Emma Jacob is a former California girl who's gone Nashville as a country up-and-comer. She wields her vocal range with restraint, pulling out a throaty depth when necessary. The 19-year-old singer talked to us before her Dover International Speedway appearances race weekend.
Q You’ve said you love R&B and gospel music although you chose to pursue a career in country. What is it about country music that appeals to you?
A I came up not only listening to Patsy Cline, but also Aretha Franklin. My parents had such an array of music choices, there’s not a specific genre I love. So when I decided I wanted to make a career of it I was like Oh my God, what do I choose?
The thing I love about country so much is that it tells a story. With pop, you get a basic idea, but pretty much a country song is a movie in a three-minute song. I love to have people enticed by my songs, and think “Oh that’s what she meant, that’s what that song means,” instead of “Oh, that’s catchy.”
I love singing ballads, and country has some of the bets ballads out there.
Mainly, growing up my mom always taught me to believe in God and listen to these inspirational, powerful songs, and I kind of got that R&B tone in my voice. Every now and then in the country music industry people come up to me and ask me “Have you sang R&B before?”
Q It seems as if you’re playing a lot of camping and NASCAR venues, but it doesn't seem that you’re that outdoorsy. Are you?
A Here’s the thing: To the naked eye, because of how I dress onstage I seem like a really big girly girl. But when we’re not onstage, I put on some sweatpants and sneakers and throw the football around with the boys. I didn’t get to go camping a lot as a kid, so this is kind of my catching up to do. I’m a little bit of both, I’m a little bit outdoorsy and a little not.
Q How do you feel about these venues, where the fans are so close to you?
A It’s amazing, this is the first time that we’ve actually done something like this where you go do a different place every weekend. It’s not like you go on and perform and never get to meet anyone. This is like, you see them Friday through Sunday, so you take time and they take time to have those one-on-one talks with you. It’s vital not only for them, but for us to see our fans and what they like and what they’re like.
It’s a really a humbling experience for us. This is one of the best opportunities we’ve gotten. A couple years ago I got to open for Jason Aldean, but this is our first get-in-the-bus, go-out-every-single-weekend tour. It’s just been so much fun and it’s long, it’s been a really long process, but I know once November comes it’s going to be really sad to see it end.
Q The cover of your CD “Strong Like Me” is you posing in the image of Rosie the Riveter. Tell me a little about that cover.
A We had chosen all the songs and recorded them and everything, and after all that was done we were like, “We need to do a photo shoot.” The moment I heard Strong Like Me, I thought that’s what I wanted the CD to be named. So I was brainstorming with my family and I was like strong, how about Rosie the Riveter, it’s such an iconic image and everyone agreed, and we tried it and it was a hit. We get a lot of compliments, and I’m like yeah, that’s my idea.
Q Whose career would you like to emulate?
A I admire Keith Urban, and not because I’m in love with him. I went and saw one of his concerts a couple years ago and he is just so, no matter how big he gets he’s just so down to earth. He’ll put on this amazing show – and I took away so much [from his show] – but he’ll perform with millions of millions of people, but then I’d see him hanging out with his wife in Starbucks in the mall.
I never want to lose that down to earth humbleness. I always try, no matter how busy I get, no matter how many people tell me I’m great, I’m going to go play softball now.
Q You were nominated for two Inspirational Country Music Awards. What has that experience been like?
A There were two processes, the top 10 and the top 5. The first time I found out I was in the top ten, I freaked out a little bit and thought this is a really cool chance to be a nominee. The moment we got the email that I was in the top 5 and they were going to be announcing my name as a nominee, my mom got the email first and when I got home she said I have something to show you. And then she started crying, and I thought someone had died. But when she read it and we both broke down, it was the most exciting moment of my life.
If I don’t win, the top 10 would have been amazing. The top five is more than I could have asked for.
It’s kind of a reality check, because you never know where life takes you. It’s sometimes one step forward and two steps back, but now it’s really like, wow I really am getting somewhere.
Q What is your advice to other young musicians?
A The main thing that I can say to young musicians is patience is definitely a virtue. We’ve had a lot of struggles in the five years we’ve been in Nashville, and we said let’s just give up, but we reconsidered and we stayed, and it’s working out.
If this is something that you really love, you should stay and fight for it because it almost always pays off.
Q What do you enjoy doing when you’re not performing?
A I’m a very avid texter. Between April and May, I sent 24,000 text messages. Reading, I love to read, I love to watch TV, anything a normal teenager would like to do. I’m taking Japanese class on Tuesday, because I love Japanese culture.
Email Sarika Jagtiani at firstname.lastname@example.org