Love Letter To A Record: Emalia On Taylor Swift’s ‘Speak Now’

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become. 

In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Emalia – Taylor Swift, Speak Now(2010)

There are a lot of albums that have had a huge impact on me and my life over the years, but none more so than Taylor Swift’s Speak Now. Yup, I’m a hardcore swiftie (represent!). A lot of people find that surprising, which I can understand seeing as we are quite different artists in terms of our sound, branding and all the rest, but it was listening to Speak Now that inspired me and taught me to write songs. Taylor has always been honest, vulnerable and straight forward in her writing and that’s what spoke to me when I first heard this album. I was already a fan of hers after my cousin had played me some songs off of Fearless, and I eagerly awaited her next one. It did not disappoint. In my opinion, every song on Speak Now is a great one. From the melodies to the instrumentation, to the vocal performances, to the lyrics; it’s super polished, catchy and emotive. When I found out it was the first album where Taylor had written all of the songs herself, I was enamoured.

I have been singing and performing since I was 5, and had written little acapella songs here and there over the years, but it was only after hearing this album at about 12 years old that I was inspired to learn an instrument and really pursue writing as a main aspect of my artistry. I was also lucky enough to see Taylor in concert on her Speak Now tour, and watching her diversity from the way she could perform so magnetically alongside this incredible production with dancers and the band etc, and then still hypnotise an audience with solely her guitar and her voice – it totally blew my mind. I picked up the first guitar I could get my hands on, learnt my first four chords, and wrote a song with them. I would sit on my bedroom floor listening to Speak Now on repeat for hours – writing out the lyrics, studying her lyrical and chord structures and trying to replicate them in my own music. I love how she essentially writes open letters in song form – it feels so direct and raw. My writing style (and my approach to my art as a whole) is still influenced by Taylor, even now. Without Speak Now, I don’t think I would be the songwriter I am today.

It’s always been my favourite TS era, as it brings back so many memories and a huge sense of nostalgia whenever I hear it. My best friend Olivia and I would learn our favourite songs, duet and upload covers of them to YouTube. I would stay up watching her music videos, interviews and behind the scenes videos completely enthralled by the world she’d created. It was magical and beautiful, and all the easter eggs and attention to detail through every aspect opened my mind to a whole new level of creativity that I’ve carried with me since. The music also helped me through some of my hardest times growing up. ‘Mean’ is a song on the album that I hold so close to my heart. I was bullied a lot in school, and it really helped me through it all. It gave me strength and a belief in my future dreams. I felt less alone. And ultimately, if Taylor Swift could do it, so could I.

Speak Now sparked a fire in me that never went out. It ignited a part of me that I don’t think I would have discovered in quite the same way if I’d never heard it. I am forever grateful to Taylor and Speak Now, an album that, ironically, encouraged me to do just that through music.

Homegrown RnB artist Emalia has just unveiled her new EP ‘Unmuted’. It features previously released tracks ‘Suga Rush’ and ‘IOU’ featuring US rapper Guapdad 4000. Listen here.

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