Emily Ann Roberts on Fiery “He Set Her Off”: “This Could Be My Three Minutes”

“There are so many songs about women going crazy on their man in country music and I’ve always thought to myself, surely, we’re not just born crazy – something makes us that way,” Emily Ann Roberts tells American Songwriter of her song “He Set Her Off.”

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The track lives in the spirit of Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder & Lead” or The Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl” given its thematic content. But Roberts brings a honky tonk energy to the song that gives it a fresh perspective.

She was the last one in this town we would’ve thought would snap / Guess he finally found the straw that broke the camel’s back / Now she’s lightin’ camels and sippin’ chardonnay / She’s dressed up to the nines and all the cops are on their way, Roberts sings in the opening lines of the song.

Roberts got her start on season nine of The Voice. Her audition landed her a spot on Blake Shelton’s team, where she honed her sound alongside the country icon. Since then, Roberts has played the coveted Grand Ole Opry stage 16 times, earned more than 19 million streams and a number of lauds from the press and fans alike.

The singer sat down with American Songwriter to discuss her latest release and the fiery spirit of womanhood that inspired the song.

American Songwriter: This is really a classic storytelling country song. You got the idea for the lyrics from a quote you saw online, right?

Emily Ann Roberts: Yes, I read a quote on Pinterest [from Frida Kahlo] that said, “She’s not fragile, like a flower. She’s fragile, like a bomb.” I thought, “Oh gosh, that’s probably true for most women.” There are so many songs about women going crazy on their men in country music. I always thought to myself, “Well, surely we’re not born crazy. Something makes us that way.” That’s where this whole idea came from. People love that line so, I’m thankful I saw that quote!

AS: Do you find inspiration from other writing a lot? Is that a staple in your songwriting process?

EAR: The way someone phrases something will often spark songwriting inspiration. I think it’s very interesting how other people put words together. That sounds very simple but, people just go at communication in different ways. So it’s really inspiring for me to read books and look at quotes.

AS: So when you first sat down to write this song with Seth Mosley and Parker Welling, what did it look like? Did you bring the quote into the room and it just evolved from there?

EAR: I wanted to write something really fun and bluegrassy. Something in the vein of what The Chicks did with so many of their killer up-tempo songs. So sonically, I knew what it would sound like. Then we just needed to figure out the story. We framed the entire song around the quote. We started writing the story by asking, “What happened? What did this woman do? And what did he do to set her off.”

AS: You’ve had this song for years. Why did it not make the cut the first time around?

EAR: We knew it was special on the day we wrote it. We all loved it, but I write so many songs that for some reason this one fell on the back burner. Maybe it’s because it needed this timing. I truly believe everything happens for a reason. It seems to be really connecting with people today.

AS: This song first started to garner attention on TikTok before it got an official release. Do you like putting music out that way? Or do you think it’s just the way of the industry right now, to have a significant online presence?

EAR: TikTok has changed a lot of things in the music industry, but I’m so thankful for it. It feels strange to feel like you have to take all of your songs to TikTok, but in the same way, it’s a blessing. A ton of people have discovered my music and my artistry that would never have known about it if it wasn’t for that platform. I’ve tried to embrace it and figure out ways to make it as fun as I can for me and for the people watching the videos. I’m leaning into it and it’s working.

AS: How do you think this song has pushed you as a songwriter or evolved your career?

EAR: This song really stretches me as a performer and a songwriter. It’s a true story song and it’s sassy. When I sing it live, I have to get into that character, which is really fun for me. This song has done a lot for me in my career so far. They say in Nashville that “everybody is looking for their three minutes.” With the engagement and feedback from the listeners on this song, this could very well be my three minutes. It’s really cool to see what my music brings out in people. That’s one thing this song has done.

AS: Is there a particular fan interaction, either online or in person, that stands out?

EAR: A lot of people have been making videos on TikTok using the song and that has been blowing my mind. I had one woman make a video who was standing on her front porch singing along to the song before showing her yard that had her husband or boyfriend picking up his clothes with a cop car pulled up. I sat back from that video and thought, “Did I cause that to happen?” I guess if I can get them on to something better, then that’s a good thing to do.

(Photo Credit: John Shearer / Courtesy 117 Entertainment)

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