Emma Hern is as grounded as they come. As a young musician, some might expect a bit more hesitation in a debut EP. Hern’s self-titled freshman effort is slick and satisfying, drawing its inspiration from traditional rock and blues.
“Then you held me tight / Almost every goddamn night / You whispered in my ear, only the midnight train could hear me coming undone.” Simplicity is underrated. Songs like “Fool Who Should Have Known” showcase so clearly that direct lyrics and a powerful voice can move a listener. It’s an album of familiar themes, love and loss, yet on repeated listens it resonates with a crisp flavor all its own.
We talked with Emma about going to Berklee School of Music, her move to Nashville, and how she finds the “fresh” in retro rock.
AF: You grew up in Richmond, Virginia. What’s the music scene like in Richmond?
EH: Richmond has an extremely diverse music scene and is home to some wonderful festivals like Friday Cheers or River Rock (think music festival + extreme sports + a beautiful river) The town is really supportive of live music.
I was pretty young when I first started playing in Richmond. Actually so young that often times I had to have my parents with me to get into the bar or venue I was playing at that night. I was around 14 and was in a band with some older guys and teachers, mainly doing covers, sometimes until 1 a.m. on a school night. My parents were so supportive during that time – as long as I finished my homework. Now that I am older, I love to go back to Richmond whenever I get a chance and see who is playing or what new venues have opened up.
AF: Who were your earliest musical influences and what about them inspired you to start writing?
EH: I asked for an Aretha Franklin CD for Christmas when I was five… so she was certainly my earliest musical influence. I used to literally scream “Chain of Fools” and “Natural Woman” in the shower. Again, my parents were very supportive during this time of “creative exploration.”
I honestly didn’t start writing until I made it to college. Patty Griffin and Lori McKenna were huge influences for me at that time of my life. I learned a lot from their styles while I was trying to find my own voice as a writer.
AF: Graduating from Berklee is no small feat. What was your college experience like?
EH: When I first showed up it was really difficult for me. Although I had been performing for years, I had never taken music lessons growing up and found myself thrown into the deep end with kids who were years ahead of me in music theory. However, I learned a lot while at Berklee. It provided me with a safe environment to experiment with my sound and for that, I am grateful.
I really struggled finding a balance between my love of simple blues and soul lyrics and being taken seriously