Pop

How Emily Weisband Found Her Own Voice on 'Identity Crisis' After Writing Hits For Camila Cabello & Hillary Scott

Emily Weisband
Claire Marie Vogel

Emily Weisband

Emily Weisband never intended to pursue an artist career. When she signed her publishing deal with THiS Music in 2014 while majoring in songwriting at Nashville’s Belmont University, writing for other artists was always the goal.

After seeing success with cuts by Camila Cabello (“Consequences”), Hillary Scott & the Scott Family (“Thy Will”) and Keith Urban (“Same Heart”), among others, Weisband got three record deal offers from a Christian, country and pop label. The third call from Mike Elizondo (Eminem, Dr. Dre, Fiona Apple) at Warner Records in Los Angeles quickly changed her preconceived notion on an artist career.

“Writing songs turned into this thing that I loved,” Weisband says, dressed in black pants and a gray hoodie while settling into a chair beside the fireplace at her home in Nashville on a brisk fall afternoon, several days after her debut EP Identity Crisis was released. “We had to redo my publishing deal when I decided to make Identity Crisis because there was no artist language in my deal at all. Because I made the decision to be a songwriter, I got this crash course in writing directly with and for other artists.”

During her early days writing for THiS Music, Weisband was able to create a distinct brand for herself as a vulnerable songwriter who brought out the best in the artists she was writing with. She credits Grammy Award-winning “Thy Will,” which she penned with Scott and Bernie Herms, in changing her own perspective on the importance of honesty in the writing room.

“Thy Will” served as the lead single off Scott’s first Christian project, 2016’s Love Remains, after releasing several albums as part of country trio Lady Antebellum. The poignant song was inspired by Scott’s miscarriage, and all the questioning that comes after the heartbreak of losing a child. Weisband says the song’s success was a front row seat to how impactful sharing an intimate detail with the rest of the world can be.

“To watch her go there, made me want to go there," she says about not being afraid to reveal too much in her music. "It gave me more courage to do it myself. That was probably my first glimpse into that, and then with ‘Consequences,’ that was my confessional moment that somebody else sang. As a writer, I think I got very sold onto the idea that unless I was sacrificing my pride and my privacy to create something that's going to matter to other people, I was never going to be a game-changing writer... I think that just naturally came out in my artist project.”

Weisband’s deeply confessional 7-track EP Identity Crisis is a reflection on what life is like for a woman in her 20s. Now 26, the singer-songwriter says her younger sisters had a big impact on the song selection for the project and urged her to write songs that others could relate to instead of just herself. Additionally, the marriage of the heart and storytelling of Nashville with the creativity and danger of Los Angeles gives her a unique advantage in further differentiating herself in the pop world.

“I've realized that there's a difference between honesty and selfish honesty. I would write a song and it'd be so honest and raw and relatable, and I’d bring it home and my sister, she’d go, ‘Yeah, it's cute. It's honest and relatable to you, but I'm trying to put myself in the song and I can’t. I think the beauty of your music is that you're going to tap into the underlying truth that we all can attach ourselves to,’” Weisband recalls. “I had some really great voices in my life helping me with that on Identity Crisis.”

The title track was the song that kicked off the theme of the project. “Identity Crisis” came together in the studio alongside Alysa Vanderheym, who played a piano idea she was working on. Inspired by what she heard, Weisband turned the microphone on in the studio and began singing the opening line of the song: “I’m gonna let you in on a secret/ I’d be a slut one day and a prude the next.” Weisband says she simply began venting about what the project eventually encompassed thematically: her insecurities, past relationships, and the different facets of her as a person. “Identity Crisis” was quickly applauded by her sisters, and later her mother, as well as became the thesis of the EP.

The stripped-down “Healthy” was a song Weisband previously wrote and pitched to Jordin Sparks, only to rediscover it two years into her artist deal with Warner. At a good place in her own relationship after she wrote it, she admits “Healthy” was more true to her years later when producer Elizondo convinced her to record it. On the bold song about liking her heart broken beyond repair in unhealthy relationships she sings, “I ain’t ready to be loved the way I know you would love me/ It’s just too healthy.”

While "Healthy" had the singer realizing parts of her psyche two years after penning the song, Weisband says piano ballad and EP closer “Something I’m Not” defines where she is currently in her life. A confessional tune about being held back by an ex, the song has her reflecting on being with people and in situations that were not true to who she is. “I’m a people-pleaser at heart,” she admits. “I was with somebody who… it was an insecurity thing. A win for me was a loss for him. I found myself not sharing my successes with him anymore. He is right for somebody and there's somebody who's right for him, but not me.

“I would always go for guys I knew it wouldn't work out with, and it would fuel my songwriting. It was just safe: you don't have to actually put any work in or fight for anything because it's a losing one,” she says. “My fear has always been if I met ‘the one,’ I wouldn't have anything to fantasize about anymore and I’d just feel trapped… I don’t even know the answer to that song. That song captures a moment of a feeling.”

While Weisband admits many of the songs on Identity Crisis have her trying to figure out her own life, she’s seeing them help others along the way. The singer-songwriter has received countless messages about the songs on the project since its release Oct. 18, and has learned how her music is helping listeners move on in their own lives.

“All I can hope is that by being honest with myself in a moment, I'll give the inch and the world will take a mile. That's all I can hope for… There's so much noise in the world. There's so many girls who want to sing songs, but for me to step into that life, I need to feel purpose in my words and in my stories,” she concedes. “I love that feeling of hearing a song and just feeling so seen by somebody. I think at the end of the day that's all we really want from anybody: to feel seen by people and I think music has the power to do that.”

Listen to Identity Crisis below.