With as much attention as Nashville’s burgeoning indie rock scene gets on the local level, sometimes you can forget that this city was built on country music. So it can seem surprising when a young up-and-coming singer/songwriter catches your ear with an honest country sound and sincere lyricism. But Emily Hackett is no stranger to surprises.
“It was totally an accident that I ended up in Nashville,” says the Georgia-bred Belmont graduate. She discovered Music City on a typical college visit, and decided she wanted to devote her university years to songwriting and learning her way around the Nashville music landscape.
Emily Hackett has risen on the strength of her single, “Take My Hand (The Wedding Song).”
The decision has paid off, as Hackett has made some serious strides forward since her graduation in 2012. She won the 2014 Belk Southern Music Showcase in the country-pop genre, her single “Take My Hand (The Wedding Song)” has gained widespread popularity, and she recently played the legendary New York club The Bitter End, an experience she found particularly meaningful.
“My dad found a photo of Joni Mitchell playing there in the 1960s, and it was really cool feeling that company,” Hackett told me. Mitchell is one of her chief songwriting influences, as are many of the great acts of what she calls the “good-music generation”—the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, the Rolling Stones, etc. In fact, it wasn’t until she moved south from Cleveland that she discovered country music through her new friends. In time, these musical forbears manifested themselves in Hackett’s songwriting, which she describes as “front-porch lovin’, southern little bit of truckin’, tell it like it is.” Given the realism to be found in the lyrics of both country and the great singer-songwriters of the 1960s, it seems fitting that Hackett’s writing is driven towards truth-telling and firmly grounded in concrete, real-world stories. She also isn’t afraid to put herself down in her songs—in fact, doing so is an outlet not only for her own emotions, but also for those of her listeners.
“My songs are a little self-deprecating, but that’s what people connect with, because they have that in their heart but don’t want to say it,” she says. And so she expresses the feelings that her audience cannot or will not find the words to display.
“Take My Hand,” though, is certainly not as vulnerable as Hackett’s typical material. Written for the wedding of one of Hackett’s friends, this emotionally raw track is filled with the pure bliss of finding one’s life partner, and with the joyful optimism that permeates the walk down the aisle. Making it accessible to all listeners is the fact that it is a duet between Hackett and Will Anderson, the lead singer for Parachute and one of Hackett’s good friends.
“He’s helping not only in terms of gaining fans because of who he is,” says Hackett, “but he’s also in the pop world, which I’ll write in but don’t necessarily see myself as an artist in.” Anderson’s presence may be helping the song gain a foothold of popularity, but the song is well written in its own right and speaks extraordinarily well to the sense of adventure newlyweds feel on the altar. Its heavy use at weddings has inspired Hackett to put together a music video comprised of snippets of wedding videos sent in by fans.
What’s next for Hackett, then? “The rest of this year is going to be hibernation and a lot of writing,” she quips. Following this extended period, out of which she hopes to create enough material for a full-length album, she looks forward to kicking off a tour, with potential destinations including American universities and a month-long stint in Ireland, where she feels at home with the energetic folk vibe expressed in the local music. Whatever the following months bring for Emily Hackett, though, they’re sure to be full of surprises.