Born Emilie Sunshine Hamilton, teen Americana artist "EmiSunshine" has given live performances at The Grand Ole Opry, The Ryman and the Country Music Association Festival. Her songs have garnered more than 14 million You Tube views and a half million Facebook followers, as well as appearances on The Today Show, Little Big Shots with Steve Harvey.
And she's only fifteen.
RiverCenter saw her perform and has been watching and waiting for the perfect time to get her into their season. “Every once in a while, I see a performer, younger or older, who simply strikes a chord," said RiverCenter's Executive Director Norman Easterbrook. "EmiSunshine was introduced to our Program Director, Jim Rutland, and we knew that she needed to come to RiverCenter.”
EmiSunshine will perform this Friday evening, April 12, at 7:30 p.m. in Heard Theatre. Special guest and award-winning comedian Etta May will serve as the opening act for the evening. It's a unique performance offering both some Southern flair and modern grit, and RiverCenter is looking forward to seeing their local audience's reaction.
“Part of our mission is to introduce our audiences to new and talented performers Likewise, we hope that Columbus audiences will come out to experience EmiSunshine and support our choice to introduce her to our community. We were captivated from the first moment that we saw her perform and we know that our audiences will have that same experience.”
In preparation for this week's concert, we interviewed EmiSunshine to bring you a behind-the-scenes look into what life looks like as one of the nation's top leading teen musicians on tour.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Images and video courtesy of RiverCenter and EmiSunshine.
Q: How did you get your start, and how long have you been singing?
A: Music has been in my family for a very long time. My great-grandmother and grandmothers were both singers, and my dad is a singer as well. My mom was a writer long before I was born. I just grew up around music.
When I was around five or six years old, I started getting really interested in singing and writing music. We started writing a few little songs together. I started playing ukulele, and then told my mom that I wanted to start performing. It was very different for us, because my mom was a nurse and my mom was a sound engineer. They put their lives on hold to start my career and further my life. I am very, very thankful for them. They've let me do the things I've wanted to do for the longest time and I couldn't be more grateful.
I went to public school when I was little, and that didn't work out very well for me. They decided to homeschool me and that decision has opened up so many doors for me creatively. I began to take vocal lessons and trying to learn how to use my voice properly. Then, I formed my band which consists of my dad, my uncle, and my brother. My dad plays bass, my brother plays mandolin, and my uncle plays drums. My mom and my auntie Crystal and my little cousin Tate all travel with us. We are a family and we all travel together.
Q: That's amazing. You mentioned your little cousin Tate. How old is he? Does he ever come on stage?
A: Tate is three. (laughing) And... let's just say, he's accidentally gotten himself on stage a few times.
Q: What about your brother who plays mandolin? Is he older or younger than you?
A: He is older than I am. He is an adult.
Q: How wonderful to get to travel with your family all of the time. What's it like having to homeschool on tour? How has it opened doors to you creatively?
A: I am able to perform, travel, and experience life in ways that I wouldn't be able to if I were in public school. It has made all of the difference.
Q: You made a stop in Columbus before, but I don't believe it was to perform. Is that correct?
A: Yes. We made a trip to see the venue and do some radio and television interviews. We are so excited to play in the beautiful RiverCenter for the Performing Arts. I don't know how long we are going to get to stay this time, but we enjoyed getting to look around while we were there. It's a beautiful place.
Q: Well, we can't wait to welcome you back and see your perofrmance.
A: Thank you. We're excited to be back in Columbus.
Q: I know you're on tour this Spring, but what's next? What are your plans for the future?
A: Well, I'm working on a new album with a producer named Tony Brown. So we're working on that stuff and have so much writing going on. I can't wait to get new content out for our fans. I'm not allowed to say too much about the new album, but I can say that it's really different than anything I've ever done before and we can't wait to release this new music to our fans.
Q: Anything you'd like our local audience to know before you sing for them?
A: I think it's important for my audience to know that I am a songwriter and I really love songs that tell a story. I grew up on a lot of different types of music like Dolly Parton, The Grateful Dead, Johnny Cash, Queen. It's a very eclectic assortment music that I absolutely love. Growing up with such a wide array of styles informed so much of my music and only continues to shape me as an artist.
Q: Last question. Do you love performing, Emi?
A: Oh, yes. I love what I do. I'm very thankful for it, and I can't wait to sing for y'all soon!
For more information on Friday's concert featuring EmiSunshine and Etta May visit RiverCenter.org. ◼︎
If You Go:
When: Friday, April 12 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: RiverCenter, Heard Theatre
Cost: Prices vary.