- January 2015 -
HAVE A BEER WITH EMILY HEARN
In 2008, Georgia-based singer/songwriter Emily Hearn began teaching herself guitar. A mere two years later, she released her first EP Paper Heart, followed by a full-length record Red Balloon in 2013. And now, after hitting the studio with producer Chad Copelin (Ben Rector, Christina Perri, Green River Ordinance), Emily’s new five-track EP Promises reveals a deeper, more versatile sound.
Drink of Choice: Red wine (pinot noir)
Kristen: Tell me about your journey into music.
Emily: Well, I taught myself how to play guitar when I was a senior in high school. At that point, I wanted to study journalism in college but I didn’t know that I wanted to write songs. So, I was just kind of learning, teaching myself different pop songs or songs that I liked on the radio. When I went to college, I moved to Athens, Georgia, which is where I still live, and went to the University of Georgia. I started going to a lot more shows, experimenting with writing music and I fell in love with it. I started playing in the venues around Athens and luckily, there are some really legendary places and also some really fun, smaller places to try out new stuff. I was hooked. I started traveling around to other cities on the smaller sort of homegrown scale, and began building a career out of it. It became way more fun than I ever imagined and I started getting more opportunities. In 2011, I started pursuing music full-time.
Kristen: What’s the music scene like in Athens?
Emily: It’s so cool. Being a singer/songwriter in Athens isn’t exactly the fit. A lot of really cool bands have come out of Athens, but I don’t know of any singer/songwriters, so a lot of the venues aren’t really catered to that. The Georgia Theatre and the 40 Watt Club are the two most famous theaters, and I’ve been lucky enough to play both. But my favorite place to play in Athens is this listening room called The Melting Point. On Tuesdays they have bluegrass, so it’s kind of that vibe, but on the weekends they have shows. It’s awesome. There are tons of venues—there are probably 10 more venues other than those—that are so unique and welcome tons of different kinds of bands. There are some great indie bands out of Athens and R.E.M also came out of Athens, so there’s kind of a cool legacy there.
Kristen: I’m sure having the university in the city helps with the scene as well.
Emily: Yeah, it helps a ton. There are always college kids that want to go out and see new shows and they’re really supportive. An interesting thing about the music scene in a college town versus a city without one is that every four years you get a new group of people. As an artist, you can build a fan base and then all of the sudden they’re not at your shows anymore…I mean, they still might be a fan of your music if they move to a different city. It’s good and bad. You always get to be meeting new people and making new fans, but there’s also kind of an impermanent feeling in Athens.
Kristen: Are you originally from Georgia?
Emily: Yeah, I’m from Griffin, Georgia. It’s about two hours away from Athens. It’s so tiny. In high school, I really didn’t like the fact that I was from Griffin. I didn’t think there was anything to do. When I was in high school we actually got our first movie theatre, and after I left, we got our first Starbucks—but it was just in a Kroger. Athens is a bigger city—not as big as Atlanta—but it still has everything you need and it feels very alive. I love living there, but going back to Griffin is refreshing because they’ve grown a little bit since I moved away. It’s fun to support the local businesses. There’s a really great coffee shop that I love and a farmer’s market-type store. It’s a full-time store, not just on Saturday mornings. And there are tons of antique shops, so I always go antiquing when I’m at home.
Kristen: Do you think being from a small-town influences your songwriting?
Emily: Being from a southern town definitely does. I listened to a lot of country music growing up, and even though I don’t consider my music to be country, I definitely have a southern accent. Country comes out in my influences. The truth is, Griffin isn’t a farm town, but my grandparents live on a farm, right outside of the Griffin-downtown area. There’s a lot of open land and it feels very peaceful—but it also feels very country. I grew up listening to great country music that I still love, but my personal style is a little more pop. I like indie bands and I like folk. My sound is a mix between all of these different things. Being from a small town is very interesting because everyone always seems to know your business. When I first started writing music and was living in Griffin, everybody knew who the songs were about so it was so awkward to play them anywhere. Now it’s better living in a bigger town, and I’m also not only writing songs about real people.
Kristen: In October, you came out with an EP called Promises. I saw that hit Number 5 on the Singer/Songwriter charts for iTunes.
