East Tennessee native Emi Sunshine is making big waves in the national roots and country music scenes.
At age ten, Emi has already performed live on stages across the country, ranging in size from busking on Market Square to headlining the Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. She has appeared on NBC’s The Today Show in New York City, countless live radio and television broadcasts, and she’s captured listeners’ hearts everywhere along the way with her natural Southern charm, confidence and raw talent.
She plays along on mandolin, guitar, banjolele or ukulele with her family band, Emi Sunshine and the Rain, but her soulful, fearless voice commands attention above all else. Emi’s striking abilities leave critics defenseless, professionals envious, and audiences enamored.
Amidst a jam-packed schedule, BLANK was able to catch up to Miss Sunshine and her father for a few minutes in Knoxville after she finished performing a 75 minute set with The Rain at the East Tennessee Chili Cook-Off for Second Harvest Food Bank.
Emi was winded from playing tag with two of her friends on the World’s Fair Park lawn, and she could barely contain herself waiting to go to Fort Kid after the interview. But somehow, despite the enormous amount of stimulus and strain for such a young person to navigate, Emi was more than happy to share some exciting news and tell us her story. Most impressively, she maintains a sense of professionalism better than many adults without ever having to temper her genuine childlike spunk.
Ready For Her Close-Up
Emilie Sunshine Hamilton was born in Madisonville, Tennessee, into a family lineage of music lovers and natural performers.
“I’ve been writing songs since I was four,” Emi said with conviction. “And I’ve been singing ever since I could talk, pretty much. I sang out when I was three.”
Her father Randall Hamilton (bass), her older brother Johnathon Letner (mandolin, bones, bonzouki) and adopted uncle Bobby Hill (drums) make-up her band The Rain, and her mother is their full-time stylist and support system in a suddenly hectic lifestyle.
BLANK: So what’s the big news you two want to tell everyone? (It’s BIG)
Randall: “We just got back from Nashville last night, and we have to go back tomorrow. It’s CMA week, she just signed up with new management, and she’s going to get to walk the red carpet at the CMA’s next week. Tim McGraw’s manager is her manager now! She only manages Tim and Miss Emi. And Tim’s going to produce Emi Sunshine’s next album! Nothing’s in the can yet, but they’re working on stuff. No idea on release date.”
Emi: “We met Tim in person for first time at Maryville Fall Festival. He was a very nice person. …It’s so exciting! Me and my mom are gonna get to walk the red carpet!”
BLANK: Even for adults, it’s hard work to be a touring musician. Where do you find that spirit that makes you get up every day to keep doing it?
Emi: “My family.”
Randall: “Aw. Thank you.”
BLANK: And I know your mom seems to be an important person even though she’s not on the stage with you…
Emi: “She’s the person who does all my make-up, and she does all my hair. She’s the person who gets me up in the morning to do shows. “
Randall: “And they write together, too.”
Emi: “She’s the reason I get up every day. Not just because I love her.”
BLANK: With this much traveling, Emi is homeschooled out of necessity. Do you miss going to school and spending more time around other children?
“I had a very bad experience at school, so I don’t miss it at all,” Emi said. “Kids are mean.”
BLANK: Your voice is so bright and clear, but you have a distinctive southern twang. Have you had any professional vocal coaching to help you with that?
Emi: “No, but I have been studying yodeling with Kata Hay up in Pigeon Forge(she performs in the Hatfield and McCoy dinner show.) She’s kind of an inspiration for me. She helped me a lot.”
Randall: “They’ve had her up there to open up the show before, too. She’s been really great for Emi.”
BLANK: You always seem so comfortable performing. Do you ever get nervous before some of these big shows?
Emi: “Well, the only time I ever got really nervous was when we were at the Ryman.”
Randall: “You didn’t get nervous at the Grand Ole Opry?”
Emi: “Nah, no big deal.”
Randall lets out a big laugh. “It was a huge deal to me!”
Emi: “Well, the Ryman was a huge deal for me.”
Randall: “Well, honestly it was. It was even bigger than the Opry to me too. I mean, Marty Stewart…”
Emi: “Just knowing that all the people that I love, like Minnie Pearl, Johnny Cash, June Carter, all those people have sung on that stage, that I love. …I had a lot of pressure.”
BLANK: What’s your favorite thing about playing music?
Emi: “The writing.”
BLANK: How many songs have you written?
Emi: “I haven’t kept count.”
Randall: “Would you say 30? Maybe 40? (Emi shrugs) Her and her mother write together most of all. They’re an absolute tour de force. They’re a team, and they work so well together.”
Alisha Hamilton, Emi’s mom, plays a little guitar but mostly has been a writer. Emi and her mother have a new children’s book coming out together as well, “The Blueberry Giant.”
Emi: “It’s about Mr. Pepper who lives in Onionville.”
Enter Emi’s mom to let them know it is time to move on to Fort Kid so the girls can play before dark.
Alisha: “Hopefully before Christmas, the book will be ready.”
“Yes,” said Randall. “We’re really just tickled and excited about all of it. It’s going to be a fun year.”
More info about Emi Sunshine and The Rain can be found at her official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/emisunshinemusic/info