Emily Hearn, “Maybe” (2010): One Track Mind

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Photograph by Amy Dey

by Nick DeRiso

A radiant uncertainty runs through “Maybe,” Emily Hearn’s song about the confusion and memorable pain of a lonely young heart.

OK, there’s a girl, and there’s a guy, and the guy won’t give her the time of day. This, we’ve heard before. But Hearn, singing with an oaken longing reminescent of Patty Griffin and the angular individuality of a street performer, makes it all sound brand new.

She’s incautiously honest, with lyrics that come tumbling out in bunches — like someone bursting into the room with a new thought that can’t be held back for even one more moment.

Maybe, Hearn surmises, she not funny enough, maybe not pretty enough. Anyway, she should know what to do. Only, she doesn’t. She can’t think of a joke, or not one that would make him laugh. She closely examines several other approaches, then quickly discards them. She’s not sure he even knows she’s there.

“Maybe if I was thinner, you would think I was beautiful,” Hearn offers. “So, I watch the things I eat and wake up early to exercise — and I wonder when I’m with you if I have done something to catch your eye.”

For all of the questions of youth, for all the times we didn’t know how to make our own path, the Athens, Georgia-based singer reminds us that there are no easy answers.

“Maybe we would fall in love,” Hearn finally decides, “if we weren’t so afraid to fall.”

I fell for “Maybe” from the first.

Family members were similarly taken. So much so that one of them, Aunt Mary Gordon, sent a copy to Mark Bryan, the Grammy award-winning guitarist of Hootie and the Blowfish.

Bryan, who has launched the Chucktown Music Group in Charleston, South Carolina, to help up-and-coming musicians find wider notice, quickly assembled Hank Futch and Gary Greene (members of Bryan’s side project, the Occasional Milkshake) to put the finishing touches on the recording.

“Maybe” was later featured on Song of the Fortnight, a new-artist showcase presented every two weeks by the Chucktown Music Group both on its Web site and through an email blast. Hearn, now a junior at the University of Georgia, capitalized on the early good notices by issuing Paper Heart, a nuanced and compelling new EP.

From there, we find Hearne in Charleston this month on a video shoot for the single “Rooftop,” with actor Bill Murray making a cameo. Later that same December day, she appeared with Bryan (who played accompanying mandolin) at the city’s Awendaw Green Music Festival.

It happened just that fast. And it all started here.

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