EmiSunshine talks about new album, Autism, and being yourself…

Co-Written by Sheryl Clark and Claudia Clark

For show review: https://wp.me/p8kKke-O7

For EmiSunshine photo gallery: https://wp.me/p8kKke-OI

Upon meeting EmiSunshine, she is this assuming fourteen-year-old young woman who has dazzled audiences around the world (except for Hawaii, as she admits during her show). Having performed on the Today Show as well as The Ryman and The Grand Ole Opry and being named Rolling Stones “10 New Country Artists You Should Know”, EmiSunshine brings everything you would expect and more from a 14-year-old music prodigy.

When chatting with Emi, she isn’t like most young women her age. While she is very down to earth, she also speaks with a confidence of a much older wiser woman.

Congratulations on your album Ragged Dreams, which is your 3-4 album?

I started out when I was around seven years old, and my first album was Strong As the Tall Pines, something that I always wanted to do because my family was put into music themselves. I just felt like it was something I was meant to do at the time. We worked on the album, and it was something that really just kick-started my career and put me in the mindset of say ‘hey this something I want to do for the rest of my life.’

Music has always been a part of my life as well. I believe my favorite song of yours is “I Am Able,” a single you released. I think it lends itself well to those of us who may be having a hard day.

“I Am Able” was meant for the book “I Am Able”. They actually contacted us and said ‘do you think you could write a song for our new book?’. We said ‘of course, we would love to’ and we wrote the song in about 30 minutes.

Wow, 30 minutes!

You know it depends on the songs, not all songs come easy. Some come in 30 minutes; some take a few days to write. It just depends on the songs, but for “I Am Able,” it came pretty quickly. We wrote this song, sent it to them, they used it and we are just so proud to be a part of that book because it is talking about something that needs to be talked about. I think that just because these kids have their differences from others does not mean that they should be bullied or treated any differently. We all deserve to have respect for others and just to be kind and loving, and that is what that book is all about. The book is about kids with different types of disabilities.

The book “I Am Able” is different from the song “90 Miles”?

“90 Miles” is a song that I wrote about my friend Will who has autism. I met him when I was younger. I think I was seven. I saw how he would be misinterpreted and judged and it just broke my heart for him. I started talking to him, and I could relate to him in some ways. I was put into Kindergarten when I was five years old. I have dyslexia which makes it hard for me in Kindergarten. I was home schooled, and I did great, and I loved it! So I could relate to him on a level. I thought that there are so many kids out there who are going through the same thing, they don’t get treated the same. But I wanted to make it to where that song could help them relate to the song, but I also wanted people to hear that song and have a better understanding for these kids or for anyone.

One thing that I heard from Will was that he feels like he’s going 90 miles an hour, feels like he keeps going and he can’t stop even when he is sitting still he can’t. I can kind of imagine that…but I can’t imagine who that feels. He would talk about it and tell me that everything around him is going so fast. I also thought about how children see him at school, and they would pick on him. They would talk about him right in front of his face and just think that he wouldn’t understand. He would tell me about that, and I thought about how I could incorporate that into my song. I talk about that in the song… I can hear I can see. I am human…I can see. I also talk about the family. Will would talk about how he would feel like this all the time. It’s terrible that I can’t show my emotions and I know that my family can feel that too for me.

The way I see it is that we are all talented in different ways. For me, I never really did well in school, and I would give anything to be able to learn things faster. I realized that we are given talents. One of the main reasons why I wrote “90 Miles” was to show people that we all have our different talents.

How to keep yourself staying true to who you are, regarding your areas of genres in a world of hip-hop and rap? How do you keep yourself on the straight and narrow?

