Emi Sunshine

Emi Sunshine will return to Greeneville on Thursday, Nov. 30, to perform at the Capitol Theatre. Tickets are $20.

East Tennessee music prodigy Emi Sunshine will return to Greeneville for a concert at the Capitol Theatre on Thursday, Nov. 30.

Show time will be 7 p.m.

Admission is $20.

According to event organizers, this show is being sponsored by Life Care Center of Greeneville, Brookdale Senior Living Solutions, Smoky Mountain Home Health & Hospice, Family Ministries Hands to Help Senior Care and John M. Reed Center.

A singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, 13-year-old Emi Sunshine, who is from Madisonville, made her mark on the music scene when she was just a young girl.

Steeped in Appalachian music, Emi has been described as “an old soul” and vocal stylist who “instinctively knows how to interpret the nuances of a song with her impressive range, even though she has yet to gain the life experience and empathy seemingly necessary to fully comprehend the words she sings,” a news release notes.

She describes her songs as “old-time music,” but it’s her own unique blend of roots music that is equal parts Americana, bluegrass, gospel and country, with a little bit of blues thrown in for good measure.

“What makes me want to do this is I just love it,” Emi said in the release. “I just really, really love it. I wouldn’t trade anything not to do this.”

“I love how I get to sing to people and make them happy,” she added. “I’m really blessed that I get to do this. It makes me feel amazing, like I’m touching somebody’s life.”

Offstage, Emilie Sunshine Hamilton is a typical 13-year-old girl who loves hula hooping, her pets and colorful clothes.

She’s had a normal upbringing in Madisonville, where her mother worked as a nurse and her father is a recording engineer. “But when she begins singing, playing or writing, something else takes over, a phenomenon that began before she could talk,” the release says.

Before she spoke, at around 10 months old, she began singing pure tones and humming melodies from Tom Petty songs, her parents said.

She harmonized with her grandmothers and great-grandmothers, continuing a musical heritage to a third generation.

Her great-grandmother Wanda Matthews sang on the Tennessee Barn Dance and gave Emi the same advice that June Carter Cash gave her: “Don’t let anybody walk all over you and don’t think nothin’ about what they say.”

“As soon as Emi was old enough to walk down the aisle, she began singing in church. She was too little to know the words, but you could hear her harmonies over the others’,” according to the release.

At age 4, she sang “You Are My Sunshine” at her aunt’s wedding and learned how to sing the Dixie Chicks’ “Traveling Soldier.” When she was 3 and 4, her mother, who is a songwriter, created songs for her, but by age 5, she wrote her first song, entitled “My Time to Fly.”

At age 7, she learned how to play the ukulele — because the guitar was too big for her little hands — and used it to write “Little Weeping Willow Tree.”

That was the same year she recorded her first two albums, “Strong as the Tall Pine” and “Wide River to Cross” in her father’s studio.

At age 9, she added the guitar and mandolin to her repertoire of instruments.

Her parents filled the house with music by Buddy Miller, Johnny and June Carter Cash and Emmylou Harris, and with that her musical tastes were formed.

“It’s kind of what came out,” Emi said of her sound. “I always loved that music and I thought, ‘That’s what I wanted to play. This is what I want to do.’”

She performed in churches, festivals, theaters, and for a time, talent shows. “One day I decided I didn’t want to do talent shows anymore because you could see the kids’ disappointment, and it didn’t make me happy,” she said.

She had no idea that someone captured her flea market performance of Jimmie Rodgers’ “Blue Yodel No. 6” and posted it on YouTube in 2014. “It went viral,” she said. “We started getting a bunch of likes and we didn’t really know where it was coming from.”

Again, without the family’s knowledge, the Today show featured the video. “We were really excited and surprised,” she said. “We didn’t know what to think.” There was such a tremendous response to her performance that the show invited her on to perform live, a moment that changed her life because word of her talent immediately spread on Music Row.

It led to performances on Marty Stuart’s Late Night Jam at the Ryman during CMA Music Fest, and then to ongoing performances at the Grand Ole Opry.

She performs about 150 shows a year and touring is a family affair. Her mother took a leap of faith and gave up her nursing career to travel. Father Randall Hamilton plays upright bass, her brother is on mandolin, Uncle Bobby is on drums and Aunt Kristal sells merchandise. “It’s fun, like how I get to be with my family all the time,” she said.

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