It’s not often we come across a country singer/songwriter with Spotify playlists filled with the likes of The Cramps, MC5, and Lou Reed… However, that just seems to be how Nashville-based Emily Nenni rolls. “I’m just a huge fan of music, not just country,” she tells me during a recent phone chat. She also tells me that, as much as she loves traditional country fans, she loves to see her music expand beyond the most obvious demographic, a notion that was only enhanced after seeing bandmates, Teddy and the Rough Riders, tour with Orville Peck: “Teddy and the Rough Riders just went on tour with Orville Peck, and I want to have those kinds of audiences… The audience that I have, which is fairly honky-tonk, continues to grow, and I want it to grow to be more inclusive, like those audiences.”
When I ask Nenni about some of her favorite music, she has a fairly long and eclectic list. “Anything Jerry Reed, I’ve been really into,” she says. She tells me that her youth was spent with a variety of classics: “I was obsessed with Bruce Springsteen when I was like 14, especially Darkness on the Edge of Town. I went through a Beatles phase, and also love All Things Must Pass. Leonard Cohen’s Songs from a Room is also a big one.” Nenni also admits that, after an incident in her teens, she found special comfort in one particular ‘60s sunshine pop group: “When I was 17, I had a really serious surgery, and they put me on all these meds, and listening to The Mamas & The Papas harmonies after my morning meds was really great [laughs].”
Last year Emily Nenni released On The Ranch – her second LP – on Normaltown Records. The album was a follow-up to 2018’s Hell of a Woman, which she tells me was quite a different experience for both writing and recording: “The first album was written over the course of four or five years, and me and Eli recorded it at home over the course of like a year-and-a-half… On The Ranch was my first time recording in a studio and we did the whole thing in a week-and-a-half.” And while Nenni tells me that she appreciates all of the feedback that the album’s been receiving, there is a special kind that most pleases her: “I just really appreciate anyone keeping country music going, and anyone who appreciates my songwriting, because when it started it was all about my voice.”
Emily Nenni is currently on a headlining tour that will have her at our very own Silk City this coming Thursday, January 26th, which seems to perfectly fit the venues she’s most comfortable playing: “I’m used to more of a dive, beer-drinking, smoking kind of room… I just try to make it as similar to playing Santa’s Pub in Nashville as possible.” But she does admit that she’s been liking the wider variety of venues she’s been playing as of recently: “I’ve really been enjoying playing all these different places. Playing listening rooms is really cool; I hadn’t played them until I was on tour with Kelsey Waldon, and there’s just something about everyone totally paying attention to your set… And also these beautiful theatres that we played with Charley Crockett were just incredible.”
2023 has a lot of touring in the works for Emily Nenni (“I’ll be headed to Europe in June, and then going on a tour with a big band that has a big following that I can’t announce yet!”), in addition to her follow-up to On The Ranch: “In May I’m trying to get some recording done. I’m excited to get started on this new record for New West.” But this March Nenni and the Rough Riders will be playing what we consider to be an especially cool bill at Treefort Music Fest in Boise, ID. She will be playing alongside a plethora of PHILTHY favorites, such as Destroy Boys, Sun June, Skating Polly, Guerilla Toss, Death Valley Girls, Macie Stewart, Petite Amie, Emily Wolfe, Summer Cannibals, Motherhood, and Scout Gillett. And when I ask Emily if there are any artists she’s especially excited to see, she has a fairly extensive list of her own.
“Teddy and the Rough Riders just got added! Lady Wray! I love that song, ‘Guilty.’ I used to work in a restaurant, and we’d always play her music all the time… Margo [Price]! We just saw her the other night! She played a record release show right around the corner from where I live… Leyla McCalla… I always love a festival!”
*Get your tickets here.