There is only one pop rocker that I really seem to be digging at the moment and that is most definitely the uber talented Val Emmich.  But watch out, not only is he charming the crowds with his passionate and softly powerful pop songs, he’s also making Ugly Betty go swoon swoon on the small screen.  In this interview with EQ, Val talks about the concept of his new album “Little Daggers”, being compared vocally to Billy Idol and what it’s like to work with America Ferrara on Ugly Betty.  Enjoy!

EQ: Hello Val – how are you today?

Val Emmich:
Ok. I’m in San Francisco as part of a west coast promo trip. Haven’t been back here in a while. It’s a visually beautiful city.

So let’s get right into it. I love the theme of “Little Daggers”. You’ve explained the theme being that songs can be powerful weapons. What led you to theme the album this way?
I knew that I wanted to make a pop record but I wanted it to be a smart pop record. I wanted to prove that that phrase – “smart pop” – isn’t an oxymoron. Pop is often a dirty word as it’s considered cheap or dumb music that might tickle the body but not the mind. So I worked hard to make songs that were instantly catchy and very appealing on the surface but that also had a lot of depth in the musical layering and the lyrics. That’s where the image of the dagger comes in. A dagger is a weapon that you need to be very close to your enemy to use. I liked that as a metaphor. I would coax people in with a somewhat sugary sound and then hopefully leave a wound with bits of emotional truth that can be found in the lyrics.

So your new single “Get On With It” is fantastic. What was it like filming the video? It looked like a real workout!
It was a workout and it was very cold out that day. Especially when sliding down the Slip N’ Slide. That was freezing! The making of it was a lot of fun though. The cast and crew were all friends of mine. I did that
video with my longtime collaborator and good friend Matt Schuman. We have a shorthand when we work together. We usually go out for coffee and just spit out ideas. Our goal is to entertain people while making them feel emotion. We also like to see how far we can take things. For example, we ask ourselves, can we fit a chess match into this video? Or a ninja fight? The answer is normally “Yes!”

“Get On With It”

A lot of people don’t know that you’ve been making albums for years. Aside from “Little Daggers” which album of yours should pop rock fans check out?

“Slow Down Kid”
is my album from 2004. As far as pop rock that one is the closest. But my most sprawling artistic effort was probably my 2006
album “Sunlight Searchparty” which was recorded live with my band and features a much more organic, naked sound. I’m really proud of that album.

You’re in Ugly Betty now! How did that gig come about?
I auditioned like everyone else. I brought my guitar in and had to sing in addition to doing the lines. I thought I had blew it because I had never seen the show and when I went home and finally watched it, I wondered if I had missed the vibe of the show. Turns out I didn’t. Best part is that I play a musician and I get to play my own songs on the show. So it’s a perfect promotional opportunity.


Is it a far stretch for you playing the part of Jesse? A charming indie rocker on the TV show – Very similar to you in real life or completely different?
It’s not much of a stretch. I would say that I’m more reserved than Jesse. For example, I never had the courage to do open-mic nights at coffee houses but that’s something Jesse does. I think he’s overall pretty innocent and means well and I like that about him.

What’s it like working with America Ferrera – spill the beans!
America is an absolute sweetheart. She’s incredibly down-to-earth and also she makes herself available to you. Not to mention, she’s super talented and can flip right into Betty at any second. She doesn’t require any warming up whatsoever.

Is acting going to be as important to your career as music or will they be on equal footing?
I don’t really plan it out. I’ve been acting for almost ten years now. It was normally just in the background. Just a curiosity. But I’m taking it more seriously lately. My main goal no matter what I do is just to test my limits as a person and experience new things. Also to be creative. If music and acting keep providing those things for me then I’ll continue to do both.


I can’t help but compare you vocal style to Billy Idol actually – cringe-worthy or a compliment?
I have never gotten that comparison but it is CERTAINLY not cringe-worthy. It’s an amazing compliment. He’s in a category all by himself.

Safe to say you won’t be dressing up in black leather and dying your hair platinum blond then?
Not quite.

I love your song “Got A Habit Now” – explain to us how that song came about.
Lyrically it’s about how when people drink alcohol they tend to say things that they wouldn’t normally say when sober. Normally that’s not a good thing but in that song I think I show it as being a helpful tool. What if a vice like that leads to positive things? In that case better communication with another person. In reality, it’s really not something to make a habit of but for the song it works. Musically, it’s a total old school pop song complete with do wop backing vocals. The main vocal I recorded in a hotel room when I was on tour. I liked it so much that I kept it and didn’t try to changing it when recording the album.


You recently said in an interview that you hate it when people come to your show and don’t pay attention to you in the front row – why does that burst your bubble? I totally would feel the same way though!
I just feel like if you don’t want to pay attention then why come? It’s one thing to be in the back but to be in the front row is just rude. It’s equivalent to heckling. I don’t see the difference. It’s also just a lack of manners. If I’m going to see a performance of any kind I show respect to the person on stage and I expect nothing less from my audiences. The other aspect of it is that if people are in the front row and not paying attention then I have to put part of the blame on myself. I’m not doing my job if I can’t manage to own their full attention. And that pisses me off.

Well thanks Val for your time – Any parting words for our EQ readers?
Appreciate it. I’m off to make some trouble.