Sawyer: The Spirited Duo Taking Nashville By Storm

Dark-haired, pixie-like Emma Harvey and curly-headed, ball of joy Kel Taylor are the fiery duo that make up the, in their own words, “indie-sparkle-pop” duo, Sawyer. You may have heard their name around campus before, and hopefully you have heard their latest single, “The Last Thing,” that is blasting out of people’s cars and headphones through out Nashville. Sawyer makes music from the soul for the soul, and it is exactly that which sets them apart from thousands of others.

On Thursday, I had the privilege to sit and chat with Emma, a junior Songwriting major from Dallas, Texas, and Kel, a junior Religion in the Arts major from Indianapolis, Indiana, and ask them some questions about what makes Sawyer, Sawyer. They greeted me with warm smiles and filled the room with their light and kindness. Even though Kel was a little under the weather, they both looked beautiful and their distinct looks complimented each other so well. Our interview was full of laughs, and the love between the best friends was almost palpable. It was evident that their music perfectly reflects the vulnerability and joy in their hearts. These girls make music with the selfless mission of giving others hope - not for their personal gain or followers on Instagram. The greatest compliment you could give them seems to be along the lines of, “Your song got me through a horrible heart break.” However, they are quick to admit that before Sawyer was for anyone else, it was for them.

“We formed March of last year. We were both solo artists and we had break-ups that fell on the same day,” Kel said with a smile, “so we called each other and we were like, ‘What do we do?  Let’s just start a band,’ so that was that.”

“We have always both said that we want our music to make people feel known and understood,” said Emma, “and I think before, when we first started Sawyer, it was a lot of fun for ourselves. It was to get over our breakups. It was to pass the time and be something, be someone, in Nashville. But as we’ve grown personally, we’ve learned that music is a gift and we want to steward it. And that means making our music something people can find hope in…our measure of success has changed.”

“Yeah I do think that with that it's easier to appreciate where we are now and when we hear feedback now.  For instance, when people say, 'Oh your song got me through this or made me feel this,' we can see our goal being achieved,” said Kel.

Both girls attested to the fact that when they write their song lyrics they, “Want to be conscious of where we are leading out crowd.” What a cool concept, right? It’s evident that these girls write music in service to the Lord. Not only that, but they say they want to write music that is, “driveable... like you listen to it and drive around with your windows rolled down.”

As a Sawyer fan and best friend to a girl who never rolls her windows up, I can attest that “The Last Thing” is most definitely a windows-rolled-down song.

“I say Sawyer saved my life last year,” Kel admitted, “because of our friendship that came out of it, and the growth that came from building something from scratch during a time when I was just…really sad. There was just so much growth and self discovery.”

“I think creating in general can be therapeutic,” Emma noted, “especially songwriting with a friend.”

Kel lit up at this, “Yeah, a friend who gets it.” 

When I asked where the name Sawyer came from (a question I have been curious about for a while), they both laughed. Honestly, I thought they were about to say that maybe it was a combination of their ex-boyfriends' names…I was wrong. Unless one of them dated Tom Sawyer, which neither did. So where does it come from? Emma explained that each winter break they spend about a week or two just writing. The winter before they launched, Kel came to Dallas and as Emma says, “[Kel] was really into the book Huck Finn, so every night just to wind down she would read Huck Finn aloud.”

“Which is hilarious,” Kel said through her laughter, “just imagine the two of us sitting there and I’m reading this book from my 7th grade requirement list, but it’s amazing – so good. So we decided Sawyer, because of our boy Tom.”

They both laughed at this, fully aware that it was completely random and probably not at all what I was expecting. 

Coming into this interview I knew that the girls were not only close friends, but also roommates, so I was curious as to what it was like for them to be in a band together too. They both were quick to gush over how much they love it, which is clearly exemplified in how much they love each other.

In Emma’s words, “It’s really so great, it teaches you a lot about how to communicate. We share a lot of things – this duo, our house, our church, our food…“

Kel cut in here adding with a grin “— cars sometimes, clothes most of the time.”

They both agreed and laughed at each other as they added more things to the list, one of which being hair products.

“It’s probably the biggest gift in my life and I know that sounds so dramatic and I’m sorry and I hope that doesn’t make you feel weird,” Kel said with a chuckle, and looked at Emma who shook her head, “but communication is the most important thing because if there is anything tense between us we can’t function as a band or a business without addressing it so we have to bring it to the table immediately. Honestly, it’s kind of like you have the perks of a marriage without being married and while also still being straight.”

Again, they laughed and went on to explain that co-writing, which can be a struggle for a lot of people, is so easy for them because of their close friendship.

Kel said, “while you're writing together the other one knows what’s going on in your life and understands it better than anyone, other than God – it’s just so dependable, and it’s so fun we laugh 50% of them time.”

Which is easy to believe considering the amount of laughs they shared during our short time together. It’s safe to assume that their house is full of what I witnessed during our time together: love, laughter, and music.  In fact, when I asked how many times a week they hurt themselves trying to dance in the shower they broke into laughter Kel asked, "Could we move from the shower to the kitchen? We dance in the kitchen A LOT."

“Oh yeah,” Emma followed, “if we’re talking dancing in general I’d say 2 times a week for me.”

“Umm, what do you think for me?” Kel asked Emma with a guilty grin.

“I’d say probably like 3-4,” Emma answered and Kel nodded with a laugh.

Both girls were in strong agreement that Belmont has made all the difference in their growing success.  In Emma’s words “I would say that the community here, even though everyone is doing the same thing and everyone is somewhat your competition, it’s very supportive and so it’s been really nice to have the Belmont circle.  I think we’ll always say the Belmont fans or circle or whatever were our first and helped get things done.”

Kel eagerly agreed before a pizza caught her eye. She turned to Emma, “PIZZA -- ”

“-- sounds amazing,” Emma finished the sentence, followed by a fist bump.

It was moments like these that shined the brightest throughout the interview, it was impossible to lose sight of the fact that at the heart of Sawyer, there are two goofy best friends who make music together because they truly love it. They conversed about where to get pizza and I watched intently as their relationship dynamic played out in front of me, Emma’s sense of steadiness and the way she carefully chose her words balanced perfectly with Kel’s speed speak and quick-wit. It’s seems impossible that there could be a musical match any more compatible than this one.

If you know anything about their latest single “The Last Thing,” you may have heard that it is part of a series titled “The Mondays.” On the last Monday of every month they release some kind of content to the public.

“The Mondays is basically just a way of saying ‘sorry we haven’t released anything in a really long time here you go.’ Pretty much it’s creating some dependability,” said Kel with a giggle and apologetic smile. When I asked for a hint about this month’s content, a sneaky grin grew on both of their faces and they laughed at each other as Emma responded, “There will be  a visual element in this months release.” Even more laughter followed Emma’s response, leading me to believe that they have something super, extra special coming our way – not that I would ever expect anything less. It only takes a few listens to hear the intentionality behind every piece of work Sawyer has released. They seem to be “all or nothing” type of girls, and that approach is what drives the heart and soul of Sawyer, giving them a unique sound that is impossible to miss.

“You know what would be great?” Kel shared, “If 5 years from now Sawyer was supporting us and we were able to just keep coming out with music and playing it for audiences that want to hear us, not that we want to win over. Gosh, that would be the dream. If in 5 years, the momentum has not stopped that would be the dream.”

“Same,” said Emma.

“#prayforSawyer,” Kel added, cueing a burst of laughter from both girls.

All Photos Courtesy of Blythe Thomas

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