Fifteen-year-old singer-songwriter EmiSunshine’s desire to be taken seriously as a writer was solidified after she received the Desmond Child Anthem Award at the ASCAP Foundation Honors Event.
This award was established by songwriter-producer and ASCAP board member, Desmond Child, to recognize promising young songwriters. Child lauded her as one of the most talented up-and-coming artists and songwriters he had ever heard in American music. This praise was in response to the release of her most recent album, Family Wars, in mid-October by Little Blackbird Records.
“I’m excited about the possibility that people might hear this album and understand that I’m more than just a child singer,” said Emi.
While tracking for a new country album with producer, Tony Brown, the idea was brought up to replace the musicians he had brought in with Emi’s family band. Emi hails from the foothills of East Tennessee. She is the daughter of two songwriters and is steeped in Appalachian music traditions. Emi and her family, known as EmiSunshine and the Rain, quickly selected songs she had already written and went to the studio two weeks later. After only six days, Family Wars was recorded, mixed, and mastered.
The album is a unique collaboration of many esteemed co-writers. The lineup includes Jim Lauderdale, Fish Fisher, Kyle Jacobs, Vicky McGehee, Chelle Rose, and Autumn McEntire. Additionally she has been writing with her mother, Alisha Hamilton, since she was five years old. She was grateful for each of these writers for contributing to her album and pointed specifically to each of their contributions to the work. However, she felt strongly about a few particular groupings. “Vicky McGehee, Kyle Jacobs, me and Mama write like a quiltmaker,” said Emi. “We sew into each other’s lines.”
The tracks feature dark overtones that cover topics ranging from mass murder to political corruption to dysfunctional families. Many of her songs hold the weight of a ballad, displaying the power of her narratives.
When asked where she found inspiration for all of the gloom, Emi shared that she grew up listening to the Louvin Brothers and always loved their, “old, sorrowful songs.” “That kind of music has always drawn me in,” explained Emi, “even though I’m pretty happy, even for a teenager.”
The title track, “Family Wars”, enters the realm of conflict and dysfunction with bright instrumentation and a somewhat casual tone. The inspiration for this song came from conversations Emi overheard in public. “I don’t mean to eavesdrop,” explained Emi, “but sometimes I just hear people talking about things.” Though Emi said the song was not written about a specific family, many people have shared with her that it could be about their own.
The first single, “Crimson Moon”, is one of the few not-so-dark tracks from the album. This song exhibits the strength of Emi’s voice, as well as her confidence. The lyrics tell the story of a young woman following a break-up. According to Emi, “she is fine.” Emi shared the song has become an anthem to her female fans who now feel it is okay to go out alone.
“Girls my age are all so wrapped-up in wanting a boyfriend,” shared Emi, “but I am more focused on my career and school.There’s time for that stuff later.”
Emi’s two personal favorites from the album are “Jonas Black” and “Oh, Caroline.” Emi co-wrote “Jonas Black” with her mother and Fish Fisher. She references it as one of the more complex songs she has written. “I love the drama of that song,” said Emi. “It’s just so big and represents me so well.”
She is optimistic that this album may shed light on her evolution as an artist, despite her young age. “I understand that some people have been skeptical about me, Emi admitted. “Frankly, no one knows what to do with me, when it comes to promoting my image as an artist.”
Emi hopes this album leads to more shows, more writing, and more traveling. “I’m a road dog,” she exclaimed. “I’m happiest in front of a crowd.”