By JEN RETTER ’16
Photography CHRISTINA YEE ’14
When Emily Hearn finished the first song of her set, “Two Feet on the Ground,” fans broke into applause for the 22-year-old singer-songwriter. “Thank you so much, ya’ll,” she said with a laugh. “Oh my gosh, I just said ‘ya’ll’! I’m from Georgia.”
The crowd that gathered in the Commons Great Room on Sept. 22 to hear the up-and-coming artist’s trademark falsetto was not disappointed. The songbird’s soulful vocals, pitch-perfect even in sound check, traveled beyond the room’s walls, luring even more listeners as the night went on.
The performance marked not only Hearn’s first time at Arcadia University but her first time in Pennsylvania as well. To make it to campus, Hearn and her band started the 13-hour drive from Athens, Ga., at 5 o’clock that morning. “We passed a lot of states that I’d never even been to along the way. We’re all about cheesesteaks now!” she told her Philly fans.
Tiara Benvenutti, who chairs the Student Programming Board’s music committee and booked the group, said, “[SPB] tries to bring personable performers who get people talking at Arcadia.” Minutes before the concert began, Hearn along with her bassist and husband-to-be, Michael Harrison, did just that. Eventually joined by guitarist Ben Butler and drummer Paul Rogers, they graciously answered questions and discussed their music with the growing crowd.
A self-taught musician who learned to play by ear as a high school senior, Hearn was influenced by friends and family to write original songs while attending the University of Georgia. “I wrote most of my music after a really bad breakup. I began playing and singing at parties, which turned into performing at venues,” she said. The exposure and experience led Hearn to meet her future bandmates and develop a following in her hometown.
Hearn’s style has evolved from a solo acoustic act into what she describes as “a little bit of pop and folk, broken down into something fun, catchy and relatable.” Yet, she says, no matter how upbeat the melody of a song may be, her lyrics always have personal meaning behind them.
With her unique style and sound growing and developing, Hearn was able to release Paper Hearts, a five-track EP, as well as Red Balloon, a full-length album she describes as emotional.
“I wanted [Red Balloon] to be cohesive, but to convey many different emotions to my listeners. I wanted it to be both happy and sad, with love songs, ballads and rock. There are some new styles, but it’s still me. I was there for most of the recording, which was really cool. I got to see the album come together,” she said.
The band’s performance at Arcadia reflected the themes of love and heartbreak that define the album, and Hearn encouraged the audience to experience with her the personal stories she tells through her original music. The themes behind the songs Hearn selected for the concert varied from high school jerks (“Uh Oh”) to the cute delivery boy she met while working at a peach stand (“Not the One”). Just as charming a performer as she is a person, Hearn even invited the crowd to stand on their chairs and swing their fists to the beat of “Like Ships Need the Sea.”
To give the audience a taste of how wide Hearn’s vocal range truly is, the band also put their twist on a variety of popular songs, including “The Scientist” by Coldplay and “Linger” by the Cranberries. Benvenutti admits to falling in love with the singer’s rare and pure talent as soon as she heard Hearn’s cover of the Foo Fighters’ “Best of You.”
After the show, Hearn continued to chat with her new fans as they purchased copies of Red Balloon and t-shirts designed by the singer. “It’s even cool to have a show with just a crowd of two people. We get to make friends,” explained Hearn.
Harrison added, “We love playing for people we don’t know. We’d much rather play for strangers than a bunch of our friends.”
Upcoming SPB Events
- SPB Presents: 80s Welcome Back Dance, Friday, Sept. 28, from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. in the Commons Great Room.
- SPB Films Presents: 80s Movie Marathon, Saturday, Sept. 29, from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. in the Commons Great Room. The Goonies and The Breakfast Club will be showing.
- SPB Comedy Presents: Cristella Alonzo, Friday, Oct. 5, from 10 to 11 p.m. in the Commons Great Room.