Fueled By Death Cast Ep. 154 - Emily Hastings
GUITARIST, SINGER, SONGWRITER - EMILY HASTINGS
"I feel really grateful to be able to have the opportunity to do this. It's a great job." - Emily Hastings
ABOUT EMILY HASTINGS:
Emily Hastings has been a musician as long as she can remember. She started singing with her sisters when they were very young, and they actually started a band together, Hastings. Emily has since gone on to find new fame on YouTube as one of the best guitarists out there. She joins the podcast to talk about her process in creating her signature sound and videos, growing her audience and her admiration of Zakk Wylde. In fact, Emily got the rare opportunity to take a master class with Zakk, and now is primed to release her first solo record along with her husband, Warleyson Almeida.
Emily: I've been doing music all my life. I have four sisters and we were in a band. And my mother was a musician as well, fun fact! She was a guitarist and vocalist in a band. So music is just part of who I am. I'm just glad that you get that vibe from me, that I truly love it because it's my passion.
Jeff: Well, you talked about it in some of your vlogs before that you were five, six years old singing in your bedroom with your sisters.
Jeff: I'm sure that's where the joy of music started from.
Emily: Surely. Yeah.
Jeff: Take me back to that time. What were you singing?
Emily: Okay, so we were singing In My Room. Who sings in my room?
Emily: No, it's not the one by Weezer. "In my room", The Beach Boys song.
Jeff: The Beach Boys, yeah.
Emily: And I remember being in the room with my sisters because we all used to share a bedroom. Five girls.
Jeff: Oh my Gosh!
Emily: Yes. It's crazy. But we would all start singing together and picking out harmonies and it just came so naturally. It's just something that we didn't really have to work for. It just came so naturally. And then after that we did a lot of musical theater and then the rock part just trickled in because I always have had such a huge passion for rock music and things like that.
Jeff: Of course. So go back to the musical theater, did you do that with school or did you seek that out and do that outside of it?
Emily: That's a good question. I was in school while doing musical theater. It's just something like sometimes I would have to take off school to do the plays. I was Alice in Wonderland.
Jeff: You were Alice?
Emily: Yes. I was Alice, the whole Alice thing. I still have my Alice costume.
Jeff: I smell a Halloween costume [crosstalk 00:01:55].
Emily: I know. Maybe a video in the future.
Emily: Who knows. [inaudible 00:02:01].
Emily: I just love music. Everything that it's ever given me has just been so great.
Jeff: And it shows, like I said. So there's always that moment in every young kid's life when you are loving the music. You love Beach Boys, musical theater, that kind of stuff. But like you said, rock and roll comes into play.
Emily: Yes, the rock and roll.
Jeff: Do you remember when you started to gravitate towards rock and roll?
Emily: Well, my mother is a rocker. She's a rock chick. So I feel like that really had a huge role to play in my background, the things we would listen to; I remember we were driving in the car and everyone was jamming out to journey and things like that.
Emily: And as you know, I'm a huge Zakk Wylde fan. I remember listening to Zakk Wylde's No More Tears and blasting that solo out and I just fell in love with rock. I guess that was the pivotal moment.
Emily: And then there's my Metallica days, like an all black like now; listening to Metallica. I just feel like it was always present. And in high school I just really started to get into the rock scene, the guitar. That's when I started playing.
Jeff: And you started playing guitar when you were 16, correct?
Jeff: And, so where did that choice come into it? Was it just because you were listening to a lot of rock music, you're like, I've got to pick up a guitar?
Emily: That's a really great question as well, because there were always guitars lying around the house. As I said, my mom used to play. And so just one day, I saw the guitar and it's like the guitar was speaking to me. I saw it up against the wall and I was like, "I want to play this thing."
Emily: And so I just picked it up and I started playing and I was like, "I really wish I had done this before. This is awesome." So yeah, it was just one day I just saw it and I started playing.
Jeff: Was your mom your first teacher?
Emily: She taught me a few chords.
Emily: And then after that, I was self taught for a while, but then there was a guy in town who taught me some Mel Bay books.
Jeff: Yeah, I know the Mel Bay books.
Emily: And I'm trying to put the Mel Bay books, those boring but wonderful.
Emily: But it's [crosstalk 00:04:34].
Jeff: I know.
