Like so many others, Emma Zinck graduated from high school and went off to college. Never mind that her heart wasn’t really set on the idea; it just seemed like the safe thing to do.
Then she discovered that the textbook for a single class came with a whopping tab of $300. That did not go over well with the aspiring singer/songwriter/guitarist. “That’s the same price as the delay pedal I wanted for my guitar,” she says. “So I said,
‘screw this,’ withdrew from school, and moved to Nashville!”
Although her family was a bit apprehensive, they also understood their daughter’s need to chase her dreams. It’s been that way ever since she was 17 and won a local singing competition in her hometown of Fredericksburg, Virginia with a heart-stopping rendition of
Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.” The prize? An opening slot for a Dierks Bentley show where she played a 30-minute set in front of 5,000 people. “I had been playing in-and-around town for a year or two but that was awesome,” says Zinck. “At that moment I knew that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
Zinck has found a steady gig on the Lower Broad honky-tonk circuit where she appears frequently, typically on weekend afternoons.
Last year she gained international exposure by landing a spot on the Nashville Nights Songwriters Festival in Denmark, an in-the-round event where she shared the stage with Dan Smalley and Eric Paslay. “People came from all over Europe to see the shows,” says Zinck. “I was surprised by how engaged they were with country music. At times we’d be like, ‘you guys can cheer and make some noise!’”
Zinck has the requisite stage presence and appearance but her game is deeper than that. She sees herself as much as a guitarist as a singer and her Fender Stratocaster guitar and Deluxe Reverb amp are essential tools for her craft. She’s inspired by rock and pop players as diverse as Eddie Van Halen and John Mayer. “Most females don’t play lead guitar so when people see a chick do something more than G-C-D chord progressions, they’re a little surprised,” says Zinck. “I think the reason most girls don’t play leads is because it’s kind of a masculine thing. You gotta bend your fingers and get in there all gritty. If you have pretty nails, they’ll pop off.”
Her advice for younger girls who’d rather shred than paint their nails? “If you want to set yourself apart, practice and learn how to play your instrument. Learn different chord structures. Your guitar should transcend being a stage prop and become part of you as a
And the money saved on manicures can go straight to you guitar rig.