Daily Distraction: Let Hello Emerson give you a little hope

Joel Oliphint

Earlier this year, Hello Emerson released one of the best albums to come out of Columbus in 2020. It's called How to Cook Everything, and it's full of small, personal moments alongside grand, sweeping gestures packaged in bandleader Sam Bodary's brand of warm, Midwestern, oft-orchestral folk-pop. 

Hello Emerson assembled onstage at Ace of Cups for an album release show the night of Feb. 21 — 19 days before a state of emergency was declared, 23 days before Ohio bars closed and 30 days before stay-at-home orders were issued. The band captured some of the performance on video, and this week Hello Emerson released the live version of How to Cook Everything's closing track, "Seat 16B," which also closed out the night at Ace of Cups.

Even without the pandemic and the cessation of live music as we've always known it, the moment in time captured by videographer Reece Thompson would be stirring. Bodary has a contagious grin, like he's continually bowled over by the opportunity to strum a guitar and sing some melodies in front of people. The crowd, in turn, stands rapt in attention while the string section does its thing, with crescendos and decrescendos, all culminating in a collectively repeated truism: "There's a first time for everything." A couple of people wipe away tears.

"Seat 16B" is a song about a nervous woman Bodary met on an airplane. Before this particular trip, she'd never left her home state, but after her first marriage ended, she struck up a long-distance relationship with an old high school boyfriend she was traveling to see for the first time in 15 years.

“I don’t know if this worked out well for this lady. It could have ended terribly, and nobody will know. She’ll never find out about this, and I’ll never find out about her. But me and a few people on that plane know that she made this huge, grand, vulnerable gesture, and that’s the most inspiring bit,” Bodary told me earlier this year. “The whole point is just trying. Everything else is a crapshoot.”

Watch the video below (full screen recommended), and read Bodary's own comments further down. 

"For all of my adult life, my love for songs has led me to people I love. Songs have driven me to shows where I met lifelong friends. Those friends have challenged and fostered me to become a fuller person. And it’s all given me a reverence for the invisible things that make us feel a little less alone and a little more hopeful.

About half a year ago, a bunch of our songs made their way into the world. I gathered with a bunch of onstage friends to play them to a bunch of offstage friends. We gave those songs a chance to love and be loved. It was Friday, February 21st, 2020 at Ace of Cups - a month before this became unimaginable.

I haven’t fully grieved the loss of shows like this. I don’t know when they’ll return. But songs are a source of comfort and solace for me. They kick me out of apathy and into action. They remind me that we can do big things together. They remind me that we can make the world a bit more beautiful by putting some elbow grease into our hopes.

I hope this little time capsule gives you a little bit of hope today,"

Sam & Hello Emerson