Sometimes the most unexpected collaborations create the most intriguing musical treats. That is definitely the case with “Stars,” a timely new song co-written and performed by funk legend Bootsy Collins and rising country star EmiSunshine.
“It’s an honor and insane,” says EmiSunshine, who just turned 16 on June 8. “I wasn’t expecting to be that big of a part of the whole song. It’s quite an honor to be responsible for such a crucial part of the song.”
EmiSunshine wrote the bulk of the lyric and her ethereal vocals shine on the poignant chorus of the song, which is the first single from Collins’ new album releasing in October. “Stars” also features banjo legend Béla Fleck, drummer/songwriter/producer Steve Jordan, Harvard professor/political activist Dr. Cornel West, American Idol alum Uché, vocalist Manou Gallo, pianist Brian Culbertson, bassist and GRAMMY-winner Victor Wooten, blues artist Christone “Kingfish” Ingram and Cuban born chanteuse Olvido Ruiz. Proceeds will benefit the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.
Prior to the pandemic, EmiSunshine has been scheduled to appear in the Cincinnati Reds opening parade. She and Collins had been introduced over email and were looking forward to meeting during her trip to Ohio. “We had made all these big plans before anything happened, and then the pandemic hit,” Collins tells Sounds Like Nashville. “I was working on my new album and I’m saying, ‘Okay maybe this is a chance to get to work with Emi because I’ve heard all the good stuff she’s been doing.’ She sent me links and I was becoming really familiar with what she did and I was like, ‘Take this track that I’ve got,’ [because] I wanted to see how she would write to it. So we start conversing back and forth. I’d send her the song and she’d send me ideas back. The next thing I know, she sent me the full version of what she was hearing and feeling. I was like, ‘Wow! This is so cool.’ It was just perfect.”
A native of Cincinnati, Collins is a legendary bassist who rose to prominence performing with James Brown in the 1970s and earned membership in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Parliament-Funkadelic. Sunshine says her mom introduced her to Collins. “I started looking into his music and his whole history of being a performer and a producer as well,” Sunshine says. “I just was so impressed and I loved everything I was hearing about him.”
Needless to say, EmiSunshine was thrilled when Collins reached out to her to write and sing on “Stars.” “I was kind of overwhelmed because I wanted something that would appeal to everybody and could be sort of an anthem during this time because of COVID-19 and everything that’s going on this year,” she says. “I wanted it to be an uplifting song that we could just have as an anthem. It really turned out really cool. I’m very happy that I got to be a part of it.”
Collins is pleased with their collaboration. “I want this song to remind people when we’re down and when we get back up just to always remember, don’t forget how beautiful we have it,” he says. “Let’s not misuse people. Bring everybody together. That’s what we’re hoping this song will help people to realize. We do much better when we’re doing things together. You know how it feels now to be blocked away from just going to a restaurant and blocked away from going to sports, from playing music, from gathering, just getting together with the family. This is a reminder that we take so many things for granted because we’ve had it so good.”
At the time these interviews were conducted, Collins and EmiSunshine had yet to meet in person. They crafted the entire song working via phone and email. “It’s not usually how I write and I think that’s what made it so special,” EmiSunshine says. “I heard the track first, there were no lyrics or nothing. It was just a track and I was like, ‘Okay this is the melody and here’s what’s going on.’ I just put what I thought would go well with it and it was very interesting. I don’t usually write like that, but it was so cool and a new way of me kind of challenging myself.”
For EmiSunshine, this collaboration with Collins will always be a special moment on her musical resume. “He’s incredible. I think he’s doing great things for this world. The one thing that really stood out to me [in addition to] his music and producing is also his kindness in general. He has a really kind soul and that brings a lot to the table.”
Collins is excited about people hearing his collaboration with Sunshine and seeing the video, directed by Oscar Arce. “This video puts the whole ball of wax together. It shows you what the song is saying. I’m really proud of it. I’m not really one to be proud about what I’ve done, but this I’m really proud because it’s bigger than me. It’s bigger than what I can do. It’s bigger than all of that. It’s all of us. It makes you feel good. I’m hoping that this message touches home. We’re going to bring new hope to the world now because we don’t have to wait until times like these to love on each other.”