"No one can tell where my accent is from because two mid-western parents decided to move to the south" We chat with Emily Hackett
With the first single, 'Easy', from her second EP out now, we spoke with Nashville based singer-songwriter Emily Hackett about that new EP, her current EP By The Sun, being a book nerd, serving tables, and a whole lot more.
Hey Emily, how’s your day going?
So good! I’m alive, it’s sunny outside and I have the day to just get inspired and write by myself.
So, where are you right now?
I’m sitting in the writing room/guest room of our house. I recently made this space my own, painting it fun colors and hanging prayer flags and lights. It’s my little hippie room.
Can you introduce yourself to our lovely readers?
I’m a singer-songwriter, living in Nashville, hailing from suburbia-Atlanta by way of Cleveland, OH. No one can tell where my accent is from because two mid-western parents decided to move to the south. I grew up on rock and roll, storytelling and a house very often full of friends.
Tell us a bit about you, what do you do for fun?
I’ve come to realize I’m a little bit of a book nerd as I’ve gotten older. I love getting carried away in good fiction. Give me something to write about that I haven’t before. My parents always loved hosting - a trait I’ve definitely invested into. It sounds silly, but I love planning a good party. I look for new reasons to have people over so I can get to know them or get some solid QT. My parent’s friends used to do the same thing - one time, they saw that it was the 100th anniversary of the bra in the newspaper, so they called everyone up and said you couldn’t come to the party unless you were wearing a bra - men and kids alike.
You’ve got a brand new single (coming) out, what can you tell me about ‘Easy’?
‘Easy,’ not to be an eye-roller, was actually one of the easier songs to write. I had just discovered the open D tuning, thanks to Joni Mitchell, and that initial progression landed in my lap by accident as I was fooling around. I was writing the next day with Shannon Wright and Park Chisolm in Nashville and they loved it. My vulnerability had to lead the way that day lyrically - the whole song is about allowing myself to cheat on an ex. It happened, and then once it happened and I realized I could get away with it, it was like I couldn’t help it. It’s not like the floodgates opened, but it was a relationship that I couldn’t nut-up to get out of, so I sabotaged it, thinking it would be the easier way out. It was hard to talk about at first, but I met someone who had learned to do the same thing over a number of years, and I pulled from her patterns too. We actually ended up being very close friends I think because of the mutual understanding of our shortcomings.
Your EP By The Sun came out last year, what can you tell me about it?
I made a full-length record with my producer, Davis Naish in 2017 and when I stood back and looked at it one day, it spoke to me in two sides - like the Gemini I am. Half the record ended up being the way I introduce myself to a perfect stranger - nothing to hide in those tracks from By The Sun. They are fun, self-aware and very inclusive. The second half was more vulnerable and raw - shows more of my insecurities and an awareness of my mistakes, a la more of what the moon sees. Both sides very much make up who I am.
I love the whole EP, and one of my favourite tracks is ‘Nostalgia’, what can you tell us about that song?
Thank you. I love' Nostalgia'’s energy. That really was how it began too. We had a guitar loop that just reminded me of being in high school. I wasn’t sure why, but I knew I wanted to chase it. Steph Jones and Mikey Reaves and I all started throwing out images of places our heads went and it all sort of tumbled out. It’s still probably my favorite to perform live.
With the detail in the lyrics of ‘Waitress’ you’ve obviously done that job. What was the spark for writing that?
Oh yes. I served for several years in Nashville, dealing with an array of personalities, whether I was serving them or working with them. One night I just kind of got shafted - shitty tables, shitty tips. Looking back, it probably was a reflection of my attitude, but it’s really hard sometimes to put on that face just so you can get a few extra dollars in your pocket. I’d had enough that night, so I took it to the writing room the next morning. It just happened to work out really well, that Shannon Wright, who I also wrote this with, worked as a server for longer than I did! She told me, “Girl, I’ve been waiting to write this song.”
And where’s the worst place you worked?
I actually had a really great experience overall. I can’t talk crap on any place because the people that I worked for put up with an awful lot from me! I was always requesting off to go play shows or begging to pick up shifts cause I was broke.
Josie is Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed. She’s also my 13-year-old cousin who I didn’t want to name in a song. She might also be what I name my first daughter. The song began as a letter to my cousin when she was having a hard time. Middle school sucks. We all know it. You don’t know up from down and you’re just trying to be liked, sometimes at too high a cost. The song became a message to a lot more people than my kin though. It warms my heart when a dad comes up to me after a show and tells me, “I have a little girl and your song made me cry. Thank you for being that for them.”
