Artist Spotlight: Sawyer
March 8, 2023
They’re a Nashville-based band composed of members Emma Harvey and Kel Taylor. With over 100,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, the two have come a long way since they first met while attending Belmont University. Belmont, which was founded in 1890, boasts one of the most reputable music programs in the country, with majors ranging from music business, to songwriting, to audio engineering. It was here that Emma and Kel, both songwriting majors at the time, met in a first-year seminar class and bonded over their shared love for music.
Originally, Kel was already working on a solo project, and Emma soon began to accompany her. Coincidentally, the two both went through breakups in their sophomore year, sending them into a songwriting spiral that led them to start creating more songs together. It wasn’t long until the two were performing songs they’d written together at Kel’s solo gigs. The two then sat down to have a DTR (define the relationship), and Sawyer was born.
Outside the band, Kel and Emma are also incredibly close friends. Kel maintains that “without (our) friendship, there is no Sawyer. There’s just something really special about the way that we see each other and just love and respect each other. I think we’re both sort of perpetually interesting to each other just because our natural gifts are different, and so we’ve had to understand how to communicate and how to fight well, and how to fight efficiently.”
“Sometimes there are tears shed during the writing process,” Emma laughs.
“A lot. I’d say once a week at least,” Kel adds.
“There’s like a mid-song argument,” concludes Emma.
Their group dynamic embodies a yin yang, with Kel writing most of the group’s lyrics and Emma contributing to the sonic choices. They’ve found a creative process that works for them. Emma agrees that “Kel is really good with lyrics and the whole concept of the song, and I usually bring in more of the music side, so we bring those two things and we both dabble with each other’s strengths.”
Sawyer’s indie pop-rock feel emanates through their entire discography. The two have mastered the art of creating upbeat pop anthems with melancholy lyrics. They’re both really clever when it comes to musicality, using different chord inversions and strategic dissonance to create darker moods in their music. They maintain that the tension between their lyrics and sound is purposeful, allowing them to create songs that are “sneakily sad.” Somehow, Sawyer can create a breakup song that makes its listener want to jump around and dance. While sadness is a frequent emotion expressed throughout their songs, Kel notes that it isn’t a wallowing feeling, rather an acknowledgement and vocalization of the struggles that she and Emma have experienced. It’s a way to tell the world, “Hey, I’m not okay, and I need help.”
Like many other musicians, Emma and Kel were forced to postpone a tour during the covid pandemic. Since then, though, they’ve had multiple experiences on the road, having opened for artists like Joan and The Aces. They’re also embarking on a tour this summer supporting the band Joseph. When I asked about their time on tour with The Aces, the two could only speak positively, noting about how down-to-earth the band was, even letting them relax in their green room before shows.
As for why they make music? In their words–
“There’s a completion to life when I feel like I can communicate and express what’s going on inside of me, specifically for me, like lyric writing. All of that self expression I don’t want to just end at creating but knowing that there is the potential of someone else hearing, resonating, and ultimately connecting… that is a circle in a process that makes me want to be alive,” says Kel.
“There’s like a discovery element to music. Music for me has always been a way for me to realize what I’m feeling rather than express. I think it brings things to the surface,” Emma adds.
Kel and Emma are some of the most talented individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of talking to. With beautiful voices and beautiful hearts, I have no doubt that they will continue to push the bar forward and challenge themselves to make the best music they can.
You can find Sawyer on all streaming platforms, and make sure to follow them on Instagram @thebandsawyer. Until next time, this has been The 411.