Sam Bodary embraces the little things on debut album

Hello Emerson singer and songwriter Sam Bodary likes to keep things small. Recent preoccupations include: the oil spot made by a nose on the top of a matte black, a disposable coffee cup lid; the “Legg & Davis” logo stamped onto concrete sidewalks; a thrift shop purchase of the perfect tiny table for his record player.

“I don't like things that stand up and yell at the top of their lungs, ‘We're important!'” Bodary said recently at a Clintonville coffee shop.

To that end, Bodary takes his songwriting cues from an artist like the Mountain Goats' John Darnielle. “I love what he can do with a song. He can paint this entire picture based on close-ups of several small things that then sketch out the space,” he said. “Regardless of what important is happening in that scene, or if it's important at all, it's still this really amazing puzzle box that you get to figure out and fill out based on the stuff that he's given you.”

Born in Michigan and raised near Dayton, Bodary began writing songs in high school after an older cousin introduced him to bands such as the Decemberists and State Radio. “I got super into a couple albums, and then got super frustrated that I didn't know how to play music at all,” said Bodary, who tried and failed at piano, then holed up in his room and learned how to fingerpick an acoustic guitar.

After a false start studying music business at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, Bodary transferred to Ohio State University. While there, he continued writing songs and frequented an open mic night at Kafe Kerouac. He didn't plan to form a band, but friends started inquiring: “Hey, if you need any harmonies… .” “Hey, if you need any drums… .” “Hey, if you need any pedal steel… .”

Soon enough, Hello Emerson was playing its first show on Bodary's 21st birthday in the summer of 2015, and now the band is set to release its debut album, Above the Floorboards, at Rumba Cafe on Friday, Aug. 25.

Though the pristinely recorded, fingerpicked folk songs are now filled out with piano, pedal steel, percussion, string sections and horn sections, Bodary, who graduated with an English degree in May of last year, is still focused on the little things, no matter how big the song arrangements have become.

“I love songs that make me realize what I [haven't] been seeing. … There's a lot of power in pointing to something that's been there the whole time, and realizing that you hadn't been seeing it,” he said. “I like getting excited about small things that don't matter, because it makes big things that do matter easier to deal with.”

Photo by Tiera Suggs