TikTok has quickly become the most popular social media app out there. It has given millions of people a platform to show their artistry and talents. It was here in July 2020 that Em Beihold, 22, posted a viral TikTok with the chorus of what became “City of Angels.” Within three months, “City of Angels” amassed 1 million Spotify plays with no editorial playlists. In May 2021, Beihold posted the first verse of her newest original song "Groundhog Day," which received over 20 million views between TikTok and Instagram Reels. “Groundhog Day” was also listed as a Spotify Viral 50 song in both the U.S. and the Philippines.
We got the chance to ask Em more about her writing, TikTok, and new music video.
BB: Em, you're a singer/songwriter based in Los Angeles, California. What made you get into music?
EB: When I was six, I remember passing by a piano in a store window and asking my parents if I could take lessons. It was kind of a rash request that they kindly agreed to, contingent on me promising to practice. It seemed reasonable enough, but fast forward a few years and I was the WORST at practicing and quickly learned that rehearsing Chopin definitely wasn’t my calling. I far preferred experimenting with chord progressions and seeing where they would take me, even if I didn’t know what the heck I was playing.
I was fortunate to have a teacher named, Jamieson Trotter, who was not only supportive of this exploration, but also exposed me to all different types of music including jazz, blues, contemporary, salsa, you name it. It was then I discovered my all-time favorite artist, Regina Spektor, whose work inspired me to start writing songs. I remember hearing Regina’s song “The Call, ” in fourth grade and feeling like I had transcended from my body, because it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard. That sounds super dramatic, but alas!, I learned how powerful music could be.
BB: You blew up on TikTok last year with the chorus of what became “City of Angels.” What made you join the app and what was your reaction to the response?
EB: Like most people my age, I thought TikTok was for a younger generation and I was pretty against downloading it at first, funny enough. A few of my friends were trying to get me into it and I eventually gave in. I think being stuck at home during a global pandemic very well may have also contributed to that decision. But thank goodness I did, because it changed my life. I couldn’t believe the reaction to “City of Angels.” I had always made an effort to like and respond to every comment on my previous videos, but all of a sudden I couldn’t keep up with the speed of the notifications. It was exhilarating, but also stressful, and unlike anything I had ever experienced before with social media.
Because of that video I met my closest collaborator, McClain Portis. He helped me continue to market “City of Angels,” as well as strategize the “Groundhog Day” social media campaign.
BB: Your newest song, “Groundhog Day,” came about in a similar way when you posted the first verse on TikTok. Many people connected with it because it's so relatable. What goes into your song writing process and composition?
EB: Usually when I write a song, it stems from a lyric that pops into my head with a melody behind it. I remember scrolling through Instagram and seeing that a friend of mine had just gotten married hence the lyric, “All my friends are moving on / Getting hitched and then they’re gone” that starts “Groundhog Day.” I had written the first verse and pre-chorus that same night. After writing that line I got stuck, so I brought it to a good friend of mine, Laura Jean Anderson, who helped me co-write the rest of it. She had mentioned the concept of Groundhog Day when we got to the chorus, and it caused a spark. It explained exactly how I felt, I had just told my parents that everyday felt like Groundhog Day. I felt purposeless and couldn’t land a job, no matter how many I seemed to apply to. The title and concept was definitely written in the stars.
BB: The music video for “Groundhog Day,” has such a great aesthetic, I also love the behind the scenes video giving a shout out to the crew. How did it all come about and how long did it take to shoot?
EB: I met Isaiah Mirigian, the director, through McClain. We scheduled a meeting fairly soon after the release of the song to go over concepts for the music video. Isaiah vibed with me wanting the video to be Wes Anderson-esque. We conceptualized each scene of the music video alongside, Max Lee, who was the DP on the project. It was shot at my house starting at 9 AM and ending at about 6 PM. It was one of the most fun days of my life and I love all those boys so much. Shoutout to Kirk Cedric, and Zade Batal, as well for being part of the crew!
BB: Are you planning an album and any thought about doing some live performances?
EB: Yes! I’m playing my first live show since 2019 at the Hotel Cafe on August 3rd at 6:30 PM! I’m super excited because I haven’t been on stage in forever! It's great that there’s actually a community of people supporting my music that doesn’t just consist of my immediate family and close friends. I’ve also been working on a lot of tracks in the studio, which I’m excited to share soon. The plan is to keep releasing singles until there’s enough demand for an EP!
BB: Finally what advice would you give budding artist trying to make it in these very social media based times?
EB: It’s all about consistency. After “City of Angels,” nothing was really sticking with people for a few months, It was pretty rough, but I kept posting videos until the “Groundhog Day” moment happened. The ebb and flow of virality can definitely be an emotional challenging. It’s important to stay level-headed about everything, especially when the moment is happening. One viral moment definitely doesn’t equate to your only shot to make it as an artist.
Also, have fun and don’t overthink it! People love seeing the real you, so be yourself, and act as if your audience is a group of your close friends. You got this :)
Listen to more of Em's music here!