March 21, 2019
While most songwriters start out as lyricists, this Nashville-based singer has always been drawn to melody. Emma Shackelford says, “One thing I can always come back to is the melody . . . I’ve always thought melody comes easier to me than words.” For Emma, first comes a memorable, soulful melody, and then comes the equally riveting and beautifully crafted lyric. In her single “Hot Commodity” she pushes the boundaries of country rhythms with quickly ascending pop melodies, and vocal bends straight out of a blues catalogue.
As a child, this Orlando native was in front of a video camera filming home videos of her and her sister putting on concerts in her family’s game room. Emma and her sister used to dream of being country stars as kids, but Emma’s dream never faded— it only intensified. She graduated high school early so that she could get to Nashville sooner to enroll as a songwriting student at Belmont University.
There’s no shortage of incredible singers, but few whose voice exhibits both uniqueness and skill. Her unmistakable vocal tone can cut through a crowd with a single note. Her distinctive warble and undeniable warmth has stunned audiences throughout Nashville for five years now. Her voice is hard to describe, as it’s every bit as distinct and recognizable as her idols— Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Bonnie Raitt, and Stevie Nicks to name a few.
Sometimes it seems like the music industry is geared against introverts, because while introspection is revered in songwriting, the industry itself revolves around networking. While Emma is a self-described introvert, her passion for music supersedes her desire to keep to herself. She loves forming genuine connections, and she says, “every day I have to choose to put myself out there.” College was a blessing, because she needed the structure college could provide. In Belmont’s songwriting program, she is always being forced out of her comfort zone, and constantly growing.
For this on-the-rise Nashville artist, songwriting is a form of therapy and performing is a source of joy. On stage with a band behind her, she comes alive. In person she may be shy, but her live improvisational skills are anything but. Her voice fearlessly dances through her extensive range, commanding listeners’ attention with the brutal honesty in her voice. Many artists find it difficult to write melodies that are novel without being strange, but Emma gravitates to melodies that are simultaneously fresh and catchy every time she improvises. This young talent doesn’t need a single lyric to break a heart— the raw passion in her voice and the emotive nature of her melodies are heartbreaking enough.
Like many, Emma recently caught the ever-enchanting wanderlust bug. This past summer she spent a month in England in one of Belmont’s study abroad programs. While she was there, she wrote songs and pitched them to Kobalt’s music publishing office in London. This trip inspired her to enroll in another travel program this fall where she’ll be spending a semester in Belmont’s Los Angeles satellite campus. It’ll be her first time under the radiant skies of Southern California, but since LA and Nashville are so connected, she wants to soak it all in. “It’s easy to get stuck in the routine of day-to-day life, and whenever I travel, it reminds me there’s just so much more out there.”
Emma is currently in the studio working on new material, so stay tuned! You can listen to Emma’s music HERE and learn more about her HERE.