Listeners of country, Americana, bluegrass and roots music have spent a couple of months fretting about the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic's short and long-term impact on live music. A similar statement can be made about fans of sports, movies and pretty much any other form of entertainment.
Imagine wrestling with all of that, plus regular teenage stressors and the cancellation of driver's license testing, proms, graduation ceremonies and other events that, for most of us, were pre-adult milestones.
Both outlooks weigh on singer/songwriter EmiSunshine, the stage name of 15-year-old Madisonville, Tennessee resident Emilie Sunshine Hamilton.
EmiSunshine, who was on the road promoting the album Family Wars when touring took a sudden pause, maintains a positive attitude that could help anyone of any age keep the right perspective on staying safe by staying at home.
"It's difficult for some because they're not used to being without friends that often, and I can understand that completely," she says when asked for advice for her fellow teenagers. "Just try to keep in touch with your friends online. That's what I've done, and it's been a help for me. Try to keep some kind of schedule and make a routine to get used to while being at home."
It might be easy to assume that the life of home schooler EmiSunshine got less disrupted than those of her public and private school peers, yet a string of cancelled shows hasn't exactly left the country music prodigy's spring itinerary intact.
"I'm always going, and that abrupt stop was very hard on me at first because I'm like, 'What am I going to do with my time?' But I found the things I wanted to do," she said, adding that writing songs, performing livestream sets and creating other forms of art help fill the void left by live music's indefinite hiatus.
As for the hope found in her music, Family Wars, which came out in Oct. 2019, features one of those songs that eerily fits our current situation despite being written and recorded long before the term shelter-in-place became commonplace.
"There's a song on the album called 'Same Boat,' and it's sort of just talking about how things have been in America for a long while now and how we need to all get together and have understanding for each other," EmiSunshine explains. "It's more of a song that's trying to be comforting in a way, you could say. When I first wrote it, I was talking mostly about how divided we seem as a country. Now it seems to really have a deeper meaning, considering all that's been going on."
The quality of "Same Boat" and other songs written by EmiSunshine landed her some golden opportunities, from multiple appearances at Marty Stuart's Late Night Jam, hosted at the Ryman Auditorium during CMA Fest, to more moments in the Grand Ole Opry spotlight (16) than she's had birthdays. She's also featured in the 2016 Elvis Presley documentary The King alongside Emmylou Harris, Rosanne Cash, Alec Baldwin and others. She wrote two songs, "Danny Ray" and "Johnny June and Jesus," for the film's Grammy-nominated soundtrack and performed at its Cannes Film Festival premiere.
After the road opens back up for EmiSunshine, she'll once again be joined by backing band The Rain, which consists of her father, Randall Hamilton, on upright bass, bass guitar and vocals; her brother, John Hamilton, on acoustic guitar, mandolin and vocals; and "Uncle" Bobby Hill on drums.