Emi-Sunshine is one of the youngest songwriters to perform in the Smoky Mountains Songwriters Festival. Being a part of the City of Gatlinburg’s Tunes and Tales program she heard about the SMSWF and purchased a Stage Spot 2013. Having seen Emi perform, Cyndy Reeves invited Emi to be the pre-show for Mo Pitney at the 2014 SMSWF Opening Ceremonies and Kick-off. EmiSunshine was the featured ticketed Concert at the 2015 Smoky Mountains Songwriters Festival. She is returning this year to be the ticketed Concert Fri. night Aug. 27th at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort. Click here for tickets.
She had no idea that someone captured her flea market performance of Jimmie Rodgers’ “Blue Yodel No. 6” and posted it on YouTube in 2014. “It went viral,” she says. “We started getting a bunch of likes and we didn’t really know where it was coming from.”
Again, without the family’s knowledge, the Today show featured the video. “We were really excited and surprised,” she says. “We didn’t know what to think.” There was such a tremendous response to her performance that the show invited her on to perform live, a moment that changed her life because word of her talent immediately spread on Music Row.
It led to performances on Marty Stuart’s Late Night Jam at the Ryman during CMA Music Fest, and then to ongoing performances at the Grand Ole Opry.
She performs about 150 shows a year and touring is a family affair. Her mother took a leap of faith and gave up her nursing career to travel. Father Randall Hamilton plays upright bass, her brother is on mandolin, Uncle Bobby is on drums and Aunt Kristal sells merchandise. “It’s fun, like how I get to be with my family all the time.”
Emi, who has 490,000 “likes” on Facebook, remains unaware of much of the whirlwind and demand swirling around her. “When we’re in Oklahoma and people recognize her, she doesn’t get why they know her,” says her mother, Alisha Hamilton. “When they come up and say, ‘My mama was dying and you gave her the best four weeks of her life. You comforted her and me.’ She doesn’t understand that she has made that impact on people’s lives. I tell her some of it, but not all of it, because it’s a heavy weight.”
EmiSunshine’s career moves will be dictated not by opportunities, but integrity. She knows who she is and what she wants her music to be, and her parents remain committed to ensuring that her wishes are not compromised in any way. After coming off a year where many of her dreams came true, Emi is quickly creating new dreams and plans. But her ultimate goal remains the same: “I just want everybody to know who I am.
Before she spoke, at around 10 months old, she began singing pure tones and humming melodies from Tom Petty songs. She harmonized with her grandmothers and great-grandmothers, continuing a musical heritage to a third generation. Great-grandmother Wanda Matthews sang on the Tennessee Barn Dance and gave Emi the same advice that June Carter Cash gave her: Don’t let anybody walk all over you and don’t think nothin’ about what they say.
As soon as Emi was old enough to walk down the aisle, she began singing in church. She was too little to know the words, but you could hear her harmonies over the others’. At age 4, she sang “You Are My Sunshine” at her aunt’s wedding and learned how to sing the Dixie Chicks’ “Traveling Soldier.” When she was three and four, her mother, who is a songwriter, created songs for her, but by age 5, she wrote her first song, “My Time to Fly.”
At age 7, she learned how to play the ukulele—the guitar was too big for her little hands–and used it to write “Little Weeping Willow Tree.” That was the same year she recorded her first two albums, Strong as the Tall Pine and Wide River to Cross in her father’s studio. She learned how to play guitar and mandolin at age nine –the picks are still too large for her–and has since picked up the xylophone. By age 8, she was stripping down “Hush Little Baby” and rearranging the melody to sing to the pigs.
Her parents filled the house with music by Buddy Miller, Johnny and June Carter Cash and Emmylou Harris, and her musical tastes were formed. Those influences served as a foundation on which she built her own sound. “It’s kind of what came out,” she says of her sound. “I always loved that music and I thought, ‘That’s what I wanted to play. This is what I want to do.’”
She performed in churches, festivals, theaters, and for a time, talent shows. “One day I decided I didn’t want to do talent shows anymore because you could see the kids’ disappointment and it didn’t make me happy,” she says
With a family musical lineage that goes back three generations it’s no surprise that EmiSunshine is a natural performer. Like her great-grandmother, Wanda, Emi has the ability to turn on the country charm and entertain a crowd. Wanda was a regular on Knoxville’s Own Midday Merry Go Round. Like her grandmother, the late Patsy Hamilton, Emi can sing the Lord’s gospel with the conviction of a soul who’s been on the earth years beyond her age. And like her dad, Randall, Emi can cut loose and have fun with the crowd! Emi is an accomplished Musician and Songwriter as well!
Welcome home Emi!
Click here for tickets to the EmiSunshine Concert at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort Fri. Aug. 26th during the 5th Annual SMSWF.
Click here for information and to register for the Inspired Beginings in Songwriting Workshop 10 AM – Noon Sat Aug. 27 at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort.
Click here for Emi’s Grand Ole Opry Debut https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvD2AJLVsao