Artist You Should Know: Sawyer
Interview by Jessica Klinner
Nashville, Tennessee is known for its storied history in making the biggest names in country music. While it’s still a home for Southern music and country acts, Nashville has, in recent years, become a hub for indie music and beyond. If you’re cruising down Broadway, you’re sure to find honkey tonk music spilling from every bar window and street corner, but travel further away from downtown to East Nashville, and you’re sure to find some of the best up-and-coming indie acts out there.
Sawyer is one of them.
Emma Harvey and Kel Taylor have only been performing as a duo since March 2015, but they’ve already created quite the buzz around the Nashville area and are beginning to extend their reach as far as the Pacific Northwest. As students of Belmont University, the two friends and roommates juggle performances, writing new music and promoting whatever they’re working on at the time on top of a full class load. It’s an impressive feat that speaks volumes to their work ethic.
We caught up with Emma and Kel to talk about their brand new song, “Ten Feet Tall,” which you can stream below, and how they got started making music together.
Sawyer started out as a solo project. How did it evolve into a duo?
Emma: I think it happened partly by accident. Soon after we became friends, I started accompanying Kel’s solo project. The following summer, Kel had a show in Birmingham and wanted to play a new song, but the bridge wasn’t finished. Hence, our first co-write. It was magic, and pretty soon after we started making plans to form the duo.
Kel: I don’t know what Emma is talking about. It was love at first sight for me. Just a matter of trying to convince her to marry me musically. But my plan came to fruition.
You guys are making quite a buzz in the Nashville indie scene. In a city historically known for great music, how do you set yourself apart from the other acts trying to break through?
Kel: We are so lucky to live in this city. As expensive as it is, being surrounded by so much talent is worth the Pop-Tart breakfasts. The goal has always been connection. We really hope that we can put on a show that invites people in and can make people feel like they are with us instead of watching us.
Emma: Being real both on and off stage I think is really important. It comes down to making a connection with people, and I think that starts with making good music and being genuine.
I noticed that your touring schedule happens during the summer. Are the two of you still in school? If so, how do you balance school life with trying to grow your audience?
Emma: Yeah, we’re both still in school but graduating in May! Doing both has been hard because we really do love school and we often have to sacrifice one or the other. (It’s always school).
Kel: I really love school, which makes this hard. I usually just try to make it all fit somehow. I bought a planner this year and put all the Sawyer social media posts, recording schedules and show stuff in green. So. Now I’m my mom.
Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind your new song, “Ten Feet Tall.”
Emma: We started with the verse and were really pumped about it. Then we completely hit a wall with our ideas so, I guess for a different perspective, I stood on the coffee table with my guitar. Next thing we new Kel was singing the chorus!
Kel: The chorus really started as a joke, but then we realized how well it fit with the verse. Essentially, we wanted to write a song that could help people keep their chin up. It was actually written during a really rough time for both of us. It was so healing to write something that doesn’t ask us to forget the problems, but rather to open our eyes to the truth that we are not alone in it.
Is there an EP or album in the works? Or are you guys focusing on putting out really solid singles right now?
Kel: We are currently in the studio with our soulmate producer, Quinn, working on the next EP right now.
You guys played your first sold out show in Seattle this summer. What was that like?
Emma: AMAZING. It was such a surprise. They knew the songs and singing them together felt so connecting.
Kel: The surprise of it was the coolest part. I was hoping for 50 people. It felt like one huge family reunion in that room! We had THE greatest time with them.
You guys toured the Pacific Northwest this summer. Where is Sawyer headed to next?
Kel: We definitely want to hit another Young Life camp this summer because it is the best place to play music on earth. And after that, we are trying to hit the road. But who knows? This whole thing is just one big guessing game.
Emma: Yeah, Young Life and opening for a tour would be the dream. I’d also really like to tour so I can add to #kelsleeptalks on Twitter.