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Ragged Dreams: Backstage with EmiSunshine

“Hello, this is EmiSunshine, and I’m scheduled to do an interview with you?”

I knew from the moment she opened her mouth and spoke with such confidence and ease that I was speaking with someone remarkable. With the grace of Loretta, the wit of June, and a singing prowess that matches the likes of country music’s greatest stars, EmiSunshine is not an artist to be overlooked. In fact, you couldn’t overlook that young woman if you tried. Simply put: her talent, work ethic, and stunning creativity defy her age. Yes, she’s thirteen, but that isn’t what is remarkable about EmiSunshine. Perhaps what is most remarkable about her is her heart, which shines through in every word she speaks and every song she sings. After a long conversation about art, the history of our industry, and the meaning of family, I had run the gamut of emotions. Rarely do I struggle to find the appropriate words to describe an artist, but Emilia Sunshine Hamilton’s nature is hard to capture on paper. She is vibrant, kind hearted, wickedly intelligent, wise beyond her years, and genuinely joyful and funny. I was more than honored to catch up with her between a couple of her impressive one hundred and fifty plus shows she performs every year. If you didn’t know she was remarkable before, take a look at her calendar. You’ll change your mind.

Photo courtesy of EmiSunshine and Magnolia Pearl

A life on the road is the only life EmiSunshine has known. “I really couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I’ve been on the road for so long now-I started when I was five and we’ve been on the road, consistently, for about four years. We’re on the bus with seven or eight people and it’s crazy, but we love it. I love it so much, and I’m very thankful for my gift and my family. I really don’t know what I’d do without all this; it’s my entire life. Getting to be a part of this and music is an honor for me.” Sunshine, however, is not blinded by a life on the road and gained the understanding early on that touring takes compromise and sacrifice- a piece of advice she’d like to pass off to other artists looking to break into the industry. “I do really miss being home with my family sometimes. We as a band miss out on a lot – we miss out on weddings; we miss out on funerals. We miss out on “life” and life with our families sometimes. They all know, though, that being on the road is my passion and they are so supportive; so, I just go for it all the time. There’s definitely challenges to it, it’s not as easy as some people think. You don’t get to just go out on the road and play a few shows and come home. You’ve got logistics you’ve got to work before you even get on the road. Bus payments and routes and where to get gas and go here and go there and by the end of the day, you’re worn out- and then…it’s time to perform. One time I was on stage playing and an amp started smoking right next to us- that’s actually happened before! There’s going to be hurdles that try to hold you back, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to push forward and be who you are and do what you love.”

On top of her impressive solo show schedule, EmiSunshine has already seized the opportunity to perform with some of country music’s greatest living legends. Having once shared the stage with Loretta Lynn to sing her hit song “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)”, Sunshine elaborated on her experience with the Queen herself. “The first thing I noticed about Loretta was how kind she was. She told my mom, after confirming she was in fact my momma, ‘she can sing!’. When my mom agreed lightheartedly, Loretta grabbed her hand and said ‘no-she can sing.’ That really stood out to me because I understood what she was saying and I was so honored. She was saying ‘hey, this girl could have a career in this.’ This is something that she’s meant to do. She talked to me for a long time before she got on stage, and she was so beautiful and funny and sweet to me. Meeting Loretta showed me how important it is to keep your kindness, keep your humility, keep everything that makes you you. That’s what she did, and she’s come farther than most. Yea. Keep your kindness, keep your humility, keep your family and faith, and you’ll be good in this world.”

