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Emily Hackett Talks about Her Music and Her Hometown



Emily Hackett - photo by Sofia Magana

From Peachtree Corners to Nashville

“My dad was constantly playing music around the house,” Emily Hackett said, pushing her wavy hair back behind one ear, “and I just became completely enamored with it. He was that guy who brought his guitar everywhere, so live music was introduced to me at a very young age.”

That love for music was strengthened through her involvement in the Norcross High School drama program. “Gina Perish, who everyone loves, was quite the character and became like a second mom to me,” Emily said. “She was the one that showed me what I was really capable of when it came to performing.”

Emily also attributes her songwriting success to the collective efforts of her language arts teachers. “At the end of every year, I always left my language arts class having learned something about myself as a writer. Through developing my writing in class, I was able to take some of that skill home and enhance my songs.”

Although she was certain of her direction after high school, the journey toward her dreams was not always simple. In fact, in her attempt to establish a professional music career, she often struggled with the concept of finding her own voice and individuality in her work.

Emily Hackett
Norcross High School student Annie Fogle interviews Emily Hackett, herself an NHS grad, photography by Sofia Magana, also an NHS student working for Peachtree Corners Magazine.

Looking back, she said that she wishes she knew not to “chase what’s cool” because being different and true to yourself is what makes people successful. She cited artists like Elton John and Billie Eilish, who turned away from the established norms of the industry to create something novel.

That individual spin can be heard in Emily’s unique, yet relatable, music. It’s her honest songwriting that not only connects to the hearts of the audience but also helps her move through the trials of her own life. For example, her song “Easy,” which focuses on a past relationship and the hurt that she caused someone, was “therapeutic for her” and gave her the opportunity to convey an important message to her fans.

“First, if you’ve been there before, it’s okay. It’s not okay to treat someone that way, but it’s okay to talk about it. Because I think to talk about it, hopefully, will prevent people from wandering into the same mistakes,” she said. And even though Emily shared that it was a difficult song to release and to be honest with herself about, it was written so that other people could feel confident about coming to terms with themselves after a time like that.

But a tough experience isn’t always what it takes to make a great song. In fact, Emily claimed her greatest inspirations have come from other artists. “Kacey Musgraves, for example. Lately, she’s really just come into her own in a big way. And I’ve always been a fan of hers, especially as a writer, because her music lets you discover things about yourself.”

Emily continued, saying that the artists she has collaborated with also have influenced the way she creates new music. “Even though my songwriting process is always different, Nashville is a really collaborative town, so you have to be able to write with other people and let your music grow from that.”

By drawing inspiration from the experiences of other writers, Emily is able to add another layer of meaning to her music. This deep emotion gives her fans something very real to connect to, which undoubtedly attributes to her accomplishments as a musician.

An example of her success was being named CMT’s Next Woman of Country. She said that the honor of winning the award wasn’t in the recognition alone. “It was an amazing experience, but right now I don’t have management, I don’t have a publishing deal, and I don’t have a record label,” she said. “So, for me, the best part about winning was that I was the only one of the nominees that aren’t signed to anyone. It taught me that I can love collaborating and the team mentality, but I don’t need it to be appreciated as an artist.” While she loves having a support system to help her put out her music, Emily has the ability to take her career into her own hands.

As years pass and she becomes more and more successful, Emily always makes time to come back home to Peachtree Corners. She said after living in the city of Nashville for almost 10 years, she has come to recognize the suburbs as an exceptional place to grow up.            

She remembers the welcoming spirit of her hometown, the people of the community and the constant support they gave her as a musician. And staying true to her love of nostalgia, she completes each trip with visits to family favorites like Happy Sumo, Jason’s Deli and Dominick’s.

Emily Hackett

Annie Fogle is a junior at Norcross High School and Copy Editor for the school’s yearbook. Her interests include traveling, non-fiction books, and spending time with friends and family. She would describe herself as a dog lover and Jeopardy enthusiast.

