Accredited psychologists claim the more you're exposed to something, the higher probability that you’ll grow fond of it. According to the mere-exposure effect and Emily Hackett’s music-filled childhood, this thought-process rings true. As Emily credits her father for her diverse music-exposure, she refuses to label herself or place her craft into a confined, genre-based box. After years of experimenting and finding her sound, Emily has accumulated a supportive following and has grown closer to herself as an artist and as an individual. In this exclusive interview, we had the opportunity to chat with Emily to discuss her newest EP, My Version of A Love Song, launching October 30th, her journey of finding a voice through her craft, and an inside look into her writing process. Pre-save Emily’s new EP here: https://emilyhackett.ffm.to/lovesong
Megan Morgante: Did anything/anyone, in particular, inspire you to enter the music industry?
Emily Hackett: My dad, he was the music man around the house. I don't remember coming home from school and music not being played in the house. He never pushed music on me or my sister, but it was just instinctual. I started making up songs and singing from a young age, so music has always been in the back of my mind in terms of something that I wanted to do.
MM: What did your life kind of look like before you entered the music industry professionally?
EH: To be honest, I was a late bloomer, musically speaking. As I said, I had grown up around music, but it took me a while to be comfortable with the idea of pursuing it for real. Even when I did decide to study at Belmont and move up to Nashville, I discovered this is something I can actually do. In my first year of school, I went from being a big fish in a small pond to all of these people who are insanely talented and it felt like they had a head start because I hadn't played a proper show. I'd played guitar recitals and some talent shows here and there, but playing a proper show was not something that I did until my sophomore year of college. I let the fear talk myself out of it for a while, so I turned to the industry side of things and ended up being in PR. I really enjoyed that experience, I learned a lot and it was very helpful for me to see that side of the industry. I had to go through a lot of closing doors, opening windows scenarios for me to go back to creating full-time and making that the priority.
MM: Can you give kind of an overview of your past in the music industry and how it led you to where you are now?
EH: I had a moment where I was almost granted a position in the industry. In the interview, I answered a question that led the interviewer to say, “...I would be doing you a disservice if I hired you because you should be creating.” That felt like a huge slap in the face at the moment, but I realized this was the universe telling me that I needed to pursue this. Soon after that I had an opportunity to audition for a Belk-Modern Southern music competition and I didn't think much of it at the time, I just submitted my name and moved on. I then found out that they wanted me to come perform for a live audition, so I had to throw together some musicians in a matter of twenty-four hours to play something live. It was kind of a happy accident that the performance ended up being this three-piece, Americana sound, which wasn't necessarily what I would have gone for if perhaps I'd had more time to put the band together. But, that’s what happened and that's what they loved. So, that ended up being the route that I took with the first EP that I put out. We just called it, The Raw EP, because to me, it did feel like everything was stripped down and that was how it felt in that audition, but that seemed to be something people enjoyed. I thought to myself, “...Well, if people like it, let's not change it.” That continued for a while until my producer, who's now one of my best friends, Davis Nash, saw me play an acoustic show in Nashville with just me and my guitar. Through that he was able to hear what I wanted to hear out of my music, so he came up to me after that show and he said, “...I want to make a record with you. Let's do this.” So, over the next year, that's what we did. The songs were perceived by a lot of people as country because of my storytelling, and I always felt a little left-footed in the country genre, so at first, I felt like a fraud. People put that stamp on me and I, not so gracefully, fell into and accepted it. The one thing I could cling to was the fact that country music is about telling a story, and I know I'm a storyteller at my core. In terms of where I’m at now, I think that feeling of never quite fitting into the country genre never completely went away. The more the genre started to shift and change, the more I thought that maybe I would find my place there, but my music kept moving farther and farther away. As I was moving further away from the genre, I was feeling closer to who I am as an artist and as an individual. I've never loved genres, to begin with, I listen to everything and I think a lot of that influences my music, so I have just tried to find a home in songwriting and the independent, folk-pop place. At the same time, I love that I haven't lost those country fans, they still are following what I'm doing in my music and it still resonates with them. I think oftentimes, the industry puts the fans into a box as to what they think they'll listen to and what they have to stick to, and I don't necessarily think that's true. I pushed out of that box big time and I haven't lost those fans.
MM: You’re releasing a new EP, My Version of A Love Song. Where did you draw your inspiration from when creating your latest masterpiece?
