Artist Interview: Emily Hearn – Authentic Athens Georgia singer songwriter
Emily Hearn is an endearing singer songwriter who, if she’s honest, is actually half of a duo in life and in her music. Michael Harrison, Emily’s husband, is her musical partner as well. The two of them are touring the country in their Prius, performing shows at a variety of venues. Based in the college town of Athens, Georgia, their southern roots are evident. Writing a country-tinted folk sound, at times Hearn’s album Hourglass dips into “pop” territory, but really she’s a genuine songwriter seeking to express some pretty deep concepts of truth and wisdom to her generation.
When given the opportunity to talk to Hearn about her music, I found myself excited to ask about the stories behind her own career as well as a few specific tracks on the album. Her commentary and easy-to-talk-to style were charming from the start. It wasn’t long before she talked about her husband and their adventures in songwriting. She explained that it was Michael, actually, who encouraged her to stick with songwriting after an inauspicious start. She didn’t have extensive musical training, but had notebooks full of songs that she explained were “top secret.” It wasn’t until a school activity where she sang in front of some of her peers that she awakened to her gift.
And unlike some artists who find themselves attracted to the rock n’ roll lifestyle or the glitz and glamor of fame, Hearn is drawn to songwriting itself. She said she is “inspired by harmonies and storytelling” in classic country artists like Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris, but equally so by pop piano icon Ben Folds.
So now the girl who spent her teen years listening to anything and everything to inspire her own musical creations is on a headlining tour. She’s fueled on this trip by a reciprocal relationship with Michael. Where Emily finds herself motivated by the emotions of songwriting, Michael is more formally trained and puts a technical focus on the songs. Together they create well balanced songs that are equal parts catchy and moving. They have all sorts of shapes and colors dependent upon the message of the songs themselves.
Emily told the story of “Please Don’t Take My Love,” one of my favorite tracks on the album. It gave a great insight into her songwriting process. While some of her songs are grown out of her own songwriting session, this particular track was born in a songwriting co-write with Ben Rector (a favorite of ours here at ETTG). They met at an ice cream store. Seriously they should write a song about that. But not all of the songs on the album were created in such enigmatic fashion. Others came through brute force hard work at a secluded location in Michigan. Emily and Michael wrote several of the sad songs on the album in frigid lakeside locations, including “Thank God You’re Holding Me,” a gospel-flavored tune. Interestingly the song evolved in the writing process, especially, she explained, after finishing the second verse. And the song is really about living the life of a touring musician and the things that she has to miss. It is about missing out on parts of life, but also getting to experience other unbelievable things as well. In some ways, she explained, life is so beautiful and sometimes it’s so awful. It’s her favorite off of the album because it’s “the most honest.”
Emily Hearn is an emerging artist in the purest sense. But then again Hourglass is her coming out party. She has arrived and music fans need to pay attention. She’s not the kind of person to stand up and thump her chest with pride. Rather, she works and she writes. She tells stories about her friends and their troubles. She writes about her own troubles. In some ways, she’s not that different than the teenage girl who first started writing songs as a way of expressing the insecurities and difficulties of life. Now the problems are different and the spotlight is brighter, but she’s still a pure, expressive songwriter.
If you haven’t had a chance to listen to Hourglass, definitely do that. You’ll find yourself clapping along at times, wiping away some tears, and clutching your heart with “amens” on more than one occasion. More than anything, you’ll realize that Emily and Michael have a magical songwriting combination and you’ll wish for more. Start off by listening to “Thank God You’re Holding Me.” (Stick with the narrative opening – Hearn’s vocals over piano are worth the wait.)