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Texas Flood Concert Photo Gallery



We’ve been fortunate to have photo coverage of this past weekend’s Texas Flood concert at Peachtree Corners Town Center offered up by two great photographers, Jason Getz and Ludwig Keck, and local resident Peter Chen provided drone shots.

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Around Atlanta

High Museum of Art Commissions New Piazza Installation



So-il art

In July, the High Museum of Art will unveil “Murmuration,” a soaring, stunning installation by the internationally renowned architecture and design firm SO – IL and partners Jing Liu and Florian Idenburg. Presented on The Woodruff Arts Center’s Carroll Slater Sifly Piazza, the installation continues a multiyear initiative to activate the High’s outdoor space with site-specific commissions that engage visitors of all ages.

On view from July 17 through Nov. 29, 2020, “Murmuration” speaks directly to the architecture of the Piazza and more broadly to the city of Atlanta and its relationships with the natural world as viewed through the lens of bird migrations. Featuring a foliage-filled mesh canopy suspended over the Piazza by a steel framework, the installation will envelop guests, evoking tree canopies throughout the city and region. SO – IL was inspired by Atlanta’s reputation as the “city in a forest” and by the High’s proximity to the city’s largest greenspace, Piedmont Park, to guide the design of this installation.

Along with its many trees, the metro area is home to hundreds of bird species. The canopy’s perches will aim to draw birds to the site. Beneath the canopy, guests can use the space as a shaded respite and participate in their own “nesting and perching” by using benches and “pods” suspended from the upper structure. “Murmuration” will serve as a welcoming atmosphere for rest and recreation, as well as a place for families to connect and create memories at the Museum.

“Our guests will enjoy the opportunity to relax and reflect as they lounge underneath the beautiful canopy of ‘Murmuration’,’” said Rand Suffolk, Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director of the High. “As with all of our previous Piazza installations, this latest project welcomes visitors of all ages to enjoy some fun, or take a quick break, in our outdoor space before heading into the Museum.”

The installation’s design is Atlanta focused but also explores broader themes related to nature, the environment and human-animal interactions.

“SO – IL’s belief that connecting communities with their physical environment coupled with a thoughtful approach to engaging with the Museum’s architecture, makes Murmuration relevant for our visitors and the community at large,” said Monica Obniski, the High’s curator of decorative arts and design. “It is incumbent on the art museum to create spaces that challenge traditional ideals of where art should be. SO – IL’s socially-driven installation can help generate public discourse about the intersection of architecture and nature, but let’s not stop there.”

The project was originally slated to open in April but was delayed due to COVID-19. To ensure the safety of guests gathering outside under the canopy, the Museum will provide a hand-sanitizing station.

This project builds on the success of the five previous Piazza commissions: Japanese designer Yuri Suzuki’s “Sonic Playground” (2018), Spanish designer Jaime Hayon’s “Merry Go Zoo” (2017) and “Tiovivo” (2016) and 2014–2015’s “Mi Casa, Your Casa” and “Los Trompos” (“The Spinning Tops”) by Mexican designers Héctor Esrawe and Ignacio Cadena.

Source: Press Release by the High Museum of Art

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Arts & Literature

Howell Upchurch – From Filmmaking to Guitar Making, Part of Five Stories to Brighten Our Spirits



The Bright Side of Lockdown in Peachtree Corners

We can all relate to the surreal feeling brought on by the coronavirus as we struggled with being caught in this bizarre new world that was difficult to believe yet impossible to ignore. We couldn’t help but feel shocked as it unfolded — it was unprecedented — although there had been a dreadful buzz in the air heading straight for us from miles away.

As our nation is sieged with controversy, climbing death rates, trepidation and uncertainty, I wanted to find some uplifting, local COVID-19 stories that would serve to brighten our spirits. This is part 2 of 5 stories to be posted.

Peachtree Corners resident and Videographer Howell Upchurch has been in the film business since he was 25 years old. His most recent project with the city is a video tribute to commemorate America’s fallen soldiers at the Veterans Monument on Town Center, to be viewed on Memorial Day in lieu of having a ceremony — a coronavirus safety precaution.