EH: All of the songs I have been writing since the release of, By The Moon, didn't have a common thread and it was this unique way of expressing my emotions and my love, particularly, for my husband and friends. It felt a little uncomfortable for me because I'm not a word of affirmation type-of-person. For a songwriter that is a funny thing to say, but it's hard for me to say those things in a way where I feel like they're authentic. So, I wanted to be as authentic as I could and get that out in a way where the person hearing it is like, “...Okay, I see what you're trying to say here.” My Version of A Love Song was the tipping point song that caused me to zoom out and realize, “...Oh my gosh, this is the common thread between all these songs. This is my version of a love song.” I kind of tackle that from a lot of different angles and that's what the EP will be about.
MM: If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
EH: Don't try so hard and be yourself. I think it's such a fine line in this town, and I'm sure it's the same for LA or New York, but it's really hard to keep the blinders on when you see something working for somebody else and you see yourself in certain elements of what they do. So you might think, “...Well if that works for them, maybe this could work for me.” That's exactly what happened for me in terms of chasing and claiming country as a genre. I'm not going to say it was a mistake, I had and I am still having a beautiful journey with that genre, but I think it was me trying to fit myself into something that didn't quite fit right. If I had just been myself from the get-go and done my own thing, then perhaps I would be in a different place right now. I really do love my journey and I love what I've learned along the way, but that would be the advice I would give. It's still advice that I stand by right now in terms of making my decisions about music across the board. I try to ask myself, “...Is this me, or am I doing this because it worked for somebody else?”
MM: Have you ever experienced any notable challenges throughout your career?
EH: I think the biggest challenge that independent artists like myself face right now and frankly, label artists as well, is the noise. There's a lot of us out there, which is a beautiful thing because I love getting on Spotify or Apple music and discovering an artist that I might have never heard before. I love that it's giving people who might not have had the opportunity to create to be able to. That's really special, but it does make it super difficult to stand out and figure out, why do I matter? Why does my music need to be heard more than the next person's? Music is subjective, so I can't necessarily tell somebody who doesn't listen to my kind of music, “...Go listen to this, it’s great!” So, that is the daily challenge of giving people a reason to listen to something and, in the same sense, giving the playlist curators that same reasoning of why they should put me on this playlist, and here's why people need to hear this song.
MM: Who is Emily Hackett, to you?
EH: I'm a little bit of a hippie. I like to think of myself as a free spirit, but I'm also Type-A. So, I am a Type-A wrapped into a free spirit. I will plan the day where we do everything on a whim because I've cleared my schedule for the day so that I can do anything and everything on a whim. But, I'll have some ideas in my back pocket. That’s more of the adventurous spirit that is very much alive and can go with the flow. I also love entertaining people. I love being the place where people come to, even if I'm not in the most social of moods or if I'm not the center of attention at the party, I don't need to be that. But, I love providing the space where people can come and gather, that's my favorite thing. I think a lot of people would describe me as a place where they can feel comfortable.
MM: Do you feel you have a social responsibility with your growing platform?
EH: Yes, especially as social media grows. It doesn't always feel like I have more of a voice than my friend who is a real estate agent and has 200 followers, but I'm realizing that I do, solely because there are more eyes on it. I think I feel that responsibility, not just on social media, but in the creation of my actual music. There are times, especially this year, that I've felt that I have to write about what's going on in our world, mental health issues, and so on. I do feel morally responsible to create art that says something so it's not just surface level. From a social media perspective, I think that's a really tricky game to play. I can't even imagine how the Taylor Swift’s of the world make those decisions while saying, “...If I say this, I realize how many people I'm going to influence.” There's a responsibility to not take sides on anything, but to stand for what is morally right. I do try to share things that strike me as shocking or something that I did not know, so I do feel responsible to share it with more people who might not have known something. But, I've also learned to do my research upon seeing something shocking, because that's so much of what goes on these days. The headline or photo is meant to grab your attention. So, before I share things I really try to figure out what the source is, where this information is coming from, and how accurate it is.
MM: What is your biggest accomplishment thus far?
EH: My instinct is to say that every time I get a song out of my head and onto paper and I don't feel like I need any edits, that is a huge accomplishment to me and that feeling will never get old. Especially if the song really has something to say. It's hard to say what your biggest accomplishment is because every day you're always trying to do something different. I'm super grateful for a lot of the things that have happened to me in my life, but I try to stay present as much as I can. However, I still feel really proud of being the only independent artist on stage at the CMT Next Women of Country event in 2018. Everybody performing was a major label artist except for me and I do still feel very proud of that moment. It was a pretty good pat on the back to be like, “...Hey you, you're doing it.”
Photography by: Krystena Patton