Emily King is promoting her 2015 self-released album “The Switch.” (Courtesy Shervin Lainez)

Jazzy R&B singer Emily King breaks out on her own

Jazzy New York pop-R&B chanteuse Emily King has nearly called it quits a number of times over her decade-plus career in music. Even though she started auspiciously by signing to prestigious J Records in 2004, her Grammy-nominated debut disc “East Side Story” wasn’t released until three years later. Her follow-up, “The Switch,” didn’t hit shelves until 2015, via her own indie imprint, Making Music Records. “There were a lot of times I wanted to give up,” she says. “So I’m really lucky to have a lot of people who brought me back up to speed and made me want to keep going.”

Signing to J Records must have been a really proud moment.

Yeah. I felt like, “Hey! That’s my ticket! Tomorrow: fame! I’m ready!” But in the three years it took to make my record, I had a lot of back and forth with the label, trying to figure out my direction as a new artist. So I did what they told me to do. And I cried a lot.

What did you foolishly agree to then?

They were giving me a lot of outfits to try on, both literally and figuratively. Like, “Here – maybe you’re Diana Ross.” Or, “You’re the next Whitney Houston.” It was confusing, and I didn’t have the guts to tell them no, I’m not doing that. So I went the long route. I just tried everything.

What were some of the more preposterous proposals?

Nose job. I was told that I could get a nose job if I wanted one. And I was like, “Umm…can I just put my record out?” I was not so much hurt as completely upset about that kind of thing. It seemed like such a distraction when all I really wanted was to make my music.

How did you extricate yourself from the J deal?

Well, I got lucky and they fired me! And it was a very casual “uh, we’re not renewing your contract” and I suddenly stopped hearing from all the people I was working with. It was pretty cold. But at the same time, I met my producer, Jeremy Most, and he basically said, “Make music, no matter what, and you’ll be OK. And if you really give it your all, people will listen to it.”

But the tools for independence are out there, right?

When we were releasing my (2011) EP “Seven,” we found Tunecore, a company that fights for indie artists, and that was a lifesaver. You pay them a yearly fee, and your music is outsourced to all major platforms, like iTunes. And that was when I became my own label.

Emily King
Where: Chapel, 777 Valencia St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Aug. 3
Tickets: $20 to $22 (sold out)
Contact: (415) 551-5157, www.ticketfly.com

East Side StoryEmily KingjazzR&BSwitch

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