Emily: You understand. So I remember the Mel Bay books but it was just so great because you feel yourself improving. I feel guitars are like stairsteps. It's not like a slope. It's like you get up the step and then you have to go a while and then you go up another step. And I still feel like I'm on the stairsteps. I always feel like I need to improve, but it's so gratifying to just keep that feeling of improvement.
Jeff: That's awesome. So you start playing guitar, is that the same time that you start thinking we're going to start a band, you and your sisters?
Emily: That's another great question, Jeff. And yes, we actually were a singing group.
Jeff: You were just doing that already.
Emily: Yeah, we were doing that already. And then I started playing guitar. One of the twins was like, "Well, I really like drums so I'm just going to start playing around on drums." And then it just happened naturally from that. And then the other girls were like, "Well, this is really cool and I think I'm going to start playing."
Emily: So it just happen naturally. It just took over from that. Everyone started playing and-
Jeff: And that led to a lot of opportunities for you guys.
Emily: Yes it did.
Jeff: Talk a little bit about the journey, you guys are just sisters, singing in your room-
Emily: [inaudible 00:06:01].
Jeff: To now being in a professional music group.
Emily: There's so many stories I could tell you, I don't even know where to start. We used to really focus on getting a record deal. And we used to travel out. And where we were living, it was actually hard. You had to pay places to play.
Jeff: Pay to play.
Emily: Who would think that you would need to do that. But it's a sad truth that you have to pay to play. I cannot say I'd pull out of class to pay to play, but I just remember that there were so many feelings because you have also an image to sell; but sometimes that conflicts with just the love of music. It all goes together. But my sisters and I just loved to do music so much and that was always the focus. The love for it, the passion that we had for it.
Emily: There were some things that were difficult, for example, the whole legal side and the contracts and everything's like that. And we actually had a production agreement with Phil Ramone and that was an amazing experience. He was a really wonderful guy. And so we had some really great experiences with him and we learned a lot.
Emily: And one of the things he taught us was always, "Leave a space for the music." Whenever you're making music, leave a space for the instrument to really shine. And, I will always remember those words.
Jeff: Wow. So you learned a lot really going after that and really seeing it from all angles, not just being in the band but like you said, the legal side and all that stuff. And I do want to jump ahead and say congratulations, you just graduated from law school.
Emily: I did. Yes. It was a goal and I accomplished that goal.
Emily: Thank you so much.
Jeff: Did that stem from how you saw the legal side being in a band?
Emily: It really did. I think signing bad contracts always makes you want to understand what you're signing and what you're getting into. And so that was a very interesting experience in my life, the whole law school chapter. But it did stem from the contracts. And I wanted to understand what actually I was signing and how you get out of agreements; first of all, understanding what you're signing before you get some type of deal.
Jeff: Right. And I think what's so interesting about your journey in music is, it stems back to passion. It's not just about, there's this one singular path that I'm going to go on and either the band or the solo or whatever. It's just you need to create, you need to play and you need to put it out there.
Jeff: And you've done an incredible job in this new age of the music industry where we can connect with someone like you on a musical level, without having to maybe see you live or something like that. You have had a lot of success on platforms like YouTube. Was that hard to get into that space? Was it hard to transition as a musician into there?
Emily: That's just an awesome question. I'm really glad you talked about it because, I will say it wasn't hard at all because I wanted to leave my mark by doing the videos. Someday, if YouTube is still around, I want to have a video where people can see me in that moment, in that space in time playing my guitar and it's just raw. And I want people to see that. [inaudible 00:09:52].
Emily: And so, that's the first reason I did it without any expectation at all. Honestly, I'm so grateful to every single person and YouTube as well, who watches my videos because it allowed me to meet so many incredible people, including Death Wish Coffee and you guys.
Emily: Who would ever think that YouTube could connect people all over the world? Like all over the planet? Like people who don't even speak the same language as you? But music is the universal language. So I just feel, sometimes if you really start thinking about it, I feel like it's just truly incredible because it has just connected people so much.
Jeff: And I think you do a really good job on the connectivity side of it as well. There's a lot of YouTubers, musicians that will put out a very well produced, good looking, good sounding video on YouTube and that's all you really know about them. You pull that curtain back a lot.
Emily: Thank you.
