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Em Ly: More Than Just Catchy Tunes

By Alasdair McClintock @aldothewriter on October 8, 2021 in Arts

Beautifully Honest.

If you’ve spent any time on the coastal walk from Bondi to Clovelly, you may already know Em Ly. She’s the one who sings while she’s walking.
“It’s my only time to practice,” she explained to The Beast, “I get a few strange looks, but mostly people just ignore me.”
Being the mother of two children, Alexander, 5, and Abigail, 7, it’s completely understandable. The fact Em even finds the time to walk the coastal walk is quite remarkable in itself, but somehow she has managed to write and record her debut single, Quiet Spaces, during this busy time as well.
Fans of Adele and Lorde will definitely get a kick out of it, but it is more than just a catchy tune.
“There’s a backstory for Quiet Spaces,” Em revealed, “which is about domestic violence and coercive control.
“But there’s also a bigger backstory about my mental health journey, starting with a psychotic episode in 2012, and how, at the end of my relationship with my narcissistic mother, I turned to singing and started the journey to find my voice. The two things are tightly interwoven. It’s a bit complicated, I’m trying to write a memoir about it, but I’m a bit stuck.”
There is a beautiful honesty in both the song and Em’s openness with her struggles. In what has been a very tough year for everyone, speaking about your mental health has never been more important. You may be saving someone else’s life, not just your own, with such openness. Em isn’t just speaking, she is singing.
“In 2019, I had a relapse of my bipolar disorder and fell into a particularly bad depression. I was suicidal, and all the things that usually helped me to manage my illness weren’t working. I was eating well, exercising like a fiend, not drinking alcohol, I had a good psychiatrist, a loving and kind husband and two beautiful children, but nothing seemed to shift the dark clouds that were enveloping me. I started singing lessons because it filled me with joy and hope, and I needed to cling to those feelings to stay alive.
“Music is my coping mechanism. The more I create and sing, the better I feel. Music fills me with indescribable joy. In my darkest hours, I turned to music, and it kept me safe.”
“A friend suggested I try writing a song, so I roped my friend Erin Clare in to help me. We collaborated; I wrote the lyrics, she wrote the music. I was very fortunate that my friend, the wonderful Adrian Breakspear, agreed to produce the song. He’s an ARIA Award winning producer (Gang of Youths, CLEWS, Johnny Hunter).”
While Em is still trying to write a memoir about her experiences, for now she has settled for a song – a cracking song. Quiet Spaces is available to stream on all the usual suspects. Give it a spin. More importantly, reach out if you need to.