Singer-songwriter Emily King on the "magic" of songwriting

Emily King on the "magic" of songwriting
Emily King on the "magic" of songwriting 03:34

New York native and Grammy nominee Emily King has long won acclaim for her intricate blend of R&B and soul. But the release of her third album "Scenery" has earned her special praise from some of the biggest names in music, including John Legend, Sam Smith, Sara Bareilles and Justin Timberlake.

It makes sense that the singer-songwriter has music in her blood. Her parents Marion Cowings and Kim Kalesti are both jazz singers and she grew up watching them perform.

"I think it was always just put in my spirit," King said of singing. "I don't think I was very good as a child. I was not a prodigy or anything. I think I just kind of forced the issue. I was in the bathroom trying to do Mariah, just you know at the top of my lungs as a kid."

At 15, she tried her hand at writing songs.

Emily King performs "Look At Me Now" 03:21

"I discovered the Beatles around that age and that was when I was like, 'Okay, songs. I'm a song person. That is what I love. Even more than albums, I love songs. How do people come up with songs? Can I be the person that writes a song? Let me try it," she told CBS News' Anthony Mason.

King said her mom helped her get her first gig at New York's The Bitter End. She did "terrible" but got applause thanks to an audience stacked with her friends. 

But by 2004, at just 19, she was signed to Clive Davis' J Records. Her 2007 debut album, "East Side Story," was nominated for a Grammy but a year later she was dropped by her label.

"You can't fool yourself. I've tried, and it just doesn't work. So I think that's what I took from that situation is, like, just go with your instincts, especially creatively," King said.

King has evolved into an acclaimed songwriter, winning the Songwriters Hall of Fame's Holly Prize in 2012, which honors "exceptionally talented and inspired young musicians." But King still doesn't know exactly how she comes up with them.

"There is a magic to it. I think part of it is being open to whatever is going to come to you and showing up for the job and saying, 'okay I'm here," she said.
For King, it usually starts with a melody.

"Sometimes the words will come out, you know, as a mumble … like 'Can't Hold Me' is a song on my record that I had mumbled … I thought that sounds good. But maybe I should try something else." 

Emily King performs "Can't Hold Me" 04:06