Emily: We weren’t expecting that at all. I was really blown away. I’m still an independent artist, but in the past, I didn’t really know how to promote a record before I released it. For this record, we did more work. We played in a lot more cities and told a lot more people about the music. I guess it caught on a little bit. The first couple days on iTunes it was doing really well, so that’s encouraging and exciting.
Kristen: Do you feel like the creative process for this EP was different than it was for Red Balloon and Paper Heart?
Emily: Yeah, I do feel like it was different. I’ve written all of my songs, but it’s been a year and a little bit of change between each album, and there seemed to be just enough change and growth in me as a person between that time. My inspirations are different and the way I approach songs is different. For this EP, I was taking a more honest approach. I always try to be honest, but I wanted these songs to feel very real, broken-down and genuine. That’s how we approached it in the studio in terms of the production behind it. In terms of actually writing the songs…I wrote a song about my wedding and being in this totally different place once I got married. They’re just aren’t as many heartbreak songs to be written, so I dug from a different place. I wrote some songs that were based on some of my best friends’ stories and their lives and I discovered I really like that. I almost like writing that way more. I’m kind of excited to see what comes next. I’m actually writing for another album now.
Kristen: You’re wasting no time!
Emily: I’m trying to hopefully get something out this year. A full-length. It’s still totally in the works. I’m going to record it with the same guy who produced Promises. His name is Chad Copelin. He’s awesome. We’ll go out to Oklahoma, where his studio is, and spend some time hashing it out this summer. Then, we’ll decide when to release it.
Kristen: I can’t wait to hear it. You’re playing City Winery on February 7 with Griffin House.
Emily: Yeah, this is our first time playing together and I’m super excited about it. He’s so good.
Kristen: He’s one of my favorites. I also saw that you’re touring with Green River Ordinance and Elenowen in March. How did that come about?
Emily: I’ve played a show with Elenowen before in Nashville, and we’ve stayed friends. Sometimes for practice I like to write with other people and experiment with different types of inspiration from other folks, so I got set up with Josh, the lead singer of Green River Ordinance. He’s super nice, we really hit it off and had a great time. They needed some support for their tour in our region and picked us. It’s such an awesome thing to find out. We’re really excited about hanging out with them. Both are such great bands, so I’m super excited. We’ll be doing two weeks with them throughout Georgia, North and South Carolina and Tennessee.
Kristen: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Emily: My mom is one of the wisest people I’ve ever met, and when I listen to advice I definitely listen to hers. She’s given me a lot of guidance on how to stay true to yourself, stay humble and stay excited when you’re out on the road—how to grind it out, if you know what I mean. I can’t think of an exact quote, but she has always told me to wake up in the morning and have some sort of regimen. Whether it’s walking around, getting on the treadmill or journaling out your thoughts—it’s important to do something that gets you centered and settled. That’s how I start my day when I’m on the road, and I think about her every time I do that. Sometimes when we’re in exciting cities like Chicago, you want to go out and explore; sometimes we’re in a in a hotel in a completely random city and it’s cold and all you want to do is sleep in and be a bum. I’m always reminded to get up and get my day started in a good way no matter what.
Kristen: I’m sure being on the road you crave some sort of routine.
Emily: Yeah, I mean one way or another you’re going to make a routine. So, it’s either going to be that you choose to sleep in every day—even if you’re about to drive twelve hours—or you can choose to get yourself on some sort of schedule. We don’t exactly know what every month is going to look like. Sometimes we’re going to be on tour; sometimes we’re going to be at home. But as long as I’m on a schedule that I know works for me, it helps me stay sane when we’re out here driving for so long.
Kristen: What is the least rock-‘n’-roll thing you’ve done in the past year?
Emily: Oh my gosh. I do tons of uncool things. Sometimes I get tired and all I want to do is sit on the couch and watch Parenthood all day. Have you seen that show?
Kristen: Yeah, it makes me cry. Never fails.
Emily: I can’t help it. I could just watch it all day. I know it’s pretty lame to sit around all day and watch shows…Parenthood and Friday Night Lights. That’s my thing.