Jeff: And I think that's really, really cool because a lot of what you do is very hard.
Emily: Thank you.
Jeff: You're incredibly talented.
Emily: Thank you Jeff.
Jeff: But it's so refreshing, and I'm going to bring our listeners and viewers to one specifically. One of the first behind the scenes vlogs you did when you were doing Perry Mason.
Jeff: I love that video because it really shows like you're struggling-
Emily: The work. Yeah. And I do struggle and it's the truth. There're things that I just, "I can't get this [inaudible 00:12:04]." And it's frustrating. I think it's important to show that. I want to do more vlogs that show that side because it is hard and you play violin so it takes a lot of patience and practice. [inaudible 00:12:18].
Jeff: Looking at someone like yourself who's playing a song predominantly, done by Zakk Wylde.
Emily: Yes, the boss.
Jeff: Yes. He was at the top of the list of guitar heroes of all lists all the time.
Jeff: And he got there because of the work that he put into it.
Emily: That he put into it.
Jeff: I feel in this day and age, it's detrimental for someone to just put out a video and just be like, "Yeah I can do that."
Emily: "I can do that. That's so easy." It actually gave me a huge respect for Zakk Wylde because it's hard and those pentatonics, that guy just like pulls them out, like this is nothing. He's great.
Jeff: I got the awesome chance to sit down and talk with him as well. And he said the same thing, because I asked him, does he ever get to really play for fun or is it all practice? It's both. He's like, "I cannot get up any single day and not pick up the guitar." Do you feel the same way?
Emily: I do feel the same way. I'm missing my guitar because I didn't bring on this trip, but someone I know brought a guitar with them.
Emily: But actually, it's weird because I miss it. My fingers feel weird. I really want to play on my guitar, just like practice a little bit just for the love of the instrument. So just the love of playing, it's great. It's a wonderful thing.
Jeff: It really is and it 100% shows with everything that you produce, everything you do.
Emily: Thank you.
Jeff: And you are constantly coming out and I want to say almost like left field kind of stuff because you crush it on rock and metal and that kind of thing.
Emily: Thank you.
Jeff: I mean like your cover of Hallelujah and Country Roads, like just other ends of the spectrum. Do you have a list of stuff that you just roll a Rolodex of things or does it just hit you one day like, "I'm going to do Hallelujah."
Emily: That's the way it happened with Hallelujah and Country Roads. My partner who is my husband, Warleyson Almeida, and we work together as people can see on our videos. And it's like the same day it was like, "Country Roads, Let's do this." And I just love the way that it turned out. It's such a good tribute to John Denver because I am a huge fan of him as well. [inaudible 00:15:37].
Emily: For some videos, it's something that happened in that moment and we just go for it. And then some things could take some more planning, it's like you want it, it's on our list. Like we really want to do this song, but then it gives us a little bit more work like Perry Mason.
Jeff: Right. So that's awesome. And the other side of it is, you and your husband are doing all of this on your own?
Jeff: So obviously, and I know this from multiple things that you've talked about in other interviews that you've been in. You're a classically trained guitarist. You've also had multiple teachers. You took a masterclass with Zakk Wylde which I want to talk about in a second.
Emily: The boss.
Jeff: But when it comes to the production side of it, are you learning all of that as you go?
Emily: Yes, the production side is something that I am not as familiar with. Warleyson is really good at that, but I'm learning a lot. In this last year, the editing, I've been doing a lot of that and it's a whole different ball game. So it's like you finish the video, you pat yourself on the back, and it's like, "Okay, I've got to edit this video now." And so that's a whole different ballgame.
Jeff: Also editing audio.
Emily: Yeah the audio is very hard.
Jeff: It's tough. Thankfully again, we live in the future, which is amazing. And there's so many cool programs and apps that it's not cutting the tape anymore.
Emily: No it's not.
Jeff: I learn every day just producing this podcast. It's audio and video and I'm sure what you guys do is exponentially bigger than anything that I can't even imagine-
Emily: It's a lot of work.
Jeff: What you have to learn just to be able to then implement.
Emily: It's a lot of work. The production, Warleyson is the master of that. He makes everything sound really good and he knows exactly what to do. But it is a lot of work. And I think we would actually like to do a video and show that part of it because I think it's good for people to see the time that goes into it.
