Name: Emily Palen
Occupation: Violinist, vocalist, songwriter
Current release: Emily Palen's trio KnightressM1 has a new video out for their live performance of "Infinite Blue".
Recommendations: Atelier des Lumieres – the immersive Van Gogh exhibit. That is the most profound experience of art I’ve ever had.
Also listen to these following bands, there will be more than two but not a lot: Architects, Gojira, Stray from the Path and While She Sleeps. Their music is incredible, unmatched and fully awake.
If you enjoyed this interview with Emily Palen and would like to know more about her work, visit the excellent website of KnightressM1. They are also on Facebook and Instagram.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Music was all around me as a child, even as a baby in the womb. My mother is a cellist so I felt those vibrations from conception. The beauty, the grace and the emotional depth of music is profoundly more vast than any other medium or even language. I fell in love with the violin at a very early age and it’s the only way that I can fully express myself as a being. Also, as artists, we always have a space to evolve, to grief, to come alive. It’s electric, it’s consciousness and it’s power.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
I grew up hearing my sister play this amazing violin literature and I fell in love with it. I had to learn to play so I could play that music, feel that experience. It drew me in and it has never let me go. Now, since I have expanded into writing my own music it’s even more limitless. I can write and play exactly how I feel. The things you can’t express in words, I can put into music. The human experience, my heart.
Now I strive, instead of playing at a certain level of classical and winning auditions which was my plan in the beginning, I always seek to express my most vulnerable and raw truth. I chase the edge and that edge is always changing. So it’s always new. It’s always risky. And that’s the beauty of it. You reach that place, you get brave enough to reveal yourself there and then you can go further, or to a different place next time. It’s more like the music is leading me, and I have to be emotionally ready to follow it.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
This is an interesting question because it’s definitely evolved over the years, however I always strive to maintain a foothold in expressing whatever my authentic self is at the moment. So it can shift and change along with me.
Identity is an interesting word because it speaks to a permanence perhaps that I can’t honestly say that I know. There are definitely issues in our world that are extremely important to me. Freeing ourself from bondage, reckoning with our trauma and our cruelty as a human race. Coming to terms with ourselves in an honest way. There’s so much running away and pacifying in our culture and we are at a time where we must come into ourselves honestly, and live harmlessly or we will pay a very great price. However I can have my music be in service to helping the world, that’s my intention.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Coming into myself as a vocalist is a challenge. That’s an evolving journey, getting brave enough to admit I had a voice and using it, getting comfortable. Combining the physical aspects of being a violinist and singing, now pretty aggressively at the same time, is a great challenge as well. I have to really go into a lot of trust in myself as a being. I have actually had to shed a lot of shame to do that. I also had to admit to myself that I just wanted a full on metal band. Loud as fuck, unforgiving, powerful, beautiful, crushing.
I think I hid that for a while and played nice. Violinists have a certain image in the world and where I’m coming from with this music is different, so I’m giving myself permission to go fully into that and not hold anything back.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
Violin was my first love and continues to be almost an extension of myself. It just fits, I wouldn’t know how to live in this world without that. It’s such a deep part of me. Piano is another instrument I started young, when I was 5. I love being able to compose from a different creative vantage point with piano and synth. The different sounds you can get with synths bring me into a very galactic, outer space kind of realm. This whole other aspect of consciousness can come through and I love that freedom, to go from full on metal to very expiremental and ethereal.
My favorite part of writing and producing music is discovering the life of a new song. Feeling that sonic landscape come to life, discovering its heartbeat. It’s so thrilling and always gives great purpose.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
I don’t think technology has profoundly changed how I make music. Technology is definitely a tool for me. What has profoundly deepened my path with music is diving into it’s power as a carrier of consciousness. I’ve worked with music as an energetic transformational power. I’ve worked with tuning into certain frequencies to move patterns in my life. Music is an incredibly powerful medium and when one is in touch with the deeper energetic architecture of music you realize you can in fact transmit something more powerful than just a song. It’s information. Then your personal ethics matter. Your kindness, your honesty, your integrity. All of it matters and it’s all felt in the music whether people consciously feel it or not.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
The greatest gift of being a musician is having the opportunity to work with other amazing humans. I love to connect musically to people who are in sync, who I resonate to because it elevates both of us. I take care to work with people I believe in and believe in me.
Respect is essential. I won’t work with anyone who carries unconsciousness misogyny or abuse patterns. That’s important for me to draw a line with that behavior. Working with people who are grounded in integrity and that raw honesty, people who get that this life is much more than it seems … that is irreplaceable. I love working with people I can’t keep up with as well. They push me, show me where I can fly, or perhaps where I’ve been hiding. Also working with visual artists has been incredible. The people I have worked with for Dreams and Devastation, our debut album, are such incredible artists. Everyone involved in that means so much to me. I really can’t put it into words, the honor it is to have someone contribute their unique and profound talent to KnightressM1 and my vision. It’s humbling.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I have a bit of a routine. When I wake up I always get my workout in first. That sets me up to be in my body and present. Then I usually get my day work done, teaching or errands or whatnot. Then in the evening, I love to dive into the creative work. The grid is quiet then and I can hear myself better. Basically my whole life is designed to give myself as much power and space to KnightressM1 as possible. That’s the priority. So, with that, there’s also an undercurrent of whatever project is up, the day to day I need to tend to and then I can go into the more vulnerable space of working on the creativity. I find the outside world to be grinding much of the time so it takes me a minute to shake that off and to trust the more internal flow of the music.
Nowadays there’s always a deadline I’m working on so that guides me. I have a couple albums on deck to get into and some singles I’m really excited about that we are finishing up as well as another music video. In each of these it’s like a treasure hunt for conscious magic and thank god. The world is quiet dull being locked up how it’s been. Music is my north star and it’s always shining.