INTERVIEW // San Mei on: Grief, ‘Midnight’ and Uber Eats

WORDS BY TARA CAMPBELL

Photo credit: Morgan Hamilton

Recently I sat down to have a chat to Emily Hamilton, better known as San Mei about all things music, isolation, grief and video editing.

How are you?

I’m really good actually. I feel a little guilty for saying that, but it’s been nice to take a break from shows and slow down a little bit. I just recorded a bunch of new songs and it’s been nice to get lost in that whole world of recording.

What was the journey to get to ‘Midnight ‘?

I wrote this- so wild- I think it’s like over ago year now. Thematically, I wrote this in memory of my mum. I called it ‘midnight’ because after she passed, I would consistently wake up at around midnight in a panic of grief. It was like reliving the shock every night. After a while I got to a place of healing and I was like I don’t want to feel like that anymore, I don’t want to always be reflecting on what happened with like so much pain and shock. I wanted to let go peacefully and that’s the chorus lyrics ‘Go sweetly out into the night’. It’s me saying okay, I’m ready to let you go and I wanted it to be a sweet and beautiful thing.

I didn’t mean for it to be this therapeutic thing- I don’t generally write for it to be cathartic, it’s just never been my thing- but this song has helped me come to terms with my grief.

I feel a bit vulnerable releasing such an intimate song, but I am really glad I did it.

Signature Question- If Midnight was a colour, what would it be and why?

I think it would be Navy blue and I don’t know why- it’s always just been Navy blue. The artwork isn’t though, it’s like hot pink. Maybe I’m just thinking of Midnight in a literal way, but it’s just always been that colour to me.

You’ve released a lot of music, what’s your favourite song off your latest EP ‘Cry’?

It always changed when I was writing it, but I think ‘Hard To Face’ is my favourite. It feels like the most ‘me’ song. I didn’t even think I was going to release it when I wrote it, but it all just came out organically and I love how it turned out.

What does music mean to you as a person? Growing up was music a part of your life?

Music definitely was always around me as a child but I wasn’t that into it honestly. My mom forced my sisters and I to take classical piano lessons and my sisters will probably better- maybe not just more diligent- than I was. My parents were very much into music but not musicians so I grew up like listening to like all kinds of things- The Beatles, Opera, Musical Theatre- just everything. But music wasn’t really a thing for me until after high school, I fell in love with it and just knew that I had to pursue it.

With isolation, have you picked up any random hobbies or fun past-times?

I actually don’t think I’ve picked up any hobbies or anything- wait, I mean I’ve become really good at like editing videos, I’ve been putting more effort into my like social media presence. I’ve just been loving learning all these new video editing skills and how to make cool things from that.

Oh! I’ve also become an Uber eats addict, and I never was. I don’t know if it’s because of the stress of leaving the house or if it’s just because I’m lazy, but yep, I’ve become and Uber Eats Addict.

We begin to chat about Universities and pursuing music with lots of laughs in between. Emily makes the comment-

In Australia, we’re very lucky because we can do anything we want, when we want. Like if I want to pursue something when I’m 50 I can do it. The opportunities are great and it inspires me to just take a chance. I remember thinking “If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do something I love whilst I’ve got the chance.”

Jokingly, “maybe I’ll become a video editor and I’ll meet you [Tara Campbell Photography] in the photo pit of the next show, after my set with a video camera”. Many laughs are shared as we continue the rest of the interview.

You’ve had an amazing career so far, particularly in the past three years. Do you have any stand out or ‘wow I’m actually succeeding’ moments?

It’s nice to hear you say that, thank you! I guess as an artist I’m always looking at people that are a few steps ahead of me or where I want to be so it can get really disheartening when things don’t move as quickly as others.

I think a stand out moment was when I started getting added to Triple J because that’s almost peak in Australia. That’s when I was like ‘oh I think I’m doing something right and I should keep doing it’.

Live wise, I think the most exciting thing I’ve done is South by Southwest. That was just like the most special experience I’ve ever had. Other highlights have been playing The Forum in Melbourne, supporting Jack River, or playing festivals- I never take those for granted. I just feel super grateful that I get to do this!

Do you have a favourite lyric from Midnight? Is there a certain line that stands out for you?

I like “I could be a hundred before then”

It goes, it takes a long time honey to cry away these blues, I could be a hundred before then. It just feels more whimsical to me saying that

Thank you so much for having a chat to me Emily. I highly recommend everyone checking out ‘Midnight’ now!

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