Jeff: Yeah, and I think you definitely should do a video like that because I'm personally very curious about production audio and video.
Jeff: And I know lots of people are, even just the hobbyist who just has their own personal YouTube channel and just whatever; you can always find tips and tricks when you see other people doing this.
Emily: Yes. There's a lot of videos. For example, right now we're using BIAS FX 2. And there's lots of videos online about how to get your guitar sound. And those guys are great because they show you what to do and then you emulate up to a point and then you kind of know what to do to get the sound that you like.
Jeff: And you have a very distinct sound and style.
Emily: Thank you.
Jeff: You really do.
Emily: I'm glad that you think that.
Jeff: If you go through your myriad of work and really dive into it, you can tell that you have your influences.
Jeff: Father Zakk, you definitely hear a little bit of Eddie van Halen in there.
Emily: That makes the topping.
Jeff: Yeah, I can hear different parts throughout the spectrum of music, but you've molded it all and shaped it into Emily.
Emily: That makes me so happy because that's something I really look for in a guitarist. My preferred guitarists have their signature sound, it's a sound that that they created and of course, they had their influences. For example, Zakk Wylde, he has his sound, you listen and you know who it is. And even Halen is the same thing. It's like you close your eyes and you know it's David Gilnour, like you just know. I admire that so much. So that's the highest compliment you could give to a guitar player.
Jeff: And I mean it. It really shines through with your playing. And I think that also, you are attentive to what you're playing.
Jeff: I really enjoy it. I've got to ask, how many guitars do you own?
Emily: Okay. Let me think about this.
Emily: I think it's around 12 but-
Jeff: That's awesome.
Emily: I know. Sure.
Jeff: But that's awesome because when you're playing, let's say a song by Zakk Wylde or a song by David Gilmour, you're going to sit there and first think about what guitar is going to speak to this song, what's going to speak to the way I'm going to play this song and how can I mold all of that to it.
Emily: And kind of emulate his sound, but also not losing your own style of the play. Although I don't know if that makes sense. For instance, I did some Pink Floyd videos and I used a Gibson, some people were like, "No, don't use a Gibson." But that's the guitar that I had at that time. I didn't have all these other guitars and I really liked the way it sounded. But I know that David Gilmour, uses a Fender in his music [crosstalk 00:20:51].
Jeff: It sounded great when you did it.
Emily: Thank you.
Jeff: Let's go back to the the Perry Mason.
Jeff: Something that gives you a little bit of a problem, something that you have to really dig your teeth into. You've got to really put some time into that. Even before that you're picking out the guitar, you're picking out the sound, you're doing pre-production. How long of a time span from where you and your husband are saying, "We're going to do this song to complete [inaudible 00:21:25]."
Emily: Sometimes it depends on how many things are going on with us in life in general. But that particular video, I think it took around maybe a week, but some videos have taken longer. Maybe it was two weeks, just to start practicing the song and then other things are going on.
Emily: It took maybe two weeks to do everything and I think it did take two weeks with Perry Mason, but we had a lot going on, on our plate. There are some videos that it takes two days. It just depends.
Emily: But I think that video took a little longer. Thanks to Zakk [inaudible 00:22:07] so yeah, it just depends. But that video took around two weeks to get everything perfect because we were like, "Oh this has to be perfect."
Jeff: Yeah. And you nailed it.
Emily: Thank you.
Jeff: You guys nailed it and it came out amazing. And I know that Zakk is proud.
Emily: Yeah, I hope so.
Jeff: I know he is.
Jeff: And I want to talk about that because like we talked about, you've studied and had teachers and had all different types of things, but you were lucky enough to be in Zakk Wylde's masterclass. Can we talk about what that experience was like?
Emily: That was amazing. I honestly feel so humbled to have been a part of it because it was a masterclass hosted by Guitar Center where we got to have the masterclass with Zakk Wylde. And he is one of my major influences and guitar playing. I love Zakk Wylde. And so it was just an incredible experience.
Emily: It was five people total. It was a national masterclass. So people from all over the United States entered. And I just remembered when I realized that I won, I was like, "Oh my God, this is so exciting."
Emily: So they flew us out to LA and we got to be a part of this just incredible experience with Guitar Center. And I'm forever grateful to Guitar Center and Zakk Wylde. And actually my husband was also part of that contest and we got to go together and we were like, "Oh my God, this is so exciting."