EmiSunshine has been described as a prodigy by multiple outlets, and there’s no denying that’s what she is – but her love of music and her ability comes from a life around it; from as far back as she can remember, she has been surrounded by harmonies. “When I was small, my grandmother would harmonize with me. My grandmother passed away when I was small, so I did get to spend a lot of time with her and don’t recall many memories, but what I do know is that a part of her will always be with me. A part of her, and a part of her music. Music came down to me from my family, and it’s a gift from heaven. Getting to grow up in that kind of musical atmosphere allowed me to embrace the talents my grandmothers had, my mom and my dad…pretty much everybody in my family. When I was around five, I wrote my first song. My family is made up of a line of gospel singers; they would sing all kinds of hymns at churches, and songs at festivals. I wrote my first song, called “My Time to Fly”, and when I was around seven, I started playing ukulele. The band started when my aunt entered me into a talent competition and I won the whole thing! I had my family band with me that day, and I told my mom I wanted to keep it and wanted to keep singing and start traveling. My mom told me ‘you know what- of course you can. We’re going to try this out and see what happens.’ Eventually, my family members quit their jobs and put their own lives on hold to come play with me; they’ve done everything, and sacrificed so much, to help me get along to where I need to go. I guess you can say they joined the circus!”

Photo Courtesy of EmiSunshine and Steven C. Brummette

Though EmiSunshine is only thirteen, many of her lyrics seem as though they’ve been penned by someone with thirty years more life experience. The maturity, depth and wisdom found in her songs can be attributed to Sunshine’s keen ability to listen, a trait that is rare in our world. “There are a lot of people out there that say you have to go through an experience to write a song about it, but I’ve always been the type of person that watches what is going on around me, and I write from that. I’ve always watched the people I’ve been around; I’ve absorb the atmosphere that surrounds me. Sometimes, I even listen in on the conversations of other people- I know that sounds a little bit crazy there, but I do it because I want to be able to help other people’s lives. I’ve always been able to feel what other people are feeling- you have to be able to connect with other people, connect with situations outside yourself, bring it all into your heart and put yourself in their shoes and envision what’s really going on. If you can do that, you can feel their heartbreak and their anger; I think being able to do that is a blessing, and it helps with my music. I write about situations with friends, too. I wrote a song for Autism awareness called “90 Miles.” A friend of mine was going through a hard time at school, with family, with friends- I couldn’t understand at the time why this should be happening to him. He’s such a sweet kid; he shouldn’t have been treated the way that he was, and there are so many kids out there who go through the exact same thing. I knew then, and I know now, this is something that needs to be fixed. This-Autism-needs to be written about and talked about. I talked to my mom about it and she said ‘let’s do it-let’s write this.’ I came up with the first few lines and the rest came easy. That’s how it happens with a lot of my songs; some take longer than others, some take just a few minutes. My philosophy is this: I know that I can’t change everything about what people think, but if I can change one person’s life by writing and singing, then I can make a difference in this world.”

Photo courtesy of EmiSunshine and Magnolia Pearl

With the hope media and fans around the world would support her month-long Autism Awareness Campaign (April), Emi met with grand welcome and assistance. Country Rebel featured both versions of the “Ninety Miles” music videos; GodTube, Faith Pot and millions from across the globe also applauded Emi in support of her goal to educate our public surrounding this unthinkable condition. Over the course of the month-long initiative, the acoustic rendition of “Ninety Miles”) enjoyed more than 2.85 Million Reached, 1.1 Mil Views, while the second version, (produced by Tony Brown and released on April 25, 2018 via Country Rebel) reached 1.34 Million in less than 10 days.

Sunshine’s efforts to raise Autism awareness have become some of the most eloquent and important this year. As Sunshine continues to hone her skill and personal style with her newest album, “RAGGED DREAMS,” and a more than full show schedule throughout the rest of 2018, she is growing into one of country music’s most prolific artists of this generation. Fans more than likely will never hear her on the radio, and that’s not a bad thing. Her unique, brassy, “Opry-from-the-fifties” sound far surpasses most of what we hear when we tune the dial to the next big thing from Nashville. Fans can stream EmiSunshine’s music on iTunes and Spotify and check her tour schedule on her website (theemisunshine.com) to see her live. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and twitter to keep up with where she’s going to be next!

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