Published on September 20, 2022

Country Minded: Chinn Flirts With Nashville Scene and Beyond

By Freddie Bourne Messenger-Inquirer

EmmaLee Chin
Photo By: Deadra Calloway

While Beaver Dam resident EmmaLee Chinn may be seen wearing scrubs to her new day gig as a phlebotomist at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, she “pretty much decided” to find a way to become involved in music at the age of 8.

“I’ve always really liked Terri Clark,” Chinn, 25, said. “I saw her on TV one day on CMT and that’s the whole reason why I started playing music.”

Chinn began to learn how to play guitar soon after, while also having experiences singing in choir in both middle and high school.

“I would always be the kid not at the pool,” she said. “I would be the kid playing my guitar behind the garage. It’s just always been there. …That’s what I always wanted to do 24/7 was play my guitar or sing.”

At first, Chinn didn’t leap into more serious territory in the entertainment realm and instead focused on academics and being a member of both the tennis and swimming teams at Ohio County High School.

After graduating in 2015, Chinn started school at Western Kentucky University before deciding to pivot into a career in welding after receiving a degree from Owensboro Community & Technical College and opening up her own business Em’s Pressure Washing.

“I’ve done everything,” Chinn laughed.

Chinn played lead guitar in a couple of bands before deciding to venture off as a solo musician about three years ago and began to sing in a more formal capacity.

“I always wanted to do the Nashville thing; that’s always what I wanted to do,” Chinn said. “I just wanted to start singing because I knew I could sing ….

“I always sang but not out or really to other people too much. There was some in high school but not too much.”

After making appearances in local competitions and smaller gigs, Chinn decided to take a chance performing in Nashville last year and “trying to do what I love.”

Chinn was a frequent performer at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Rippy’s Honky Tonk, Kid Rock’s Big Honky Tonk & Rock ‘n’ Roll Steakhouse and Honky Tonk Central.

The overall experience was a positive one.

“It was really good,” she said. “I met a lot of people — talented people; I mean, very, very talented. Learned a lot. It’s definitely more evolved … down there and progressive. You meet everybody down there.”

Chinn ended up driving to the Music City throughout her tenure as opposed to moving down there. Still, she was able to secure multiple gigs a week “making a killing” while also performing locally at Brasher’s Lil’ Nashville, PorchFestOBKY and The Cottage Farm Stand & Baking Co.’s Strawberry Festival.

Chinn said the environment of playing in the area has been more personally conducive.

“For me, I like the country and things like that,” Chinn said. “I’m not a big city person.”

Still, Chinn said she will miss the job she really enjoyed doing.

“I never had a job that I loved as much as that,” Chinn said. “I think that if you’re a musician — music picks you, you don’t pick music. I really believe that. Every day, you’re meeting new people, you’re interacting with new people, you’re putting on a show for some people. Maybe it’s someone’s first time coming to Nashville and you’re the first (person) that they see. I really liked that part about it.”

Songwriting has become something more recent for Chinn to experiment with though she’s made it a point to not stray away from what she wants to display on stage.

“It really took me a long time to even really have the interest in doing it,” Chinn said. “I’m more of the performance type; I like the crowd and the energy.”

However, after a year playing a number of shows down south, Chinn decided to settle down and find stability, eventually enrolling at OCTC to pursue a nursing degree.

While the music is not at the forefront currently, Chinn still plans on finding time to play on the weekends and, when the time permits, to showcase why music is important.

“I think music is like a universal language,” Chinn said. “A lot of people that don’t know how to express themselves might express themselves through music because of the way it makes people feel. Just seeing people’s faces light up when you sing a song that they like or a song that they know. I think it’s like (a form of) communication.”

For more information and updates on Chinn, visit facebook.com/emmaleechinnmusic.

About Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health is a nonprofit health system with a mission to heal the sick and to improve the health of the communities it serves in Kentucky and Indiana. The system includes Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, nationally recognized for design, architecture and engineering; Owensboro Health Muhlenberg Community Hospital; Owensboro Health Twin Lakes Medical Center; the Owensboro Health Medical Group comprised of over 200 providers at more than 20 locations; three outpatient Healthplex facilities, a certified medical fitness facility, the Healthpark; a surgical weight loss center and program, and the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center.

On average each year, we have 16,000 inpatient admissions, deliver 2,000 babies and provide the region’s only Level III NICU. Owensboro Health physicians perform nearly 24,000 surgical procedures, including nearly 200 open-heart surgeries. Our physicians and staff have 70,000 Emergency Department visits, more than a million outpatient visits annually. Visit our home page for more information.