Chicago Comes Together in “Empower” Against Violence: An Interview with Emily Blue and Gem Tree

Dedicated to victims of mass shootings and domestic terror, proceeds from “Empower” will go to Cure Violence, a charity with worldwide impact in violence prevention. cureviolence.org

Empower (We Grow) - Emily Blue

We’re gonna spread love, we’re gonna empower,” sing Emily Blue, Gem Tree, and over 15 other Chicago artists. These powerful words resonate deep within us in “Empower (We Grow),” an anti-violence anthem of love and togetherness.

No matter what happens, I got you
And no matter what happens, you got me
The wind may take us
We may fall on our faces
But we get back up again
“Empower” – Emily Blue, Gem Tree, Ric Wilson + various artists


2017 has, like so many before it, been a year plagued by violence. According to Gun Violence Archive, guns alone have been the cause of over 14,000 deaths in the United States over the past 11 months. At that rate, another 1300 lives will end before we celebrate New Year’s – and that’s just based on guns alone. Chicago has been a particular hotbed of violent activity this year, which makes this the perfect moment for a song like “Empower” to come our way.

Empower © Emily Blue

Empower © Emily Blue

The world is a cruel one, baby sometimes
But this world could be beautiful
If we made up our minds
For no more hatred,
no more innocence wasted
Can we get back up again?
Won’t you say you’ll be there, you’ll be there

A collaboration crossing generations and genres, “Empower” is an inspiring example of what people can accomplish when they come together. All proceeds go to Cure Violence, an organization aimed to curb violence in Chicago. Led by Chicago singer/songwriter (and Tara Terra frontwoman) Emily Blue, “Empower” includes Yomi, Anna Agosta, Matthew Santos, Olive IV, Nehemiah Harris, Joslyn-Marie, Good At Bad, Dan Durley, Raven Byerly, Gem Tree, Carlile (Woo Park), Ric Wilson, Moonrise Nation, JDP, James Moore, Evan Ireland, Evan Opitz, Ben Montalbano, Mariel Fechik, and Joseph Meland. The overwhelming roster join voices in a singular message as “Empower” calls for all to unite and help those impacted by senseless violence in their communities.

Empower © Emily Blue

Empower © Emily Blue

It’s not the first time Emily Blue has taken a powerful stand through her art: Her anthemic 2016 single “No Pain,” premiered last year by Atwood Magazine, aims to break the silence of rape culture. Today, together with fellow Chicagoans Gem Tree and Ric Wilson, she passionately sings for peace and understanding:

‘Cause we’re gonna spread love,
we’re gonna empower

We grow by the second,
we grow by the hour,

And our arms will be branches
And these branches grow flowers
We’re gonna spread love,
we’re gonna empower

Because Chicago has had enough violence. Our world has had enough violence and unnecessary death. “Empower” is a message to all, that these artists and their supporters are done with the hatred, the unnecessary divides, the hurt, the pain, and the suffering.

Feed the people good energy, help good energy win.

– Gem Tree

Atwood Magazine is proud to support “Empower,” its artists, and its message. Emily Blue and featured artist Gem Tree shed more light on their radiant new single in our exclusively interview below. Join these Chicago artists and Atwood Magazine in diving deeper into “Empower,” and spread love – not violence.

:: stream/purchase “Empower (We Grow)” here ::

Empower © Emily Blue

Empower © Emily Blue

AN EMPOWERING INTERVIEW

Emily Blue: What does “Empower” mean to you, both as a word and as a song?

Gem Tree: Simply, to uplift. With so much going on in the world, it’s necessary to make sure that your personal energy is good and positive. That way, when we encounter others, we may be the light that they may need. That’s exactly how I feel about this song. We’re all agreeing on the bigger picture, love.

Gem Tree: What initiated it being so important to make this song a priority of yours?

Emily Blue: The day of the Las Vegas shooting I was just reading the news on my phone in utter shock. It struck me how frequent violence impacts our country, and our world, but this shooting in particular struck me at the core. I think it was that day or the day after that I decided to ask everyone I knew if they wanted to join forces and create this song for charity. I was blown away by the responsiveness and the amount of people that contributed to this.

