When a song is real, it connects in a way that nothing else can. EmiSunshine, at just 15 years old (you read that right) tackles real-world struggles, such as domestic violence, political corruption, and mass murder on her new album Family Wars.
In just six years since her debut album, Emi has performed at the Grand Ole Opry, was named one of Rolling Stone‘s “Ten New Country Artists You Need to Know,” and been featured on Little Big Shots, The Today Show, and Pickler and Ben. While some artists may inevitably find complacency with that success, Emi sees things differently, as she says she “keeps trying to deserve it.”
Read along as Emi talks about her Grand Ole Opry experience, the themes on Family Wars and what she hopes listeners take away from the album, the stories behind many of the songs and more!
Pro Country: Who are some of your biggest musical influences that have shaped your sound?
EmiSunshine: Buddy Miller, Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton are just a few. There are so many others, but those are some of my earliest influences.
PC: You wrote your first song at just five years old and had recorded two albums by the time you were seven. What was it about music that connected with you so early in your life and drew you to pursue it as a career?
Emi: I think I was born loving it. My grandmothers sang to me from the time I was born, and I learned to harmonize and create these songs that are like little memories. As you mentioned, I started writing songs with my mom when I was 5. She was a big influence early on, and still is.
PC: What emotions were you feeling when you were preparing to release music for the first time with Black Sunday ’35?
Emi: Wow! That’s so long ago! That album was inspired by a history lesson; when I first learned about the Dust Bowl and all the death and heartache from back then. It really moved me. After I finished the album, I remember being so excited that people were waiting for it. That’s what stands out now.
PC: You made your Grand Ole Opry debut in 2014. Can you talk about that experience and what it meant to you?
Emi: It was life-changing. It’s still my favorite thing I have ever done. I love what the Opry stands for; the history. Those men and women, but especially the women from so long ago, who paved the way for me. It was just a night I’ll never forget.
PC: “As the Waters Rise” from your album American Dream has become one of the signature songs in your catalog so far. What do you think it is about that song that has allowed it to connect with people the way it has?
Emi: It was real. I wrote it for the people of West Virginia as the floods were happening. Just me and Mama trying to say, “We are here with you, what can we do?” The people saw the honesty in it, I think.
PC: Rolling Stone named you as one of their “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know” in 2017. What does getting that level of recognition from a brand like Rolling Stone mean to you and your career?
Emi: It’s something I don’t take for granted. I keep trying to deserve it. I keep pushing myself to use all these gifts for good.
PC: Your newest album, Family Wars, tackles many different topics, including domestic violence, political corruption, and mass murder. Can you talk about writing this project and the themes you wanted to cover with this album?
Emi: I’ve always written about things around me. I wasn’t sheltered. I see the good, bad and ugly of this world and I write it out. The album is a collection of stories and songs that give what I hope is a good representation of me. The songs are about different types of conflicts, but I think the common theme is that the world would have fewer problems if people would just try to understand each other more and compromise where there are areas of disagreement.
PC: “Family Wars” is one of our favorite songs on its album. Why did you decide to name the album after that song and have it serve as the lead track?
Emi: It’s the most blatant song on the album, when it comes to personal problems, and when we went to choose a title, it imposed itself. I mean, listening to the entire album as a whole, “Family Wars” is the leader, and it built a nice bridge to each of the other songs.
PC: What went into the decision to release “Crimson Moon” as the newest single from Family Wars?
Emi: There were several songs on the album that we considered for the first single, but my team picked “Crimson Moon” because it is a beautiful song and so personal. It was inspired by The Crimson Moon, a quaint little café and listening room in Dahlonega, Georgia, where I have played many times. It’s a song about self-confidence and independence. I really love it.
PC: “Same Boat” is another one of our favorite songs on Family Wars. Can you talk about the inspiration behind that song?
Emi: Sure. Autumn McEntire and my mom and I sat down to write. Autumn had been watching “Game of Thrones,” and we talked about the equation of love and peace and battles. The song kind of wrote itself. It’s about how people all over the world are more alike than they are different. As the song says, “We’re all in the same boat.”
PC: Do you have a favorite song on Family Wars? If so, why is it so special to you?
Emi: I would say my favorite song on the album is “Jonas Black.” It’s just big and fierce. I got the chorus on my own, and it was so overpowering that I could barely fathom writing the verses, so I pulled my mom and Fish Fisher in. Fish is an amazing songwriter. The song is fun, musically, but the subject is serious. It deals with mass violence in America.
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from the Family Wars album after listening all the way through?
Emi: That maybe we all have flaws and we need to accept that. We need to move ahead and help each other!
PC: What are your plans going in to 2020?
Emi: Write, sing, and play!
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*Images courtesy of Dead Horse Branding*
Emi is amazingly intelligent, perceptive and articulate – as well as a great musician. I’m totally in love with her music.