Written by Erin Beck
Some call her an “old soul.” She sings and writes songs about murder, suicide, the underdog, the homeless, struggle, cheating, and revenge. They don’t expect that from a 13-year-old girl. EmiSunshine understands why.
She’s forgotten some about what it felt like to be younger, too.
“You forget being young after a little while,” she said. “I can’t really remember a
lot from when I was 7,8,9 … over the years, you don’t really think about it. You forget and you go on.”
“You just got to keep those memories locked in tight,” she said. “They might go away
Emilie Sunshine Hamilton, who also produces and plays ukulele, mandolin and guitar,
does remember her first performance at the Grand Ole Opry. “I could see people
look and be like ‘what is she doing here?’” she said. “I was a 9-year-old girl.
Nobody really understood why I was there.”
Emi has now performed on the Grand Ol’ Opry more than a dozen times. Earlier this
month, Rolling Stone called her a “mind-boggingly talented adolescent who
writes intense Appalachian folk tunes in the Carter Family tradition and sings
them with wisdom and ferocity.” Emi says she writes “torn and ragged music,
with honest lyrics and lonesome tones.”
“I feel like it’s getting easier every time I play a show because I feel like I’m
getting known out there,” she said. “I’m pretty proud of that.”
Next month, she’ll perform and serve as emcee at The Festy Experience, held in
Nelson County, Virginia. Is she more nervous at serving as emcee than she was
at the Grand Ole Opry? “It’s cutting it close; I have to say,” she said.“I’m really excited to do this,” she said. “I can’t wait.” Although, she qualifies: “I hardly even know what it means.”
In most of her memories from a few years back, Emi is writing songs with her mom. They don’t always agree. “It has her part of the song and it has my part of the song,” she said. “When it goes together, it makes a really awesome collaboration. I just love writing with her. It just feels so perfect.”
Her family travels together as she tours, though her uncle and brother, who take
turns driving, may miss out on sets at The Festy to sleep. They live in Madisonville,
Tennessee when they’re not on the road. A baby cousin has been traveling with
them since he was six weeks old.
“It’s still exciting,” Emi said. “It’s always been exciting. Sometimes we have speed
bumps along the way and things happen. We’re still going to be able to push
along… This is our life and this is what we do. It’s not really a job. It’s
more of just a fun thing to do and a fun life to have.”
“I’m a little bit nervous and I’m really excited at the same time,” Emi said.
“When they asked me to do this, I was thinking, ‘oh I don’t know if I’m
really qualified to do this.’ I guess they think I am. It really is an honor. I
get to announce really awesome people.”
Headliners include The Infamous Stringdusters, the Drive-By Truckers, Ani DiFranco,
Elephant Revival, Sam Bush Band, the Jerry Douglas Band, Joan Osborne, and
Beats Antique. Emi is particularly excited about introducing Joan Osborne and
“I’m just still shocked,” she said. “It’s not every day you get to announce so many
legends. I hope I do good for them. I really do. I hope I don’t mess up,
because that would be really bad.”