Emma Hooton: Young singer records at famous Nashville studio

Jane Reddington

Sounder Staff

Tuesday, May 24 2016

For two weeks in April, Emma Hooton got to experience the rhythm and blues side of the music industry during a trip to Ottawa, Nashville and Memphis. She recorded songs in Nashville at the Loud Recording Studio where Tim McGraw and George Strait both released albums. “I shocked myself. I didn’t think I’d be able to get it in two takes but I did.” Hooton sang “Love Train” by the O’Jays. 

“I’m so lucky to be part of the band and to do this trip with a great group of people,” says Hooton, who has been part of the Victoria High Rhythm and Blues Band since September 2015. There are 18 musicians in the group that come from surrounding schools in Victoria and from up island. 

They started their trip in Ottawa and performed at the Rainbow Bistro, which is known as Ottawa’s legendary home of the blues. They got to see the Parliament Buildings, participated in a flash mob of “Stand by Me,” and sat in on Question Period at the House of Commons with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

 Hooton has spent this year going to school half-time at Nanaimo District Secondary School (NDSS) and participating in rehearsals at Victoria High twice a week. She says after Ottawa, the group flew to Nashville and played at the Hard Rock Café and toured the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. 

They saw a show at the Grand Ole Opry. “I’d like to have my own band play at the Grand Ole Opry,” says Hooten, who is a soft-spoken young woman all of 18 years of age. We meet at her parents’ Woodfire restaurant, where she works part-time and talks about the fundraising the group did for the trip and how they play a lot of gigs. 

From Nashville they went on to Memphis, to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, and to the National Civil Rights Museum. They visited the Arcade Restaurant where Elvis used to eat and did their performance at the Hard Rock Café in Memphis. 

Since she was 11 years old, Hooton has been taking voice lessons. “I love singing, it calms me down,” she says as she tells me about a competition she entered in Parksville where she was the runner-up because she says the other girl had more stage presence. 

“I’ve learned to dance in front of an audience now and deliver a song properly,” Hooten says of her time with the Vic High band. She says she’ll travel to England with her family in September and perhaps will keep travelling, she’s just not sure. 

When I ask why the band went to Nashville she said that rhythm and blues music is soul music and they’re not a country or a pop band. Hooton had to audition to get into the Vic High band.

“I love performing. It makes me happy and I have a lot of fun when I perform. I just don’t know if I want to go into a career in music.” Hooton says the trip opened her eyes to how tough the music world can be. She got to see how many people are competing for the same spots.

“I’d love to just see where life takes me and where I end up.” Hooton says most of the group will go on to pursue music in some way.