 and moved back into the estate, where she channeled her trauma into music-making, and her art often touches on loss, Gatbsy-esque hedonism and the thrills and perils of independence.
Gatsby released her debut single, the electronic-infused “2 Steps,” in 2016, then stepped away from the spotlight, spending the next four years perfecting her whip-smart lyricism behind the scenes. “I’m never in a rush to put stuff out that I’m not sure I’ll be proud of aesthetically or sonically,” says Gatsby, who is now based in Los Angeles. “I wasn’t afraid to take my time, instead of introducing a version of myself that wasn’t ready out of impatience.”
Now, she adds, “I’m more of the person I wanted to become — I had to do a lot of reflecting to figure out what that meant and looked like for me. I have a strong idea of that now, so I’m confident to start sharing that with the world.”
She’ll begin with Sweet Nostalgia, her introspective, six-track debut EP due this spring. Gatsby describes “Insane” as the most “rebellious” song on the EP, which also includes “Alone,” a finger-snapping rumination on the double-edged sword of independence that she released in January.
Every song on the EP is co-produced by August 08 and Channel Tres, both of whom Gatsby says she met through her former manager. “I felt free to try my bad ideas in front of them,” Gatsby says. “I think if you can be yourself without fear in a room full of people, then you’re in the right room.”
The project is heavily laden with strings, inspired by Gatsby’s mother’s side of the family. “If I wasn’t using live instruments of some sort, I feel I’d be inadvertently disrespecting their legacy,” she says.
Get a taste of what’s to come with “Insane,” below.