An electronic indie-pop artist with a background in punk, Emily Whitehurst is the solo force behind Survival Guide. A California native now residing in Texas, her music obsession began with Green Day, leading her to a dream-come-true life of punk rock as she traversed continents fronting the band Tsunami Bomb as “Agent M.” Over the years, her music gradually shifted toward synth pop in The Action Design, then further into the electronic indie-pop realm as Survival Guide.
What do you enjoy most about being an artist?
There are SO many things to enjoy about it! For me, nothing really tops the feeling of singing loud and strong. There’s nothing else like it! I highly recommend that everyone sing loudly whenever you can – in the shower, in the car, when nobody’s home, or in front of a crowd at karaoke! This may sound cheesy, but it might make you feel more alive than you were a minute before. It does for me! So to get to do it on a regular basis for people who enjoy hearing it is amazing, and I try to never take that for granted.
Since you don’t technically have to be an artist to sing, that didn’t fully answer your question. Another major thing I love about being an artist is that every day is different. Especially being a small, independent artist, I wear many hats. On any given day, I may be writing, recording, playing a show, doing a live stream, designing merch, practicing various instruments, filming a video, plotting a release, shipping out orders, or organizing a spreadsheet… not every moment is amazingly fun, but the variety always keeps it interesting! I am so grateful for it all.
What is your biggest musical challenge?
I consider myself a vocalist above all, but Survival Guide is a solo project, which poses some issues. Initially, I had a guitar player with me, so together we were able to compose music with less effort. Since going solo, I struggled with songwriting, recording myself, performing solo, and generally just believing that I could do those things alone. It’s been a slow road (and I’m definitely still on it), but thankfully, starting with the covers project, I’ve built my confidence over time. I’m also working on being a better musician in general with my live streams – I have a long way to go, but I’m improving at piano and bass while strengthening my vocals too. And doing all this producing, recording and learning has led me to write some songs I’m really proud of! I feel good about all of it, but definitely am still working on the challenge of becoming a better musician in general.
What is your current music project about?
I just released a covers album called Request Hotline Vol. 2, and 10 of the 11 tracks are songs directly requested from fans. I had a reward tier on my Patreon where each person chose a cover for me to record for them. The slots filled up quickly! Initially, I hadn’t considered releasing them to the world, but as I progressed with producing and recording them, I decided why not? I grouped the songs on this album because they’re all from punk artists (due to my background as a punk vocalist), but I morphed almost all of them into other types of music. So we have some dance versions, acoustic piano versions, orchestral stuff and more. I LOVED the aspect of allowing my listeners to choose the songs – it’s such a fun and meaningful way to collaborate with people who are interested in what I do. Thankfully, they were ok with all the different ways I altered their favorite songs!
Has your musical journey had a deliberate direction or did it simply gradually evolve in whatever direction it found?
My musical journey has always been me following my gut, for better or for worse! When I feel like writing songs in a genre I’ve never done before, I do it. When the opportunity arises, I go with it. When the opportunity doesn’t arise, I work on honing my skills and doing better. Sometimes I think I probably should be more deliberate with my path, but that’s never what my gut says to do!
What was the last TV series you watched on TV?
I’m currently watching The Last of Us, and the last one I finished was The Boys. I’m a fan of the darker stuff.
As a kid were you ever frightened of a monster under the bed or in the cupboard?
Yes, except it was the closet. It wasn’t until I was probably 8 or 9 and I read a short story by Stephen King called “The Boogeyman” – I only read it the one time, but what I remember is a monster who came out at night and broke a kid’s neck. Since then, I’ve always slept with the closet door closed!
What would you bring along to an idyllic picnic?
First off, an extra large picnic blanket. There’s not much worse at a picnic than a blanket that’s too small. My perfect picnic would have a fresh loaf of bread, a variety of cheeses (triple cream brie among them for sure), fresh berries, grapes and apples, salami, some veggies and hummus, some refreshing cocktails that I whipped up at home and brought in a thermos, and some homemade fresh-baked cookies. What a dream!
If you had to describe yourself as a flavor, what would it be?
I’m pretty sure if I had a flavor, it would be peanut butter. Because I eat a LOT of peanut butter! Haha. But that’s probably not what you’re asking. Choosing a flavor that’s like me… I think I might say caramel. Sweet and mild, yet also has depth. It’s versatile and can be found in many forms. Sometimes salty, but still always known to sweeten things up. And it perseveres even when burnt.
If you could ask your future self one question, what would it be?
I guess a lot depends on how far in the future I’m seeing, but I think the question to end all questions would be: What can I do to prevent any regrets you may have? Because that’s the main thing our present selves always wish we could go back and do differently. We wish we had hindsight in the present. Of course, future me would have absolutely no proof that changing things would result in a better outcome. So a lot would depend on the state of my future life. I would have to assess how good or bad my future life seemed based on her answer, and then decide whether or not I should take her advice. You know, maybe I just shouldn’t encounter my future self at all!
What are your musical plans for the next 12 months or so?
I have so many exciting plans! Mainly, I did finally end up breaking through my writer’s block, and I wrote and recorded eleven songs for an album. I worked with a wonderful producer named Bob Hoag, and I’m really proud of the music as a result. I’ve teamed up with Double Helix Records to get it beautifully pressed to vinyl and released in the fall. So I’ve got a full schedule coming up to get ready for the release – I can’t wait for everyone to hear it!
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