The roller coaster-hating population would be glad to admit Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Em Beihold amongst its ranks. Em’s reason for hating the popular amusement park ride, however, goes beyond a common sense of self-preservation and the fact of apparent danger.
If you’ve scrolled through social media anytime after May of last year, chances are you’ve heard a version of Em’s voice, either slowed down or sped up, in her wildly popular collaboration with Stephen Sanchez on his song ‘Until I Found You’, or ‘Numb Little Bug’, a platinum hit from her debut EP Egg In The Backseat.
Her latest single ‘Roller Coasters Make Me Sad’ is inspired by the success of ‘Numb Little Bug’ and metaphorically all the complexities of artistic success.
“It’s about the experience with ‘Numb Little Bug’,” she admits. “On the day it dropped, the response was insane. I should’ve been happy. Instead, I felt this pressure to keep the momentum going. I knew that everything that goes up must come down. I was bracing for the fall, because it was so unbelievably good. I couldn’t just enjoy the ride. At the same time, I actually do hate roller coasters, and we found a way to tie that together with this idea,” she laughs.
Regardless of how you first stumbled upon her, with over a billion streams, Billboard recognition, appearances on late night TV, critical acclaim from outlets such as The NYT, Teen Vogue, and Stereogum, and the adoration of social media backing her, you should expect to hear more of her brutally honest dark-humour and existential crises-inspired lyrics accompanied with contrasting upbeat, catchy music.
Em Beihold is very much the new guard resonating the voice of an emerging generation, and she’s here to stay.
How has growing up in LA influenced your writing considering it figures prominently in some of your songs?
Both my parents work in animation and growing up, we’d always go to cultural or art events around town. I often went to Hollywood Bowl with my parents and attended an arts-oriented school where we even had an arts festival.
There was also a lot of support for the arts found in those schools and I had teachers who would stay after school because they saw potential in my craft of writing and wanted to help me with it.
You can be inspired anywhere, but LA is the hub of music and art and people who want to help you with that.
You’ve mentioned that ‘Roller Coasters Make Me Sad’ was written in response to the sudden success of ‘Numb Little Bug’, so when exactly did you begin writing the former?
I wrote it in May of 2022. It was after I came back from a tour; a concept I had been sitting on with my collaborators since before I left. We’d even been talking about the title because we had a conversation about theme parks and how it relates to the music industry.
When I get to the top of a roller coaster, I don’t get scared but depressed, and it’s the same with how I feel about music.
I usually try to take a break from sessions right after returning from a tour. But in this case, I scheduled sessions myself instead of waiting for my management and was too excited to write this song. It’s funny that an unplanned session turns into the song being released.
You’ve previously stated that the title of ‘Numb Little Bug’ was inspired by your fans’ reactions to your TikTok captions and later took on a life of itself. Would you say that social media has had an impact on your writing or do you try to keep that separate from your writing process?
I try to keep it separate. Sometimes I write something not thinking of social media but in retrospect, I realise that it would probably go well on social media, or I write a poetic lyric and think it would not work as well.
I think you sacrifice your art if you’re writing for a medium like TikTok or social media in general.
It’s a super helpful tool but I wouldn’t say I write for it.
What are you most looking forward to as an opener for Lewis Capaldi’s upcoming North America tour?
That will be the biggest tour I’ve ever done, so just the fact that I’ll be playing Radio City Hall and Grand Ole Opry is crazy to me because I never would have imagined playing venues that big.
I’m also excited to simply be in his presence and see his show, he’s so funny. I tend to not follow a lot of celebrities on social media because it becomes prone to comparison and I feel like some are not always genuine, but I’ve followed him forever because he’s just a joy to watch.
I’m really honoured that out of everyone, it’s him, because he’s truly awesome.
What is your songwriting process like, and why name your debut album Egg In The Backseat?
Growing up, I always wore my hair in a tight ponytail and you couldn’t see hair in the front so I resembled an egg. My friends called me an egg and it’s something that lasted a while.
When we were writing Egg In The Backseat, we were talking about how this guy broke through my mental walls and I believe what we wanted to refer to was how he ‘cracked me’, and I mentioned an egg in the backseat as a complete joke and later figured I could totally say that.
It’s a very me lyric whose complete meaning I don't necessarily know, but it definitely felt right, and sometimes lyrics are meant to be like that.
In ‘Roller Coasters Make Me Sad’, you speak about the whirlwind of emotions artists experience and this is quite relatable to everyone in the creative arts — that soaring feeling followed by a sudden return to the ground. It’s rare for an artist to be as open about it as you have. What advice do you have for creatives going through that situation?
I think I’m very much figuring it out.
That happened with ‘Numb Little Bug’ and it’s also happening with the Stephen Sanchez collaboration, and I definitely feel the pressure of trying to maintain the momentum and communicate to people who know the song and not me that it’s me.
It’s really important to stay grounded, keep working, and have a community of people with mutual love. I like to go on retreats with my collaborators and that brings me peace because I was in the moment with them and not checking my phone 24/7, which I tend to do when I’m at home.
That’s another thing — not looking at your phone 24/7 and remembering to live in the moment. Moments are inevitably going to end but that doesn’t mean that you’re not worthy anymore, it’s just how this industry works.
Do you have any songs or artists you tune in to when you’re feeling a little bit tired of life?
Here’s my super blunt answer — currently, it’s actually music that’s really stressing me out. So when I’m feeling a little bit tired of life, it’s silence and walking.
Before music began stressing me out, it was probably Regina Spektor because she’s always been my favourite.
I hope my answer changes soon and I’m able to appreciate music again.
Of all your releases, which one — or ones — were the hardest to create; musically, creatively, in approaching songwriting, execution, or perhaps a combination of these?
‘Numb Little Bug’. It went through three sets of producers and fourteen versions.
I knew that I liked the song and what it said, but it just didn’t sound right yet and I never put out anything I’m not satisfied with.
I’m also experiencing that at the moment with a couple of songs — I like the song but I can’t get behind the production. It’s definitely a journey, finding the right balance.
So far, has there been that one defining moment which made you confident that you are on the right path?
The truth is when ‘Numb Little Bug’ released, everything happened so quickly that it’s hard to pinpoint a specific moment. It’s a tornado of opportunities I never would have imagined.
I remember when I received a text from an artist I’d known of for a while asking if I wanted to open for them on tour. Until then, I hadn’t really thought of touring. It’s worth mentioning that I never imagined the popstar route for myself — Regina Spektor and others do little tours but they don’t have these choreographies or insane production.
I’d also say when I got the call for Jimmy Fallon. That was a crazy thing because now we knew this was on a whole another level and not just a TikTok thing.
Listen to Em's latest single 'Roller Coasters Make Me Sad' now available on all streaming platforms.
Ayesha H. is healthline zine's Blog + Contests Dir. who was probably too preoccupied lamenting deadlines and trying to stop her rabbit from ripping apart the couch to write this bio.