March 20, 2020 | By Cillea Houghton Courtesy of Sounds Like Nashville
FEMALE FRIDAY: EMISUNSHINE
EmiSunshine may only be 15-years-old, but she's wise beyond her years.
When listening to EmiSunshine speak, it’s hard to believe that she is a teenager, as she carries herself with a sense of intelligence and wisdom far beyond her youth. The East Tennessee native became a viral YouTube star at the age of nine after her cover of “Blue Yodel No. 6” by Jimmie Rodgers landed her a slot on TODAY. Currently, the 15-year-old serves as the lead singer of her family band, EmiSunshine and The Rain, and is as sharp on the guitar, mandolin and ukulele as she is with her pen, writing songs about such sensitive topics as domestic violence and political corruption, a complicated spectrum she captures in her latest album, Family Wars. But she balances these grim subject matters with compassion, hoping others feel seen and heard through her lyrics. With a keen eye focused on worldviews, EmiSunshine is bound to blow you away with her powerful songs and admirable perspective.
SLN: When did you know music was your passion? EmiSunshine: I wrote my first song when I was around five and I knew then that I wanted to play music for the rest of my life. I loved writing and I was so enthralled by lyricists and I wanted to become one. I starting writing a lot of different music and went on from there. My mom, she was a big inspiration for me to start writing, but also so many female artists that are writers I grew up listening to such as Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Julie Miller and many people like that, and it just took me to think, ‘I could do this too one day, I want to do this one day because it’s a good way to really get your thoughts and a lot of your opinions out in a beautiful way.’ I love story songs and I had so many stories that I kept to myself that I didn’t really know what to do with. I wanted to become a songwriter, so it was a good outlet for me to start creating. I’ve always loved words and my mom would tell me so many different words every day, tell me the meaning and how she would use them in a song. Then I listened to Dolly Parton songs and how well they slid off of her tongue as she sung, and that’s something that I wanted to do. Julie, I love her voice and how she writes, she’s just incredible. When I listen to the words that she writes, I think ‘this can relate to so many,’ and I think that it’s the same thing with Loretta Lynn. One thing I love about Loretta Lynn’s writing is that she was so vocal and so opinionated, she had her own thing. She wrote about things that were a little bit hard to get out there in her day and age. I think that it’s very bold and beautiful that she did that. I’m very thankful that she paved the way for many of us. Where do you get inspiration from for your songs? We live in a very odd world and I think that you draw inspiration from what you see in the world. You watch the news and you see what happens everyday, the tragedies that happen and the beautiful things that happen – I want to write about those things. I don’t have a lot to draw from my own life, so a lot of times what I will do is I’ll draw from the experiences of others or the tragedies that happened in our world. A lot of times I get very disappointed with how things can go and how we are so divided. A lot of the songwriters have so much content that they want to make and so many songs they want to write, but when you get down to it, there’s so many good and bad things happening in the world that it’s hard to tackle it all. There’s so many things that even happened recently that I want to write about still. The reason that I go after those subjects is because I feel that they are important to people. I feel that when these things happen, there’s people affected by these things. People just want something to relate to, they want to be heard and they want to know that people hear them. That’s why I do it. Is there a song that you felt most vulnerable writing? I wrote a song called “90 Miles” for a friend of mine named Will, he has autism. I wanted to write something that would relate to him, but also could relate to others, to educate others, because it is very hard for some people to comprehend. People often, when something is different, they get scared, and through that fear comes a lot of evilness that does not need to be brought out, a lot of judgment, and I wanted to tackle that. Growing up, I could relate to Will in some ways because I had a very hard time in school. I had a hard time making friends and it was very difficult for me. So when I met Will, we had a lot in common in some ways, so I wanted to write that song, but it was difficult for me as well. I wanted to talk about how when he is having any problems with the things that come with autism and the symptoms, I think that people tend to think that it’s more of a tantrum and that’s just being spoiled, but it’s not. Sometimes he cannot control and he’s trying his best. It’s sensory issues, it’s a lot of different things, and I wanted to talk about that, how I saw how people would look at him when he was having those problems. It was a lot of angry, mean looks, judgmental looks, and I was so distraught with how people thought of him as evil than more of just a kid trying to get through his every day life. That hurt me as much as it hurt him I think. On your recent album, you sing about topics like domestic violence, corruption and mass murder. Why was it important for you to comment on subject matters like that? I think a lot of times, people skim over some stuff. It’ll be in the news for one day and then not talked about ever again. That bothers me. I feel like it needs more attention and people need more attention. You need to be there for people and we need to come together when these things happen. I was wanting to talk about those things more. I just want people to be heard, I want people to know that there’s people out here rooting for you. How do you hope to continue growing and evolving as an artist, storyteller and songwriter? I hope to continue writing better than I have before. I think there’s a lot more things that I can work on and that me and my family can work on together. I love melodies and I hope to continue to become a better composer of those. I also want to play bigger venues, I want to be able to become a better musician. I love my ukulele and I want to continue to play and learn new things every day. For me, I think it’s just to keep getting better and not staying in one place. I don’t want to stay stagnant – I want to keep going and keep evolving.