Gem Tree: How did the song originally form? Was it a melody in your head? Did you write it on the keys first?

Emily Blue: The chorus “we’re gonna spread love, we’re gonna empower” was something I wrote a little while back and just repeated in my own head when I felt I needed support. For some reason, singing it just made me feel like I was holding hands with the whole world. And then, when Las Vegas happened, I sat down at the piano and poured out the rest. My favorite moment is the part where everyone sings “we grow,” because there’s so much determination in that phrase when we unify voices. Obviously your verse adds an entire other layer that I think makes the song feel complete and much more beautiful. I love that collaborative aspect as well.

Empower © Emily Blue

Empower © Emily Blue

Emily Blue: Your verse is one of the longest and most prominent parts of the song -- can you break down some of your favorite or most meaningful lines?

Gem Tree: I’m blessed to be a part of this for sure. Crazy thing is, I wrote my verse about 20 min before I was about to record my layer on the chorus. I just got inspired suddenly; this time go-round, listening to the song. And line from line just flowed out my pen. That’s when I then-after sent it over to you, Blue. I’m all like “I added something extra. I just felt it. It’s ok if you don’t use it.” It was obviously supposed to be part of the song.

Hmmm…I’d say my favorite line of my verse is the very first one:

See growin’ pains won’t last always
We gonna gain after the rain
When the sun comes
and we act as one…
that’s a tax claim

This line is a bit beyond surface. I’m very spiritual. I’m speaking on the time that it takes for a wound to heal, by saying, “See growin pains won’t last always.” It takes seeing the light to get out of a dark place. I then follow by saying, “We’re going to gain, after the rain. When the sun comes and we act as one, that’s a tax claim. That’s me affirming that my good works are not in vain. That’s the seed I planted, I’m due the fruit. Feel me?

Emily Blue: How do you view music in terms of political and social change?

Gem Tree: Music is a powerful tool. Feed the people good energy, help good energy win.

Gem Tree: What do you hope this song will do for the listeners?

Emily Blue: I’m hoping it makes them feel connected to one another, and motivated to spread love in their community. Empathy is so important, and taking the time to listen to one another.

Emily Blue: What is the Chicago music community like and what are some special experiences here?

Gem Tree: The Chicago music community is actually pretty small. Everybody knows everybody. It is pretty clicked up at times though. So I’ll say that the special experiences within it is stuff like “Empower”. The community does know how to come together for the greater good often times as well. There are so many great things happening in the city right now, and there are plenty artists contributing to that.

Emily Blue: What was it like joining so many other artists for one track?

Gem Tree: It was pretty amazing. What really made it cool for me is that when I wrote the verse it was after I heard everyones contributions to the song. It felt grand. I’m hearing al of these relevant/familiar voices, and then I go and write a verse that wasn’t asked for. lol It’s great. Literally.

Empower © Emily Blue

Empower © Emily Blue

Gem Tree: How do you plan to continue making magic like “Empower” happen?

Emily Blue: Wow, I’m not sure! It’s my dream to perform “Empower” in a Chicago venue with every single person on the song.

I’m also working on two albums right now and I always end up peppering in details that involve social justice, my queer identity, or the experience of being a woman somehow, even without intending to. I have a song called Dum Blonde coming out soon that sort of pokes fun at people that have underestimated me as a woman, or a feminine person, and I hope that people can take away an empowering message (even if they’re not blonde haha). I just love taking a critical stance on our world and trying to find ways we can make it better.

Emily Blue: What do you hope to see in our political future and how do you hope to contribute to that?

Gem Tree: I hope to see more humanity in our political future. Equality. Compassion. Actions. I’m going to keep doin’ what I’m doin’. With love.

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:: stream/purchase “Empower (We Grow)” here ::

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Empower (We Grow) - Emily Blue

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photo © Emily Blue
artwork © Scott Durand

:: Emily Blue ::


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Emily Blue Is More Than 'Another Angry Woman' on Empowering Debut

:: album premiere ::

Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com