What’s the key to writing a damn good song?
Ha! Good question. I think songwriters in Nashville ask themselves this every damn day! For me, it's just about what feels good. I’m big on lyrics though. I can kind of be a stickler because I want it to say something profound. That doesn’t mean it needs to be Ernest Hemingway though. Even the simplest phrases can be profound. In fact, that’s probably what makes a good song a damn good song: keeping it simple.
By The Sun isn’t your first rodeo though, what else can we hear from you?
I had recorded a couple of EP’s while I was in high school and college, but I’ve done my best to hide those from the world! I was still learning! I guess I always am. I did an acoustic EP called The Raw EP that I kept up though because I loved where I was at when we did it. They were all songs that I had been playing out live but hadn’t recorded yet, so that’s what we did.
What can you tell us about the video for ‘Good Intentions’, that looks a lot of fun.
That video was a blast. It was my first big-prodcution video, working with Preston Leatherman, who is actually going to be doing the next one with me. I had thrown a lot of inspiration at him with the vingettes of pennies and a gospel choir, but most of the flow of the video was a collective effort. His energy was amazing that day. We hit a lot of locations and worked with a lot of different people. My favorite element of that day was the fact that we never asked what color the choir’s robes were going to be, and they coincidentally (except I don’t believe in coincidences) showed up in pink robes. Pink was the color of the whole song. It had been utilized everywhere. All we could do was laugh.
What’s next for you? Another EP? An album?
‘Easy’ is just the first single off of By The Moon, the EP where I get a little more up close and personal with you. The whole thing will be out in its entirety by early fall.
What else do you have planned for 2019?
I have loved being out on the road at any opportunity to do so. I’ve loved learning my audiences in each new city, and hearing feedback on the songs you love, including ones I have yet to record. I’ll definitely be back in the studio this year.
Obviously there’s a lot of talk about equality in general at the moment, what’s your experience of being treated differently as a woman in your industry?
I’ve had my share of “no” because of being a woman, sometimes other women being the ones to say it. Personally, I try not to take any of it as being just due to that. I do think there are those in this industry that genuinely believe people don’t want to hear what women have to say because it’s not what’s “cool” right now, but the fact is, if something resonates with you, it has nothing to do with who is singing it. I had a 12-year-old boy come up to me after a show the other day and say, “I didn’t think I liked girl singers but I actually liked a lot of your songs.” That boy probably didn’t think he liked girl singers because he hadn’t been exposed to them, but that’s not even the point! The point is he liked my songs.
Have you noticed a difference at all in the last 12 or so months?
Definitely. While I think we walk a fine line of creating a “us vs. them” situation with males sometimes, I do very much enjoy seeing women supporting other women. That’s a thing. That’s a thing that we didn’t do because we were made to beleive there was no room for that in this competitive field. That’s just bullshit. The guys don’t do that, why should we?
You’re part of the Next Women in Country class of 2019, what does that mean for you?
I hope it means more opportunities to play and create with these women. I love hearing new voices, in both senses of the word. I love hearing the quality and timbre of other women, as I’ve been inspired by them my whole life (Aretha, Joni, Jewel) and I love hearing their unique songwriter voice. We all have something different to say. It’s an honor being a part of that.
Who inspires you?
I go through phases for sure. Right now, it’s Jewel’s autobiography, Eric Hanson’s poetry, Kacey Musgraves’ 'Slow Burn' and my friend Caylee Hammack busting her ass as a new (and incredible) artist on Universal Nashville. Don’t sleep on it.
What kind of music do you listen to in your spare time?
I am listening to all kinds of things. My husband brings home demos of his as well as a lot of new hip hop that he has been into, like Tierra Whak. I still put on Led Zeppelin but love diving into new songwriter-pop that’s pushing the boundaries like Billie Eilish, Dermot Kennedy, Alec Benjamin. Its hard to keep up with all the new stuff! So many talented people comign out of the woodwork.
If you could recommend one artist to hear this week, who would it be?
If you don’t know Jade Bird and you are a fan of rock and roll, do yourself a favor.
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
What’s something you’ve learned this year that has changed the game? A: Don’t take anything personally.
Finally, how do you take your coffee?
If this interview doesn't fill in all the gaps, you can find out more about Emily by visiting her website.