Interview: Emma Hern

Nashville-based Emma Hern is a young lady with an old soul. The Richmond native, who cut her teeth in Boston, moved to Nashville two and a half years ago–in need of a change, but initially dead- set against making a move to the Music City, she came for a visit, you know, just for fun. “My friends took me to Dino’s,” she recalls of her first experience at the beloved East Nashville dive. “Dino’s cheese fries are like sweet nectar from the gods,” she laughs. “That’s actually how I know if I’m going to get along with somebody–I ask if they want to go to Dino’s, and if they’re over-the-moon excited like I am about that joint, then I know that we’ll be just fine.”

She made the move a month later. Never underestimate the power of Dino’s.

“This has probably been the easiest move I’ve ever made,” she says. “I was kind of the last of my friends to leave Boston and move down to Nashville. I got so lucky in that, because I had all of these friends that had been here for a while. I kind of had this little built-in family as soon as I got down here.  I know that’s not how it always is and I’m so grateful for that,” she reveals. “This is the only place I think I have lived that I’ve never felt homesick.”

As a five-year-old who asked her parents for Aretha Franklin records and sang incessantly in the shower, you could say music found Hern at an early age. Her high school held open mics twice a week, and friends talked her into giving it a whirl. “I went to a very crunchy granola cool,” she laughs. “After I sang, two of my teachers came up and informed me that I would be in a band with them and that rehearsal started next week.” Soon after, she was singing with the band at local venues. “I was probably like 14 when I started playing out at bars. My parents had to be there with me, and now they joke that they aren’t sure if that was great or terrible parenting because they’d be at a bar with me and I’d be singing until 1:00 in the morning on a Wednesday,” she laughs.

”It was always just a fun thing on the side until I was a junior in high school and I’d performed at this music hall; the next night, my band took me to see Grace Potter at the same place and there was a cliché moment because I’d played on the same stage the night before–clearly to fewer people–I was like ‘oh my god, I’m screwed. This is what I have to do now.”

A year or so later, she got to meet Potter after a show. “I was so excited. I was not cool at all. Not even a little,” she laughs. “I was like, ‘oh my gosh, I’m such a big fan, sign my arm!’ She was so sweet and said, ‘yes, of course, just give me one moment,’ and she walked back on stage for her encore. And since I was a young idiot who ran at her, there was a giant security guard who was just like, ‘oh, honey,’ and he picked me up and set me on the other side of the fence,” she says. “As an adult, I’ve learned I can be a little calmer.”

Now, Hern is preparing to release her self-titled debut EP on May 11th, which has been a long time coming.  “I think I’ve gone into the studio and recorded about a million times since moving down here. I’m sure everyone that I’ve recorded with is about to kill me for that reason,” she laughs. “You put a lot more pressure on yourself when it is your first one. You want it to be such a great representation of your sound. I realized the style of recording that I wanted was to make it as live as possible; it’s what I grew up with, the music that came out of Muscle Shoals,” she adds. “I love it. There were probably like 15 people all in one room at Sound Emporium. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had recording.”

The album beautifully showcases Hern’s hard work in honing her signature sound—a vintage-washed blend of sass and soul. “I’m really excited to share it with everybody,” she continues. “There’s an energy that you kind of capture when you record live,” she adds. “If I could get that could come across to the listener, that would make my year.”

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Susan Hubbard

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