As many can relate, when the pandemic struck, his professional projects completely shut down. He knew he’d be inoperative for at least two months and decided he wanted something tangible to show for this time.

Rather than join his acquaintances on Facebook who divided into warring camps, Trump vs. Pelosi, Upchurch turned to a creative outlet to find his way out of the darkness.

Videographer Howell
Upchurch poses with a custom
guitar he built during the Covid-19
Photos courtesy of Howell Upchurch.
It Only Takes One Finger to Play a Guitar

Upchurch took up the guitar two years ago. Though he doesn’t consider himself a gifted guitarist, he enjoys playing the blues. The Allman Brothers and Eric Clapton are among his favorite artists.

“When I met Ric Seymour, former guitar player of Wet Willie, he set me on course to really start taking it seriously,” Upchurch shared. “I enjoy playing along with backing tracks. If there’s a song I like, I turn up the guitar and jam with it. I feel like I’m playing with the Rolling Stones.”

You Can’t Play the Guitar All Day

Upchurch soon decided that building a guitar would be a good break from playing one.

He had gifted a guitar kit to his son which they built together. Woodworking has always been a hobby.

“I’ve built boats, decks, furniture, the chair I’m sitting on, but the guitar was different,” he said. “It’s very fine woodwork. Once you finish building it, it has a real purpose.”

From his basement workshop, Upchurch has constructed both acoustic and electric guitars, with plans to build more and even try his hand at other instruments like the violin. He’s eager to expand his hobby as his growing skills allow.

“I’d like to continue on a much grander scale, make it very à la carte. When I do my next acoustic, I’ll start out at a very non-kit, raw material level,” Upchurch explained.

Guitar Making Made Me a Better Musician

Upchurch described a special bond with an instrument you make yourself: “The instrument becomes an extension of you. It sounds the way it does because you made it that way. You speak through the instrument.

“As I got into building it, I learned how the instrument makes the sounds that it makes, which immediately made me a better guitar player,” he said. Previously, Upchurch would take his guitar to a luthier who would set it up to get the best sound out of the instrument.

“When you start building guitars, you learn how to do all that yourself. After a while your knowledge of music, scales, fretboards all interrelate with intonation and harmonics. That’s what makes a great instrument,” Upchurch explained.

Post-Lockdown PTC More Than Just a Place to Work

 Upchurch would like to see music lessons offered by the city, “Playing music brings people together. The city is considering a Cultural Arts Center to be built behind the Veterans Monument. That would be a good place for lessons,” Upchurch suggested.

He feels guitar building would also bring the community together. “We could start a Guitar Building Clubwhere we can help each other and share ideas. I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned and encourage others to build.”

According to Upchurch, the new Town Center buildings in chrome and glass can be turned into a cultural center with a focus on music. “The city government is focused on technology, business, a Smart City, driverless vehicles and drone delivery. But there should be an equal amount of emphasis placed on developing the cultural aspects of our city,” he said.

Jamming in the Corners

When conditions safely allow for it, Upchurch would like to expand his musical network from virtual jam sessions with friends in Virginia to playing with musicians in town. Evoking the street musicians of New Orleans and Paris, he proposed we encourage local musicians to gather on Town Center to play informally, adding a touch of musical identity and charm typical of iconic cities.

 “We have great bands around here, even high school bands like Norcross and Wesleyan. We should bring them out more to perform before an audience. I’d love to see Peachtree Corners’ cultural and musical development parallel its technology and industry development,” Upchurch said.


As things slowly open up again, Upchurch plans to continue his guitar making hobby. A custom guitar can take one to three months to build. An acoustic guitar takes longer to make than an electric guitar.

Upchurch said he would want to learn about your personality, your musical abilities and preferences before setting out to create an instrument for you. “You’re trying to make something that’s appropriate for the individual. You can actually build a guitar to suit someone’s size and personality,” he explained.

The choice of wood is determined by the genre of music one wishes to play because the type of wood affects the sound. Mahogany for example, produces a higher pitched sound.

To view his custom guitars, find Howell Upchurch on Facebook. Or contact him via email at howell@mindspring.com

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