Emmy Meli’s New EP Ushers Her (and Her Cat) Into the Next Era of Her Career · The Wildest

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How Musician Emmy Meli’s Cat Helped Her Find Peace With Being on Her Own

The past few years have been a whirlwind for the R&B pop star, but her “little best friend” helps her stay calm in all the chaos.

by Sio Hornbuckle
June 24, 2024
Emmy Meli with her cat, Ruth
Courtesy of @emmymelimusic

Emmy Meli had the rapid rise to stardom that most up-and-coming musicians dream about — though it didn’t come as easily as it might have looked from the outside. The R&B pop artist was working at a golf course and coffee shop, booking studio space with her tip money and printing promo stickers to plaster on Los Angeles telephone poles, when, at the encouragement of her friends, she decided to start posting clips of her music on TikTok.

One song, “I Am a Woman,” an empowering anthem based on sticky-note affirmations Meli kept stuck to her wall, was brand new and in-progress. Meli posted it to TikTok on a whim, and suddenly, the song catapulted her career to new heights.

The video went mega-viral, and the song climbed to the top of the charts, eventually gaining over 300 million streams. She had 5,000 TikTok followers when she posted the video, which she first scribbled down on a napkin while at one of her day jobs. Within a year, she was signed to a record label and playing Lollapalooza.

But “I Am a Woman” was just one part of Emmy’s story and sound, and she knew that she wanted to share more of herself with her influx of fans. In her debut EP, Hello Stranger, which she released in May, Meli is introducing herself to the world. “I wanted to show people who I actually am,” she says. “Not only as an artist, but also as a person — what my message is.” 

Emmy Meli with her cat, Ruth
Courtesy of @emmymelimusic

Growing up through music

The new EP is a coming-of-age tale, telling the story of the last seven years of her life until now. She speaks about her relationships, career, mental health, and personal evolution. The EP has been a huge success, with mentions on People’s list of “Talented 2024 Spring Emerging Artists” and Rolling Stone ’s “All the Songs You Need to Know This Week.”

In May, Meli joined Alexander Stewart on the “Bleeding Hearts Tour,” traveling across the country to perform her new music live — an experience that has been hugely rewarding. “For the majority of your career, most of it is just numbers,” Meli says. “To actually put people’s faces and stories and experiences behind the numbers is the best part about touring.”

But as intimate a peek into Meli’s personality that the EP is, many listeners may not know about the spoiled, sassy Gemini who has been by Meli’s side through it all: her cat, Ruth. Meli told us all about the super-fluffy black-and-white beauty, whom she considers her best friend — and how becoming a pet parent has changed her life for the better.

Emmy Meli and her cat, Ruth
Courtesy of @emmymelimusic

Becoming a cat person

Emmy didn’t think she’d end up a cat mom. She was raised by parents who weren’t exactly animal fanatics. “The idea of having a lot of pets was just a lot for them,” she explains. “They were both working constantly. I started out with little hamsters, because they were like, ‘This is something a little girl can take care of.’” 

Eventually, after several of the hamsters passed away — I just kept getting my little heart broken over and over again,” Meli says — her parents agreed to get Meli a dog, with whom Meli immediately fell in love. When she found herself living alone as an adult, she began the search for another pup. “I set out to get a dog because I missed having a companion,” she adds. “I felt empty without having an animal around.” 

She went from shelter to shelter searching for a pup to bring home, but she was struggling to feel the soulmate connection to an animal that she’d felt in the past. “I started to think maybe a dog isn’t necessarily what I was looking for. I have to travel so much for work, and you have to be able to give them so much time and attention,” she says. “Cats also require that, but they have a different level of independence.” 

Then, Meli’s friend asked her to cat-sit. When the cat moved in with Meli, it clicked almost immediately. “I was like, yeah, I think I need this,” she says. 

Meli knew someone whose cat was having kittens, and she was given the chance to visit the newborns. That day, she was one of the first humans to ever hold her since-adopted cat, Ruth. Now, Meli considers herself a full-blown cat person. “I’ve never seen anything as wonderful as a cat. I love them so much. I guess deep down I’ve always been a cat person. I just didn’t know.”

Emmy Meli and her cat, Ruth
Courtesy of @emmymelimusic

Raising a diva

Ruth turned out to be the perfect match for Meli, who quickly fell in love with her strong personality. “She’s so sassy. She’s the sweetest, sassiest little creature. I love her to death,” Meli says. 

In classic cat fashion, Ruth typically spurns new toys and towers (until her mom’s back is turned, anyway), and chooses instead to play with everyday objects like string. “I buy her string toys, and she’s like, ‘Oh, that’s cool. But a string from the ground? I much prefer that.’”

Every morning, Ruth yowls for Meli’s attention — the first time she did it, Meli assumed Ruth was in horrible pain before realizing she just was just bored and wanted her mom to wake up. If her food’s too dry, Ruth uses the corner of her food mat to try to bury it. 

But as much of a diva as she may be, Ruth has a lot of love for Meli — and shows it through an abundance of patience. “That cat will let me do literally anything,” the musician says. “I dress her up. I pick her up and I smother her, and she tolerates it, because it’s me.” 

How cat parenting changed Meli

In one song on her EP, “Silence,” Meli opens up about her struggles with anxiety. “My thoughts, they get louder than sirens,” she sings. The past two years have been full of change for Meli, and Ruth has helped keep her stable through the chaos

“I genuinely don’t know what I would do without that cat,” Meli says. “That might sound exaggerated or dramatic, but she’s actually my best friend. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve either been having a panic attack or just sitting in the bath or crying on the floor, and she’s right there. It’s like she knows.”

Ruth’s a better sleep aid than melatonin, too. “Something about the frequency of her purring genuinely calms me down. When she sits on my chest, it’s like the weight on my chest with the purring slows my breath rate down and helps me sleep.”

In the album’s final song, “Dear Little Me,” Meli sings to her younger self, reflecting on the changes she has gone through, the love she has for her inner child, and the words of comfort she would offer her past self.

When we asked Meli what she would tell her childhood self about Ruth, her answer was almost immediate: “I guess I would tell her that when she finally decides to live alone, it won’t be so scary. Because I’ll have a little best friend. I had problems with being comfortable being alone. I think that Ruth has made living alone feel OK. I think I would tell my younger self that when I finally find a little place of peace and solitude that’s mine and just mine, that I will have a wonderful little companion to keep me company.”

Emmy Meli and her cat, Ruth
Courtesy of @emmymelimusic

A few more questions (as a treat):

What’s the biggest life lesson Ruth has taught you?

Chill out.

What would be Ruth’s perfect day?

A day with a string. 

What’s a name for a pet that you still have on your to-be-used list?


If Ruth had a motto, what would it be?

“I don’t care. Who cares?”

What’s your motto as a pet parent?

Pets are people.

And in a few words, why should everyone be a pet parent?

I think we can learn a lot from them. We can learn a lot about responsibility — how to take care of ourselves, how to care for other people. And what unconditional love looks like.

Sio Hornbuckle

Sio Hornbuckle is a writer living in New York City with their cat, Toni Collette.

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