Is Emma Jaques the Next Macklemore?

emma jaques
Emma Jaques chose her 2013 Arts Walk performance as one of her favorite experiences.


By Tali Haller

sunset airFor many people, finding their true passion can be a lifelong search. But Olympia High School student Emma Jaques has been lucky enough to discover her key to happiness early on. “Music,” she emphasized. “That’s all I want.”

On a whim, Jaques began taking guitar lessons as an eighth grader. Adding her voice into the mix during her freshman year at OHS, Jaques began to discover a meaningful talent. “I started small, playing for my family and friends, but the response I kept getting was very encouraging: ‘Wow, you actually have something,’ people kept telling me,” she said. “I had never been in any school functions. I never did choir, band, or any talent shows up to that point. I had always been solo so I was very unsure of how to get feedback from people who didn’t know me.”

emma jaques
Emma Jaques chose her 2013 Arts Walk performance as one of her favorite experiences.

In fact, throughout middle school, Jaques mentions that she was “rather shy.” It was music that seemed to pull her from her shell. “Playing the guitar was a way for me to communicate and get my feelings out,” she explained. Realizing her raw talent, Jaques started working with a voice and guitar teacher, Dylan Cochran.

With some guidance, Jaques began playing cover songs. “I like to do songs by R&B or rap artists and put my own sound on it,” she said.  Above all, Jaques doesn’t want to sound like somebody else or be a “product” of anyone. “I want my own voice,” she states with emphasis. “When people tell me I sound like a certain artist, I’m supposed to say ‘Thank you,’ and I do. But inside, a little part of me is like ‘Ouch,’ because I want to be my own sound.”

Admittedly, Jaques acknowledges that her voice has often been compared to Lorde and Lana Del Rey, women with deeper voices. So when doing cover songs, she stays away from those artists to prevent people from saying, “Oh, there’s another version!” Instead, she takes songs from male R&B and rap artists like Big Sean, Trey Songz, and Kanye West, putting her own spin on their male bravado.

A close friend of Jaques, fellow high school student Ania Kamkar, describes Jaques voice as “very unique.”

“The human mind is a funny thing. As imaginative as we’d like to think it is, it often recycles things it’s seen into new forms. But then, at certain points, something different comes along and you can just tell. You know it’s different because you can’t see it in your minds eye. You can’t imagine it after you’ve heard it. It’s just there in the moment and then it goes,” explains Ania.  “To me, Emma’s voice is like that. When I first heard it, we were just beginning to become friends, and objectively, I can say it wasn’t like anything I’d heard before. It was like a new color.  The newness, the originality.  That is what makes Emma’s voice so powerful and intriguing.”

emma jaques
Musician Emma Jaques is contemplating college options following her graduation from Olympia High School.

With support from family and friends, Jaques began to play at local venues during her junior year of high school. “It felt so good to play for people I didn’t know because I wasn’t worried about getting fake reactions. I could see their genuine feelings written on their face, or told to me afterwards,” she recalls. Jaques has performed at a variety of places, including Batdorf and Bronson Coffee Roasters, Urban Onion, Kitzels,  and Cafe Love. “My favorite performance was during the 2013 Arts Walk. I had a constant stream of people listening to my music and a big crowd all night,” she said.

So far, Jaques has been working for free. With her goal “to entertain and to get practice,” the experience has been her compensation. “I enjoy doing it for nothing. I get paid in people’s reactions, their smiles, and their comments,” she notes.

But in the future, Jaques recognizes the need to make a living. Thinking about her future, Jaques contemplates further education. “Knowing that I want to pursue music makes it hard to choose a college. There’s a lot more stress because if it doesn’t work out for you, then there’s a lot of debt to pay off,” she admits. Keeping this in mind, Jaques plans to enroll at South Puget Sound Community College in the fall of 2014. At SPSCC, Jaques can benefit from being at home, having time to focus on her music, and extending her local community base -all at a very reasonable tuition cost. She plans to build a foundation for her music in Olympia and then branch out to Seattle. “Part of me is like, ‘That sounds perfect,’ but another part of me is like, ‘This town is great but it’s safe,’” she observes. “Maybe I need to get out of my comfort zone to launch my career.”

emma jaques
Emma Jaques is shown here playing at a friend’s party.

“I know that a lot of people want to sing and play and have a musical career. To some people, I think it’s a deterrent knowing there are so many others out there competing with you. But if it’s something you love, you’re not going to give up, even after a rejection,” says Jaques. Although these are just words, her actions have already shown she means what she says. “Going through high school, I’ve had to meet with so many guidance counselors, teachers, adults, even other students who don’t believe in me,” she observes. “When I tell them what I want to do, they say, ‘So, what’s your Plan B?’ But the truth is, I don’t have a ‘Plan B.’” Fessing up, Jaques mentions how angry she feels when asked about alternative plans. “It’s like they expect me to fail. When I see that, I just want to sit them down and sing for them, show them that I can take a different path and still be successful, show them what I have.”

While Jaques hasn’t officially finished writing any of her own songs, these strong feelings have served as the basis for some of Jaques beginning lyrics. She writes about living in a society as a young adult, but breaking away from the norm. “Instead of feeling trapped in a community where people graduate high school, go to college, grow up, get married, and do it all over again with their kids; I write about going your own way,” she said. Her main themes are individualism and independence. “It’s not about the money. If it was, I would go to school to become a doctor or a lawyer. I could do that,” she states. “It’s not even about the fame. Yes, I want my music to be spread, but the main reason I’m doing this is because it’s the best thing in the world to me.”

“Music is why I get up in the morning,” explained Jaques. And in the time remaining before high school comes to an end, Jaques is working hard to finish her compositions and compile her work into a small CD or an EP, which is like a 6-track CD.

It’s passion like hers that has propelled other talented musicians to fame. The now rich and extremely famous Macklemore also came from humble beginnings in Washington, even attending The Evergreen State College in Olympia.


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