The Ohio-born musician grew up with music in her home and in her heart, but has since found her true artistic self in Nashville.
Emily Hackett has some tricks up her sleeve, and without spoiling too much, a few of those tricks involve her defiance for genres, a newfound introspective approach to songwriting, and some real-life magic when collaborating with those around her. The Ohio born musician grew up with music in her home and in her heart, so moving to Nashville, finding herself, and honing her craft only furthered that adoration for creativity and new artistic endeavors. She’s a vibrant performer with roots in folk pop and Americana styles of music, but the layers within her songs and over the course of her evolving career prove that there is so much more to showcase and so much more to tell. With a love for nineties rock, a knack for storytelling, and Music City under her belt, Hackett’s career is bound to go further than she ever imagined.
You’re a fantastic storyteller, I have to say. There is a truth to your music and your lyrics that is quite unparalleled. Can I start by asking how you became a songwriter and how you honed in on your craft to make it so resonating?
Yeah, for sure. I would definitely have to give a lot of credit to Nashville as a community for really knowing how to harness raw talent. Just the community itself, we all kind of lift each other up I think, because whether you are part of a publishing company and you have a champion that can help do that for you, or you’re doing it on your own, it really comes down to being inspired by the creative competition in town. I think it’s healthy competition because it’s just always pushing me to be better and figure out new ways of saying things. It made it really difficult for me to write a song that I didn’t finish knowing, “Okay, this doesn’t sound like anything else.” You know, if it even had an inkling or even a title that felt similar or a concept that was the same as something that was already existing, I couldn’t get behind it. So it just challenged me to have to think outside the box.
I’m so glad that you get to experience that and it works so well for you and your music. Let’s talk now a little bit about “Handle,” your upcoming release. You’ve said that it is almost an apology for being, on the occasion, hard to handle, and how that has affected some relationships. Can you tell me a bit more about that and how this realization turned into a song?
It kind of all happened at once in this fight that I had with my husband where my temper just got the best of me and I was yelling and, you know, I don’t even remember what I was so angry about. Of course, that’s usually how it goes, right? And he just looked at me and his only response was “I’m going to go take a shower.” And so his non-response to my anger was such a slap in the face in a way where I was like, “Oh my gosh, what is wrong with me?” And the thing that’s crazy about that, was in that moment, not only did I realize that I done something wrong with that particular partner, but it also made me think of all the arguments that I gotten in with ex boyfriends and how in the past I think that they had kind of just not known what to do about it. Maybe they argued back or…. It just didn’t ever go well and this is the first person in my life – and thank God I married him – that knows how to react to me when I’m being crazy. It was pretty easy to just sit down and tell that story to one of my best friends and my producer, Davis Naish, when we were together. I kind of was even laughing at myself at the time and he was the one that first said the beginning of the chorus, “I would kill to be what you are from me.” And it wrecked me because it’s invested. Exactly where it comes from is like your defense mechanism or my defense mechanism of wanting to be that good or to be as good as my partner sometimes comes off the complete opposite, because you’re just defending yourself for whatever you did. You’re not as good as you hoped you would. So it was one of those afternoons where I didn’t think that we were going to get any song, but just having the conversation about this one fight allowed for this song to come out in a very organic fashion
For sure, and it was a turning point not only for your new song and for music, but also in just your life and your relationship.
Yeah, I guess I never really realized how difficult of a human I can be sometimes. I’ve always considered myself kind of easy going and the go-with-the-flow type. But the reality is, I think with my partners at least, I had high expectations and wanted to be treated a certain way – and that wasn’t always the right way. It’s really nice to have somebody who knows how to stand up to me with that and stand up for themselves. It just has made us stronger together and understand that we are equals, and when I’m hard to handle, I have to kind of be left to myself, because for me, I have to be the one to handle that anger instead of him kind of trying to figure out what to do with it. It’s not his responsibility to figure out what to do with it. It’s mine.
I’ve heard the track, so not even just in the way you’ve explained it, but just listening to it, there is such a clear relate-ability in it and I think we’ve all been in a position where we felt that way in either a friendship or relationship. It’s true and spectacular, especially the musicality of the song with those twinkling guitars in the background. It’s really personal, too, with the lyrics, “Binge-watching the third season of Stranger Things.” Is there a line that you draw when it comes to maybe putting too much of your own life into a song? Or do you really just let the story tell itself in the way you feel it needs to be told?
I don’t think that I put any hard lines down when it comes to writing about what the story is that needs to be told, because I think that there’s a lot of, like you said, relate-ability that is found in those lyrics. To me, what is so important as a songwriter is to be able to speak something for somebody else that perhaps doesn’t know how to. That was what music always did for me growing up. If I heard a song that just had the most poignant, real, raw lyrics, those were the ones that would really hit me because I was like, “Wow, I would’ve never known how to say that.” And they put it in such a beautiful way because it was so honest and it didn’t hold back. You look at least Fleetwood Mac, for example. They were in a band together, they were all incestual, and all while in a band and creating music together when they were breaking up and writing songs about each other to each other. I mean, there was no holding back in any of that. I think that’s why those songs still have such a powerful life for people now. People who weren’t of that generation are because there was, yeah, there were, there were no no walls to break down. It was just, here’s what it is.