Emily: Sorry I'm shouting. I'm really excited still thinking about it.
Jeff: [crosstalk 00:23:42] fan out. It's okay.
Emily: It was just incredible. It was an incredible experience and unforgettable.
Jeff: How long was the masterclass?
Emily: How long was the master class? It was like a two day thing. I don't remember exactly how long it was, but I know that the we went to Guitar Center and they showed us all around and showed us the guitars that they have and some of Zakk's guitars, the Wilde audio series.
Emily: And then when we went into the room I just lost track of time. I don't remember how long it was. I know that that doesn't give you on an honest, I don't remember. I just remember being like, "This is so incredible."
Emily: And he was just so nice. He was very funny and very honest too because he said some things that were very wise. Because in this day and age it's like music has undergone a huge change. Somebody asked, "Has music changed a lot for you? Like is it positive, negative?" And he's like, "Today, you can make a video at home and you can use your social media to really promote yourself. Back in my day, I couldn't really do that. You had to use middle man."
Emily: And then it just made me appreciative of how it is today. You can use YouTube to really promote yourself and your other social media. You can make your own video, you can do it yourself. And so I'm really grateful for that because it has allowed me to promote myself as a musician and as a guitarist. So I just remember him saying that and I just really appreciate him saying that because it's so positive.
Jeff: On the playing side of it, do you feel coming out of that masterclass that you went up that step ladder a little higher?
Emily: I did. I did because he gave us really good tips like make sure to practice and concentrate on what you're doing. Use the pentatonic scales because it helps your playing. It makes you in charge of what you're playing. So it's like that.
Jeff: You do such a good job, going back to what you just talked about with promotion. With self promoting, with social media, with YouTube, does that come naturally for you? Was that hard? Because we are still on the cusp of that. social media, as we're talking right now, is changing.
Emily: Is changing. Yes. It's such a great question and I still want to be like, "It's not hard." But you know what? It is hard because I feel self promoting yourself can be hard. You don't have to believe in yourself. Sometimes you don't want to like pull your camera out all the time and film things. But I think it's also good to be a natural at that and show people you're just a normal person too. You just really like music. You like to play guitar. So I feel I'm okay at it.
Jeff: You're very good at it. And once again, you show that you like to play guitar.
Emily: Thank you.
Jeff: Like I said at the beginning, it's a rare thing and I feel in the music industry nowadays because so much of the music industry across every genre is a created thing, curated for a demographic for whatever and you don't feel the passion in that. You don't feel the love in that.
Emily: You don't.
Jeff: It's refreshing to find people like you who every single thing you produce, there's passion, there's love, there's joy.
Emily: Thank you.
Emily: I'm really happy that that comes across because yes, there is a true love for doing this. I feel really grateful to be able to have the opportunity to do this. It's a great job.
Jeff: So through your entire journey from singing with your sisters in your bedroom to now, what fuels you to keep doing it?
Emily: What fuels me to keep doing it honestly, is just the passion I have for music. It's just something I love. I just love music and I love how it connects people. I love my following. I know their names.
Jeff: That's awesome.
Emily: If it wasn't for them, I feel like none of this would be happening because if I didn't have people to reciprocate and watch my videos, I don't feel like I would be so motivated.
Emily: So it's really a give and take, and I feel like we motivate each other. So my following, thank you guys.
Jeff: That's so awesome. And it's cool because again, in this day and age, you only get to see your fans when you're on stage at a show and then leave and you barely can see them because of the lights in your eyes and all that stuff. You know these people's names too.
Emily: I do.
Jeff: You see their comments, you interact with them by producing a new video and putting it out.
Emily: And they get excited. But it's a great feeling. It makes me happy.
Jeff: That's awesome.
Jeff: I have a very hard question for you because I like asking this question of musicians, especially of your caliber because it's something that's thrown around in the media a lot and it's something that's thrown around in the music community a lot. This idea that rock and roll is dead. This idea that rock and roll has changed forever and we can never get back to rock and roll. Do you believe that?
Emily: No, I don't believe that. I don't believe that because I feel like it lives in all of us who are the die hard rock and rollers. And we'll just keep perpetuating rock and roll like self-perpetuating. I don't even know if that's a word but no I don't think it's dead. There's a lot of rock shows going on now and people are really gung-ho and the crowds are filled, so I don't think it's dead.
