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Artist Spotlight: Emmylou Harris

-Emma Dawson, Roots N Blues Intern

Emmylou Harris’ beginnings as an artist were humble yet marked by passion and irrefutable talent; after dropping out of college to focus on music and while working as a waitress to support herself, Harris started performing at coffee shops in Manhattan in the 1960s. Folk music was at its peak, and was becoming a tool for activism and a poetic expression of peace.

Today, over 40 years into her career, Harris is a 13-time grammy winner who has worked with a lengthy list of country music greats, including Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, John Prine, Neil Young and many others. She’s a Country Music Hall of Famer and a member of the Grand Ole Opry. (Best of all, she’s headlining The 2017 Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival.)

On paper, Harris is undeniably impressive. But what cannot be so easily understood from lists of awards and number one singles is the timeless, expert songwriting through which Harris has connected with generations of listeners. Harris is known for singing, in her distinct and ethereal falsetto, with a heartfelt sincerity. She writes with wisdom, whether it’s an intimate portrayal of her own experiences with life and love or an emotionally-written piece of sociopolitical commentary.

Harris’ activism stretches beyond her music, too. In her spare time, she runs an animal shelter in Nashville; her rescue dog inspired the song, “Big Black Dog,” and travels with her on tours. In the ‘90s, she contributed to raising money and awareness for the effort to ban landmines in southeast Asia; a series of concerts across the US, Canada and Europe raised millions of dollars and brought attention to the issue. It is increasingly rare to find such a talented entertainer who doubles as a global activist, but Harris recognizes the power her voice can have with more than just music.

Emmylou Harris is performing on the Great Southern Bank Stage on Sunday evening of Roots N Blues. We guarantee this is one you won’t want to miss.