Everyone has their definition of straight narrow. Everyone has their differences of what they think. For me, pop and hip-hop are good when you use it the right way. If you have the right way of using it and you word things right, you kind of teach something from your songs… That’s what I want to do with my songs, I want to teach something, and I want to be able to put a message, and I think that’s one of the main reasons why we have songs. One thing that I see a lot is that we put out is the same message to kids through pop and hip-hop since it’s the most popular genres. But if we use that power of that genre in a more constructive way, then I think there would be a bit better in the world. Not that those genres are terrible, any genre can go bad no matter what words you use. It matters how you use your power. For me, I play all types of genres. I play Americana to Country sometimes to Blues to a little bit of everything. I can’t really say what genre I am because I can’t really say what it is. I just play EmiSunshine music.

I have a saying “Be Your Own Genre” and I think you match that well. I think genres are little bit outdated because musicians take from all types of music.

For me, I grew up listening to The Grateful Dead to the Rolling Stones to Johnny Cash. I grew up around all those types of music…I would think I love Jack White, I love…I would find all types of people that I loved. I would mix that type of music together. I have people who come up to me and say…music industry people…they would say to me “You need to find your genre. You need to figure out who you are…you need to find your genre”. I would say “No I don’t. I’m am going to figure it out for myself and maybe one-day. Y’all will come around (music industry).”

I’m glad you are staying true to who you are. I worry about young artists being taken advantage.

We’ve had situations where I was asked to change, but we said no, and it’s all apart of staying true to who you are and the person you want to be. I don’t care who you are and who you want to be when you grow up…that’s all up to you, it’s who you are, and it’s your path…as long as you just stay true. For me, that’s the one thing I grew up on…my mom taught me, my dad taught me, my grandmother’s taught me. I respect them for that, and I love them every day for that because it makes me into the person that I am today, just growing up on that.

When it comes to your songwriting process, I know you have mentioned that everyone has their own process is different? Do you find the melody comes first or the lyrics?

It depends really. Every song is different. I write most of the melodies because that’s my favorite thing to do is write melodies. It’s one thing that I’ve always kind of had a knack for. Usually, I write the melodies and mom writes the words first. Then we both start working on it together. Melodies have always come easily to me over time I have listened to my Dad who is an amazing musician. I love him. He was always talking to me about melodies and always loved creating my own thing.

The other writing process is different when I’m writing with other people…It’s kind of scary for me. Writing with different people…I can get on stage, and that doesn’t scare me at all, but when you’re writing, you are pouring your heart and soul out to these people. You go in it not knowing how it’s going to go, what’s going to happen and it’s pretty stressful. We write with people in Nashville, Kyle Jacobs, Vicky McGehee, Jeffrey Steele, people like that.

You talk about some pretty heavy topics, is there anything that your parents have said you can’t write about, that may be too heavy for your age?

Usually, they let me be who I am, but sometimes I can get into some things that can be a little controversial to some people and little much for some. The title track to my album “American Dreams,” we didn’t want it to be political, we just wanted to talk about how some people don’t get the American Dream. It’s just really a song to say ‘hey, be thankful for what you-you got.’ We were right on the edge with that song because people would say ‘is it about this? Or is it about that?’ and we would just say we are just talking about being thankful for things.

For me when I am writing I just kind of a selfish writer. I just want to write about what I want to write about and not think about what other people want me to write about. I go into things that are more about what I think we should be talking about. I’ve been writing with Vicky and Kyle for a while, and I can write some things that can appeal to other people. I don’t really write about happy things. My tone is a little bit darker. One thing I have never really had a knack for is love songs. For me, I would rather write a murder ballad any day than write a song like that.

Do you think that maybe you it’s because you haven’t experienced it yet, too? (being so young)

Yeah, that too. But I haven’t really experienced a murder ballad as well either. (we all laugh)

Murder ballads have always appealed to me because my mom and I would always watch NCIS and bunch of cool stuff like that. When I was younger, my uncle would let me watch The Walking Dead, and I loved it. I decided to write about this called “Strong Armed Robbery.” It’s a ghost/murder ballad, and I love it, and I love to perform it which I think we will at this show tonight.

