Rising Pop/R&B Singer/Songwriter Emmy Meli Breaks Through With Her Debut Hit Single, “I Am Woman”

Emmy Meli
Emmy Meli
(photo credit: Claire Schmitt

In the past few months, 22-year-old Emmy Meli has gone from being an unknown artist, to becoming a rising singer/songwriter who has a breakout single, “I Am Woman.” Propelled by massive exposure on TikTok, Meli’s song “I Am Woman” is a female empowerment anthem that is having a strong impact. It has also debuted on the Billboard Hott 100 chart.

Meli, who is based in Los Angeles, is a talented artist who combines soul, R&B, pop, jazz and hip-hop. Impressively, she wrote “I Am Woman” by herself, and she’s written many other songs. She has signed a label deal with record company Disruptor/Arista Records, and she’ll be releasing her debut EP this spring.

It was in 2021 that Meli posted a 44-second, homemade video of “I Am Woman,” that featured the song’s chorus. Very quickly, she went from having just 4,000 TikTok followers, to having over 600,000 followers. Soon after this short video went viral, she finished writing the song and recorded the full version, which was released in November. Then in January (2022), she filmed and posted a new video of “I Am Woman,” that shows her performing live with her band.

Here’s an excerpt of our interview with Emmy Meli, who tells how she wrote her debut hit, “I Am Woman.”

Meli grew up in Long Beach, CA, and she plays guitar, piano and bass. She was inspired by listening to such favorite artists as Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone, the Beatles, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande. When she was in high school she started making music, and she began writing songs and creating demos.

In the early months of the pandemic, Meli decided to focus on her songwriting and recording, and she posted several videos of her previous songs such as “Wanting More,” “Matrix,” “Tribute To Hollywood,” “Angel” and “Throwin’ Up Strawberries.” These songs got a little exposure, but it wasn’t until she released “I Am Woman” that her career took off. Interestingly, she had jobs working as a waitress, and serving beverages at a golf course, prior to signing her label deal.

Currently, Meli is working on her upcoming EP, and she’s preparing to play live shows in March with her band. She’s also planning to tour this summer.

Here’s the video of Emmy Meli performing her hit, “I Am Woman.”

Emmy Meli Interview

We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Emmy Meli. She tells how she got started with music and writing songs, and she recalls the experience of going viral with “I Am Woman.” Notably, the song has been covered by many other artists on TikTok and other platforms.

DK: I read that you grew up in Long Beach. How did you get started with music, and writing songs?

Emmy Meli: Music has always been a big part of my life, and I think it’s because of my dad. He was a huge music fan, he has hundreds of records, and he was in a band. So I became a music lover…I was raised on it. I started making music and recording when I was in high school.  I also sang and performed, and I did choir and musical theatre. Then after high school, I started putting my own music out.

DK:  Earlier, you released your songs “Wanting More,” “Matrix,” “Tribute To Hollywood” and “Throwing up Strawberries.” Can you tell me about these songs?

Meli: Those songs were written during an interesting period in my life, where we still didn’t know what was happening with the pandemic. Early on, before there was a vaccine, that’s when I started producing that music. And I was kind of isolated…I was spending all my unemployment money on rent and studio time. I had come to this decision—I’m not going to wait on anybody to help me get my life started. I’m going to do it myself. So I did, and I started writing all these songs and popping out all this music.  And honestly, at first I didn’t know what direction I was going in. I just knew that I was being myself, and trying to make good quality music that was true to me and had a message, which was important to me.

DK: Currently, you’re having a hit with “I Am Woman.” What inspired you to write this song?

Meli: “I Am Woman” was kind of a happy accident. I had a dream one night that inspired me to love myself more, and I started writing these little mantras to help remind me, that you know—I got this…I can do this. I picked some adjectives about myself that I thought were interesting and unique, like “I am feminine, I am masculine,” and “I am creative, I am fearless.” Those were all things that I picked about me, that I wanted to remind myself of every day.

Here’s a video of Emmy Meli telling how she wrote her hit,
“I Am Woman.”

Then one day I was at band rehearsal, and a couple of my guitar players were playing a  funky little groove, and I started singing it. I sang these mantras that I’d been saying to myself every day. And there was a point where one of my guitar players looked at me and said, “This is really good…this is really cool.”  So I went home and I went beat-surfing online to get some inspiration and possibly finish this song, or at least hear what it would sound like as an actual song. I found this random little beat and started singing to it. Then I posted that video on TikTok. And here we are today (laughs).

DK: I read that you posted part of “I Am Woman”  on TikTok, and then it went viral. Is that right?

Meli: Yeah, just 44 seconds of it. I hadn’t even written the rest of the song yet.

DK: With the previous songs you released, were you already popular on TikTok? Or was it just suddenly that you hit with “I Am Woman?”

Meli: It was really sudden. I wasn’t popular at all. I mean, I had a couple videos that got a little attention. I had about 4,000 followers.

DK: You now have over 600,000 followers on TikTok. So what did it feel like, when you posted the short version of “I Am Woman” and saw it go viral?

Meli: It felt surreal. I was like…what is happening to me? Because it wasn’t a normal viral video—it was a viral video that turned into a trend (for female empowerment), which makes it so that everyone hears that song. I remember there was a moment, about a month-and-a-half after it all happened, where I finally got to sit down and take a deep breath and stare at the wall and think…my whole life has changed in the best way. But it took some time to sink in.

DK: For the short video of “I Am Woman” that you posted on TikTok, did you record that at your home studio?

Meli: I just set up my phone and propped it on a vase on my coffee table. And I kneeled down and started singing.

Here’s the audio of Emmy Meli’s earlier single, “Wanting More.”

DK: You got your big break on TikTok. What is it about TikTok that allows you and other new artists to connect fast with so many people?

Meli: I think it’s the way the app is structured. The app wants you to keep coming back, and the app wants you to make more content and for more people to see your content. It’s the way the algorithm works. You’re making content that normally shows on people’s For You pages, and matches up with the types of videos they get. Even if you have no followers, you’ll just pop up on somebody’s For You page. It’s very interesting—they want people to see each other (laughs).

DK: You’ve signed a label deal with Disruptor & Arista Records. How did you sign your label deal?

Meli: They actually reached out to me. One of their A&R came to my show, because right after “I Am Woman” started blowing up, I had a show at the Viper Room (in Hollywood). So they came and started opening the door to some discussion. And eventually we decided that, “Hey, this is a good partnership. Let’s do it.”

DK: I read that you have an EP coming out this spring. Can you talk about your EP?

Meli: It’s a little different than some of my most recent stuff. It really leans into where I want to go as an artist. I think it will show people more of who I am, apart from “I Am Woman.” It will show that I’m Emmy and this is what I have to say, and this is my story.  I think it’s going to be pleasantly surprising. The music leans a little more towards the R&B side, which is where my voice naturally lies, and it’s the music that I love most in the world. So I hope that people enjoy it. I’m really proud of this project and excited about it.

Dale Kawashima is the Head of SongwriterUniverse and a music journalist. He’s also a music publishing exec who has represented the song catalogs of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Motown Records.
Dale Kawashima