That’s so true. And I think that when a performer connects to the song that they are releasing or putting out on stage, then the audience feels that they can connect to it as well.
Definitely. I think I can say that for a lot of my songs when performing, it’s nice for me. I can easily get distracted on stage sometimes if I’m in my head about something, so if the song is able to truly take me back to where I was when I wrote it, then I worry less about what’s going on around me and I can just snap back to where I was in that moment and live it enough for an audience member to hopefully take that with them.
That’s so lovely and grounding. I think all of your music really does that. By the Sun and By the Moon, your EPs from 2018 and 2019 respectively, seemed to fall in line with each other and the story they told. Does an upcoming third EP or album come into play with that or is it a whole new project in and of itself?
Well, By the Sun and By the Moon were truly a debut album. There were a lot of songs that I had written over the course of my early twenties and they were just the ones that continued to stand out, but never lost their spark when I would play them. And so I wanted to give them life and they told a story of previous loves and failures and all of that. Now I’m in a place in my life where I’m in my relationship and I’m happy, you know? There’s still a lot to learn, obviously, and “Handle” shows me that. And then and I think it’s just cool that artists grow in their music as they grow in their lives. That’s definitely on purpose. I think that now I’m in this place where I’m much more introspective and also determining what it is about my tendencies – and not just in love, but in work or in just my head space – of how to deal with social anxiety. There’s a lot of different themes. I think the music coming out is a bit different. It’s a new chapter for me, for sure.
Well that’s so exciting and I’m happy that you’re happy as well as still growing and evolving. Like we all are.
You’re welcome. So “Handle” will be your third release of 2020 after “Hangovers & Heartbreak” and “My Version of a Love Song,” which came out earlier this year and are fabulous and they do have an edge and style that might come off to some people as new territory for you. What about these songs had you gravitating toward a bit of a different sound? Because they’re still lyrically complex and raw like all of your other work is, but has more of a modern pop meets an almost alternative nineties feeling to it.
Yeah. thank you. I’ve always felt that my music is evolving, but the thing that’s funny to me is that from the songwriting perspective, I’ve always kind of heard the songs in my head the same. I think production has a lot to do with how the world perceives the song. I’ve been in a little bit more into a comfortable place with my producers now, because this particular record is co-produced with Davis, who did By the Sun and By the Moon, and Mike, my husband. And that’s just been a really fun thing, too, because all three of us are obviously so close, and Davis and Mike so often talk about how opposite they are in terms of their production ideas. It’s created this very cool balance I think between how they both see me and my artistry. It’s really opened up the door to allow the songs to sound like what I’ve been hearing in my head for a long time, which really did kind of come from a singer-songwriter place. Songs like “Handle” are from more of a rock and roll, kind of rock pop place that I grew up in. Because those are the songs that I still really, really love to listen to is, you know, the rock music that my dad raised me on. Then the things from the nineties, I’m just a huge nineties rock fan and I will continue to choose that in terms of what I’m going to put on when I’m cleaning the house or whatever. So it’s cool to see those things come out in my work and not just in the writing when it’s me and my acoustic guitar, but in the production, as well. So I’m to kind of see what that opens up and what kind of peers I ended up working with and having them hear this, this music, and then hearing this at shows I had the opportunities of playing once before this whole pandemic hit… It’s just an exciting time because I think that genre has become less and less of a thing for me. I’ve always been a song girl at heart and it never really mattered what genre the song landed in for me. If it was a good song, I was drawn to it. And I think that that definitely comes through in how I create, as well. I guess you can consider that as being a little all over the map, but ultimately I think when you zoom out, I’m trying to just go after the best songs that I can make.
Absolutely, and that’s obviously something that you should be proud of. You want your work to be a reflection of you, your interests, and the people in your life. If it didn’t do that, I don’t know if people would maybe enjoy it as much as they are.
Yeah, definitely. You’re right.
Check out Emily Hackett’s “Handle,” plus two additional tracks on Spotify.
You mentioned how this time in the world right now being interesting with not really being able to go out and play live shows and maybe even skewing any recording processes, but has this state of the world right now affected the music that you make in any way? I can imagine that there is both so little to draw from being stuck at home, but also so much to draw from on a global scale.
Yeah. You know, it’s complicated, that’s for sure. I think that it’s made it difficult for me, personally to try and write anything other than what this time makes it feel. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because I think people are going through a lot of different emotions right now and they will need that music to be able to speak when they can’t. But I, along with other musicians I work with, struggle with the idea of wanting to create something that does speak for this time, but also laughs about the time. That’s where the challenge comes in, because this is unprecedented, right? We don’t know how long it’s going to last and we don’t know how much it’s going to have on us long term. And so it all of a sudden kind of makes the idea of writing a kitschy little first date love song (which I’ve done before) sound like a trivial idea because there’s just so much more going on right now. It feels a little bit heavier. I think that that’s the challenge: trying not to make the creative process feel as heavy as it feels right now. We’re just wanting to lighten it up and we’re doing the best we can, I think, to try to keep working with the people that we want to work with. There is a magic that happens when you’re in the room with somebody, whether it’s in production or in writing, and that has been hard to swallow, not having that experience, but I am really grateful that I live with a fellow creator and producer and that we’re able to do a lot together and that we have technology that supports being able to do something with the people that we love even when we can’t be with them in the room.