Singer/guitarist Emily Curtis is developing the local women’s group, Sisters in Song, and expanding her horizons in the emerging enterprise of sync licensing | Photos by Rūta Smith

Singer-songwriter Emily Curtis has been in Charleston all her life and doesn’t feel the need to leave any time soon. 

She’s trickled out some soul pop singles over the last few years, her most recent being the painstakingly honest “Sandcastles,” with the refrain “sandcastles only live for a day and then crumble on the shore” that shows a keen ability to dismantle classic metaphors and uncover a more authentic, apprehensive hope. 

Currently, Curtis is focusing on making her way in the world of sync licensing, developing a newly emerging music industry skill set and growing Sisters in Song, a local women’s music collective she helped start last year with local music industry pro Erika Lamble and music blogger Meggie Hulsey.

Virtual collaboration has become more accessible than ever, and Curtis is taking full advantage by securing a spot in the online music network, The Billboard 500 Club, and completing courses in artist development, vocals, production and songwriting. 

“I work with other songwriters across the globe and do Zoom co-writes, and I’ve been able to produce my own vocals and send those tracks to producers all over the place,” Curtis said. “It’s amazing how many doors have been opened just because you show up, and that’s really valuable, but I think it requires you to be bad at something for a while. It’s a lot of studying and underground work that nobody sees.”

For Curtis, this season of life is about shaking things up. She’s been scaling back the regular, local cover gigs that have been her bread and butter to go after the more challenging pursuit of sync writing in order to receive song placements within the vast terrain of music publishing. 

By receiving access to sync licensing routes and songwriting collaborations through Billboard 500, Curtis is connecting with music supervisors and sync agencies to get her music placed in TV shows, movies and commercials.

“I try to merge my artistry with the sync world because that is honestly the way songwriters can probably make the best living. It will give me the ability to do what I want and the financial freedom to be as creative as I want,” she said. 

Structurally, when she’s producing songs in a sync mindset, instead of employing specific, personal narratives, the songwriting is geared toward generalized, sweeping pictures that can be commercialized more easily. But that’s not to say Curtis doesn’t prioritize freeform writing. 

“I’m outside with my journal and a cup of coffee every single day,” Curtis said. “It’s to the point where I have to (write) or I feel like something is missing from my day.” It’s in these moments of introspection, she says, that lyrics and patterns are revealed.  

“I know I’m not the only one who thinks these things, so which parts of these thoughts are universal and how can I attach something visual to create a song out of this experience for people to attach themselves to?” Curtis said of her internal dialogue. “A great song comes through so many things, so many mistakes — if the song itself is there, it’s going to peek through all the B.S.”

When looking back at her first album from 2017, Hindsight EP, she can see how far she’s come in discovering how to sound the most like herself. 

“When you’re first starting out with production, it’s a packaging technique really for the lyrics and the melody,” she said. “It takes a long time to nail down your sound, and I feel like I’m finally starting to get there now. But that’s also a common experience for most artists I think.”

And it’s the Sisters in Song (S.I.S.) monthly community group that provides space for women in the Charleston music industry to forge a common experience. 

Curtis’s vision for S.I.S. is to generate an ecosystem of healthy women that feel supported enough to do hard things. S.I.S. is all about carrying the weight together, like figuring out how to provide artists services at a discount with shared benefits. It’s about connecting the dots beyond successfully booking or performing shows. 

“I wanted to approach it more from the inside out. Let’s focus on relationships and see what happens because of those relationships. Shows and opportunities are going to happen naturally without trying.”

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