You might not know Hunter Embry by name, but you’ve definitely benefited from his work. For the last several years, Embry has been a behind the scenes force, most recently through his work booking at The New Vintage. Perhaps the pinnacle -at least so far- of his output is the Seven Sense Festival, which returns this weekend for a free two-day celebration of music, with all proceeds generated going to help fund the Boys & Girls Haven. You can catch a sneak peak at his new band and read his thoughts on booking, the festival, and the power of the King of Hot Dogs!
Never Nervous: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get involved in the indie scene here in town?
Hunter Embry: I studied journalism (mostly music) in college, so I was writing about and covering acts of all levels for several years. I learned quite a bit about many different “scenes” in town and met numerous folks already rooted in Louisville music. Through covering the scene and playing in a touring band – and asking a ton of questions, I was exposed to the ins-and-outs of how shows and festivals work.
NN: What’s your musical resume? What was your first band? How did that go?
HE: I’ve been smashing guitars since seeing Kiss shows as a child and finally learned how to play one in middle school. I started a band called KnubDust (hahaha) when I was 16 – that band later became The Bad Reeds. We toured for several years, played 100s of shows and spent a lot of time in the studio.
NN: What’s going on with The Bad Reeds?
HE: We haven’t played or produced any music in at least four years. After releasing our second record and pushing that pretty heavily, I had an opportunity to start booking venues full-time, so I started devoting most of my time towards that. I recently got a group of guys together and have been writing new material that I’m pretty excited about. It’s some pretty bitchin’ stuff. The band is called Sound Company – we just finished our first single and plan to record a full length by the end of this year.
NN: How did you get into booking shows? How long have you been at it and what got you interested?
HE: I was asked to throw Waterfront Wednesday after-parties in 2007 or 2008 and they ended up doing pretty well. I decided I liked booking/promoting shows, and really hated waiting tables, which was my day job at the time – so I started putting on events around town as The New Vintage Showcase. That lead to a full-time position at ZaZoo’s, which led to shows at bigger venues and opening a venue in New Albany called, Dillinger’s. At some point in 2012 I was approached by investors to open a music venue and that’s how The New Vintage came about.
NN: What have you learned about putting on a good show from the promoter end of the spectrum?
HE: I’ve learned that I can always learn more and I can always do my job better. This is a tough biz – easy to become jaded, but those who stick in it long enough and make it through with a decent reputation will most likely do OK for themselves.
NN: How did the Seven Sense Festival start? Tell us a little about the history there.
HE: A couple of my buds, Shawn Steele and Chris Nelson, who I met through playing and booking shows, threw around the idea of a festival. I had always been interested in the idea of putting on a festival that featured local, regional and national acts that appeal to numerous different demographics. Through owning what is strictly a music venue, we have to book all different types of shows – through doing that, I’ve gotten to see tons of great bands from all different ends and cliques – I had always wanted to host all of those great acts at the same place and same time. Seven Sense gives me the opportunity to do that with a two of the best dudes I know.
NN: In what ways has the festival evolved over time? How do you see it growing and continuing to evolve?
HE: The attendance nearly doubled from year one to year two. We worked out a lot of the kinks we experienced in the first year. We were able to have some bigger names, from all over the country, added to the lineup – which in-turn attracted attendees from the region and garnered some press outside of Louisville, which helped. We also were able to work on the aesthetic of the festival and add more activities for our guests. This year we’ll have 502 Power Yoga, Magbooth photo booths, Suspend Aerial Arts, live painting, Big Ass misting fans, slushies, a food court and a ton more arts & crafts vendors.
NN: What sets Seven Sense apart from the other fests going on in the warmer months?
HE: For starters, we are a free festival. We will be asking for donations this year, but who doesn’t love free? AND we benefit Boys & Girls Haven. Who doesn’t love helping area children in need? All the while filling your belly with good food, filling your ears with amazing and diverse music and delicious cocktails and craft, specialty beer to help get ya loose. We offer 40+ local, regional and national acts on two indoor and two outdoor stages, seven local food trucks, 30+ arts & craft vendors, 5+ craft breweries (all offering specialty hard, to find beers) and some of the best spirits around.
NN: Why should we be pumped for this year’s line up?
HE: Philadelphia’s Low Cut Connie is one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen and folks from just about every major press outlet agree – even President Obama is a fan. Dylan LeBlanc (Muscly Shoals, AL) recently released one of my favorite albums in recent memory. He’s coming off support for Alabama Shakes and the record is catching on around the country. Mississippi’s Cedric Burnside, grandson of blues legend, R.L. Burnside, is the real deal. I’ve always been a sucker for real country and electric blues. Cedric is the best of both worlds. And of course, Louisville’s Linkin Bridge is blowing up right now. Quartet with beautiful harmonies. All must-sees at this year’s festival. All the bands are great at what they do and are worthy of listening to.
NN: What makes for a good show and why? What are the stresses involved in booking and how do you deal with them? Have you ever opted to not work with an artist? If so, what was the deal? Not concerned about names.
HE: First, a good show is a happy band and a happy audience. Some crowds are quiet and attentive. Some crowds are dancing, sweating and losing their shit. Secondly, being a dick doesn’t ever do anyone any good. Dealing with dicks is part of the job. Lastly, you have to constantly sacrifice time and money to ensure folks are taken care of. But when you take care of folks, they come back and so do their fans. For me, in the position that I’m in, talent-buying is about investing in and building relationships with artists and bands. They do their job, you do yours, the fans turn out (eventually) and everyone’s happy.
NN: Why do kangaroos even exist?
HE: To hop around this beautiful earth and to carry their babies in their pouches along the way.
NN: You’re the King of Hot Dogs. What do you do with that power and why?
HE: No one would go hungry. I’d fill each and every person with a hotdog at least once a day.
NN: What non-musical things have your skis shined up? Have you watched, read, eaten, or drank anything worth talking about lately?
HE: I love sports and America, so the olympics have consumed quite a bit of my time as of late. I’m dying to catch one of the Speed Walking events. I love that it’s an event and want to see those speedwalkers in action. I’m a huge fan of documentaries as well – even fake ones, like Documentary Now on Netflix. I contemplate wearing diapers every time I watch Episode 4 of Season One because I come close to pissing myself. It’s called The Eye Doesn’t Lie – it’s a must-see.
NN: What are your top three desert island albums and why?
HE: Anything from The Rolling Stones between ’68 and ’78. Probably Exile because it’s a double LP. Tom Petty’s first record. Aaaaand KISS’s first record. That’s one hell of a one-man party, if you ask me.