Emily Nenni: From Shyness to Stardom with a Side of Honky Tonk
Emily Nenni, a rising country music singer and songwriter, has crafted a unique path in the music industry, overcoming her shyness, adapting to cultural shifts, and drawing inspiration from her varied life experiences.
I interviewed Emily recently in advance of her performance at Grant's Lounge on Saturday, February 10th. During our interview, Emily shared insights into her musical journey, her fateful move from California to Tennessee, the many challenges of the music industry, and her powerful message for young women growing up in today's world.
Discovering the Joy of Singing
Emily's musical journey began with a diverse range of influences. Growing up in California, she and her parents listened to everything from Motown girl groups to soul singers and country legends like Patsy Cline, Lucinda Williams, and Emmy Lou Harris.
Despite her early exposure to music, Emily didn't step into the spotlight until the age of 21, when she finally overcame her shyness to share her voice with the world.
From California to Tennessee: A Cultural Transition
Moving from California to Tennessee at the age of 21 was a bit of a culture shock for Emily, but she found a sense of belonging at Santa's Pub, a popular bar, pub, and music venue in Nashville.
At Santa's Pub she met a warm and welcoming community of fellow music lovers all around her age at the time. Embracing the Nashville scene, she dived deep into the local culture, going two-stepping, immersing herself in country music, and learning the joys of fried baloney sandwiches.
"When I was home and growing up I was really around [just] my family and [we sat] around listening to music so it was kind of the same thing but just around a bunch of folks eating fried baloney sandwiches and smoking cigarettes in bars," Emily said.
Emily's ability to adapt quickly, combined with her love for music, made her transition to a life on the east coast smoother than expected.
Long Game: A Song of Patience and Persistence
In her song "Long Game," Emily reflects on the importance of playing the waiting game in pursuit of long-term goals. This mindset, she believes, is crucial not only in music but in any endeavor.
"I really have to remind myself to be patient with myself when I am kind of doing anything. "Long Game" was inspired by a [musician] friend who would say “Well it’s really not working for me so I should just quit.” And in my head, I would be like, “I don’t know about that. I don’t think you should.” But it’s definitely more so a message to myself. By the time the record comes out, it will have been 10 years for me in Nashville. Definitely playing the long game for sure," says Emily.
Emily Nenni's music video for her catchy song "In the Mornin"
Songs Born from the Grit of Life
Emily's songwriting is deeply influenced by her varied work experiences, from working at a luxury gym and a ranch to spending five years in the restaurant industry and selling cowboy boots.
"I worked at a ranch [and] while I was working there I wrote the record “On the Ranch”. I also worked in a restaurant for about 5 years," said Emily.
Her long hours spent working in the restaurant inspired her to write the line in "Long Game" "Might work my feet to the bone, But I don't mind it", she explained.
The struggles and challenges she faced in these roles found expression in her music, particularly in her album "On the Ranch." The perseverance she displayed during her demanding jobs prior to her music career is mirrored in her dedication to her craft as a musician.
Empowering Messages for Young Women
Several of Emily's songs celebrate the strength and power of women. When asked about her message for young women growing up in 2024, she shared some of the important lessons she has learned in her own life.
"Be patient with yourself and be kind to yourself and to others and surround yourself with people that you trust and that you can have fun with. Because life can be hard but if you're feeling safe and you're around people that are going to make you feel confident in yourself and capable, that’s so important," Emily said.
Emily's personal journey has taught her the importance of self-belief and the joy that comes from sharing life's hardships with supportive friends.
Global Aspirations and Musical Influences
While her music has taken her to Australia, Emily is eagerly anticipating touring Europe touring in the coming year. Reflecting on her favorite musicians from her youth, she mentions a diverse range from classic rock, Springsteen, Momma's and the Poppas, to the enigmatic Grace Slick.
Singing and Songwriting: Equally Loved
Emily's passion for singing and songwriting is evident in her work. Despite being a self-proclaimed introvert, she cherishes both the intimate process of creating music and the thrill of performing live.
"I’m definitely an introvert so I do love the songwriting and recording process. But I do love playing shows [and] I think I love them equally," Emily says.
Instruments and Aspirations
While primarily a guitarist and vocalist, Emily dabbles in piano for songwriting purposes and a little bit of bass guitar as well. She expressed a desire to learn more instruments, perhaps even venturing into banjo playing in the future.
Emily Nenni's journey from a shy young singer to a confident and talented country musician is marked by resilience, adaptability, and a commitment to the long game. As she continues to make her mark in the industry, her music serves as a testament to the power of patience, perseverance, and the joy found in the company of trusted friends and collaborators.
Tickets to see Emily Nenni perform at Grant's Lounge on Saturday, February 10th starting at 9 p.m. cost $15 online or at the door.
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