My writing style is a little bit of everything. I have some Civil War songs, some murder ballads, I have some happier songs that I have written recently. We were in the car, and my mom handed me her phone, and I read it and said “this is happy…I don’t do happy”. We started working on it, and it appeals to all kinds of people.

You play the mandolin, ukulele, guitar…

Yes, I play the mandolin, ukulele, steel guitar, tenor guitar.

Is there any instrument that you want to learn?

Probably the banjo. I have always wanted to try that. And the bass, the upright bass. I’ve always loved the upright. My daddy plays upright, and I just think that’s the coolest thing. I remember when I was little, getting on a footstool and trying to play it.

What’s on the horizon for you? What’s coming up for you?

Well, we have been working on a new album, and it’s totally different than we’ve ever done before. It’s insane. We’ve been working with a producer named Tony Brown…He’s awesome…out of Nashville. He worked with Elvis. He’s a really cool guy. All new songs, it’s pretty insane. I wanted to get this new album out for a while…I’m just itching to get it out.

Can you tell me a general time when the new album will be out?

Sometime next year, we’re working on it right, to get it where we want it. We just recently cut a new version of 90 Miles, and it’s really cool, it’s different. I think it’s got a newer sound to it to appeal to other people also. It’s different, but you can still tell the soul of the song is still there. We have most of our songs picked out for it, and we are just so excited about it. It’s going to be a lot of different things that you wouldn’t expect from me. A little bit different sound. We wanted to step our game. It’s an updated version of Americana and bluegrass.

We have a new manager Steve, who is amazing. He is booking all types of shows for us. Everything is starting to go together now …new things coming soon.

What advice would you give to young artists like you? What would you want them to know?

The first thing I would say to young artists who are looking to get into this is find your own sound. Find what you are looking for, find what you want to be and kind of stick with that…even if it’s a mixture of things or one type of thing…it doesn’t matter, you just need to figure out who you are. You just gotta be yourself, try not to copy. Get inspiration from others, find inspiration from others, but don’t copy. Find your own sound, and I think that’s the most important thing. Be who you are, stay true to yourself.


Post Author: Sheryl Clark

Known for her evocative captures and lush details, Central Illinois photographer Sheryl Clark is making her name in local and national music photography, and personal portraiture. Sheryl’s music photos have been featured in both print and online publications, and have held top spots on Instagram. Check out some of Sheryl’s best work with artists like Shinedown, Smith & Meyers, Skillet, & many other on Instagram page Sheryl Clark Productions Live. You’ll never forget a Sheryl Clark snap, they’re created to burn bright and steady.

3 thoughts on “EmiSunshine talks about new album, Autism, and being yourself…

    Margaret Fern

    (September 15, 2018 - 10:04 am)

    Such a great article I’m from the UK and have been a big fan of Emi for 4 and a half years now and she just gets better and better.Thank you again for a great article.

    Laura Dudley

    (September 15, 2018 - 11:29 am)

    When her new CD comes out, that she is working on now, being produced by Tony Brown. I predict a lot of collective deep breaths, bulging eyes and WoWs! in the music world. Someone who may not consider listening to an “EmiSunshine”, knowing who Tony Brown is, and the music, and the people that he has had a hand in, would probably give it a listen,…. They will be blown away, especially when they learn that she has written or co-written all of the songs that she has,…..well over 100 now, deep, meaningful, bluesy, fun, killing songs and murder ballads, gospel, rock, appalachian americana folk,….!! “Country Mountain Blues with a Joplinesque Twist! Throw in a lil Gospel and a lot of Sunshine style,..and you have it all! 🙂 She has many songs now, that will be classics one day,.some written at the age of 9!!! Here is the 2nd part of her show last night. https://www.facebook.com/alisha.hamilton.121/videos/10212426197196338/

    Write a comment…

    Sheryl Clark

    (September 15, 2018 - 4:43 pm)

    You are very welcome. Thank YOU for the kudos. She does just keep getting better. Looking forward to the new album and what new sounds she will come up with.

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