Jeff: I love hearing that and I don't believe either.
Jeff: I just wanted to play devil's advocate there.
Emily: And you guys are rock and roll. Death Wish is rock and roll. And that's why I love you guys.
Jeff: So let's end there. I want to know, because we got connected through the wonders of coffee. How did you find out about Death Wish Coffee?
Emily: Well, it was after the Zakk Wylde's workshop and I followed him on Instagram and then he followed back. I was like, "Wow, this guy's really nice and he's following me. He's Zakk Wilde." So and then I just started noticing that he was always posting his coffee cup because it was a really bad ass mug with the Death Wish logo. And I was like, "I have to try this coffee." Because I love coffee. Let's just get this straight, I love coffee.
Emily: I'm sorry, I'm really hyper right now. It's the coffee. I remember I bought the coffee and I loved it. You guys make some great coffee.
Jeff: Thank you.
Emily: And now I just crave Death Wish.
Jeff: That's awesome.
Emily: So Death Wish it is.
Jeff: That's great. Well, I'm glad that we can caffeinated you. Because that's what we do.
Emily: Yes. And you do. You really do. And I actually have a really funny story. If I have time.
Jeff: Of course.
Emily: So my husband is not as much of an avid coffee drinker as me, but let me tell the story. I'll finish it. So we were in the studio, we were making the last studio breaking all the rules of Peter Frampton video.
Emily: And we needed high energy to film it because we were going to film that day. And I was like, "Okay, I really need a caffeine jolt. Do you want some?" And he's like, "Okay, I'll try some." And I gave him some of my precious cold brew and he tried it and he was wild and he had never had it before and he loved it. So I've another death wisher on our hands.
Jeff: That's awesome.
Jeff: I love being a part of this company because it brings so many different types of people together, but we always gravitate towards the music industry. I don't know what it is about that.
Emily: I love that about you guys and I really do love how you guys bring so many people together. They're nice people. And like when somebody wins the mug for the week or that, people are happy and they're like, "Congratulations." I like that. It's nice. It's refreshing.
Jeff: It is refreshing and it's interesting being in an industry like the coffee industry because I always say this, that it's not like working for Folgers or or something because it's like nobody's walking around the street with a Folgers in their hand or whatever.
Emily: [crosstalk 00:32:00] the Death Wish stuff looks so different.
Jeff: We are this lifestyle brand and we've subverted ourselves into all these different areas and it's interesting.
Emily: It is interesting. So congratulations to that.
Jeff: Well, I'm so glad that we were able to connect through coffee, but that our coffee is fueling you to do these amazing things. As the year progresses into the end of 2019 into 2020, is there anything you're looking forward to releasing wise or anything you can talk about?
Emily: Yes. I'm glad that you asked that too. I'm working on a CD right now.
Jeff: Wow, that's great.
Emily: I'm really excited because it's just something I've always wanted to do. Make my own CD with my own music.
Jeff: And it will all be original music?
Emily: It's going to be all original music and I'm collaborating with Warleyson on the CD, and I'm super excited because I think that this CD will open up doors to going on tour.
Emily: I toured in Brazil for a little while ago and there's nothing like playing for a live audience and things like that. So, that's what I'm doing this year and I'm super stoked.
Jeff: That's awesome.
Emily: I'm super excited about it.
Jeff: Do you think it will come out by the end of the year or are you looking towards 2020?
Emily: Fingers crossed, the end of the year, but I know how these things take and we're a perfectionist, so probably 2020 but we'll just see.
Jeff: Excellent. Well, obviously we'll help you guys promote that [crosstalk 00:33:26].
Emily: Yeah. Thank you.
Jeff: I can't wait. That's so exciting.
Emily: I'm really excited. Yeah, I'm so excited. I just can't wait too because original music is the best.
Jeff: It really, really is. That's awesome. Well, I can't thank you enough for talking with me on the show and-
Emily: It was my pleasure.
Jeff: Maybe we can play a little guitar too.
Emily: Oh yeah, let's do it.
Jeff: Awesome. [inaudible 00:33:47].
Emily: Thank you.
Jeff: That's awesome.