Local songbird continues to compose ‘hope’ for listeners

Published 4:50 pm Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...
By Angela Cutrer
The Elizabethton Star
Emily Ward was on a road trip to Washington D.C. when she took the call.
Her father lives in D.C. and she lives in Gray and they spend time going back and forth to see each other.
This time, Ward, 30, was headed to see The Steeldrivers in concert. “It was Chris Stapleton’s band before he became, you know, Chris Stapleton,” Ward explained with a laugh. She mainly wanted to see Tammy, the fiddle player, do her thing.
In the meantime, Ward was willing to talk about her own musical experiences, and they are impressive.
Five years ago, Ward, a talented singer-songwriter, was on her second round of American Idol, where she was able to audition all the way to the round with celebrity judges in New York City.
It’s not an easy thing to do and it was her second time trying out. It was worth the effort, she said.
“Overall it was a great experience,” she said of her final attempt. “They paid for my flight and hotel room for three or four days. I got to meet Luke Bryan, who encouraged me to keep writing and producing songs.”
Katy Perry and Lionel Ritchie were the other two judges and Ward spoke positively about them.
Ward said the ins and outs of the production of the show was pretty much what you see on television, but not exactly.
“There is a long wait,” she said of the main hill to climb to be heard. “It’s one wait after another. They did a pretty good job, though, of capturing how things go.
“A production team followed me around the city and did interviews with me, but that wasn’t shown on the show. You only see me briefly.”
One exciting component of the event was when Ward was placed in a group of other anxious singers. One of the girls told her, “Oh my gosh, I’m so nervous,” to which Ward responded, “Don’t worry — you’re going to do great.”
You guessed it: The girl was Maddie Poppe, who won the whole thing on American Idol Season 16.
Ward could laugh about the irony and she seemed to be less starry-eyed and more focused on what comes next.
“After American Idol, I wrote some songs, but then felt, I don’t know … ” she said about the time after all the excitement. But her dispirited state brought forth a song later on that reminded her who had her in his hands the whole time she felt so lost.
“That song — ‘What Kind of Lover,’ talks about the Lord being with me, pursuing me and still loving me,” she said quietly of a song she wrote. “He chased me down and brought me back from a hard place. I realized you can find freedom from your hardships.”
That song is now on an album called “Welcome Home” by The Altar Music, a Johnson City worship group choir Ward sings with.
Ward sounded bright, chipper and relaxed as she discussed the album. She said she enjoyed singing with this group as an outlet for creativity and a way to bless others. Especially those in Carter County, which she thinks of as home.
“I’m proud to be a part of this community — it’s a special place with its musical history and heritage,” she said. “To me, music is a way to work through things as a coping mechanism. A lot of the music I write speaks of new life, of faith and of hope. Because music is hope.”
Ward, who went on to win several local Voice Off competitions, sings, writes her own music, has some songs on Spotify and ITunes, and plays guitar as well. On “Welcome Home,” Ward’s written or co-written songs include “Follow the Lamb” and “Fires and Floods.”
She’s the daughter of Sheila and Chris Lussier of Gray and Bill and Rayne Ward of D.C. Her grandma, Pearl Trivette, lives in Elizabethton. The rest of her family is mainly in the Tri-Cities area.
Though Ward said she loved and respected her East Tennessee roots, she was still adjusting to life in Gray after living in so many places. She continues to try hard to bring hope to despondent situations — through her career as well as her side gig. She works at Frontier Health with the crisis team, dealing with suicidal people who need encouragement.
The album came out in April and Ward said she was proud of the production, which was true to the region’s bluegrass roots.
That’s why she was on her way to listen to The Steeldrivers — birds of a feather are they. While she might have been driving away from “home,” in reality, she was just spreading her wings to coast over to another nest full of hopeful song.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox