After the Ukrainians abandoned their inherited arsenal of nuclear weapons during the collapse of the Soviet Union, sunflowers were solemnly planted in 1996 at the Ukrainian missile base in Pervomaisk as a symbol of peace and optimism .
Earlier, fields of rugged yellow flowers were sown around Chernobyl after the nuclear power plant meltdown, as the plants are known to help clean up the environment by extracting radioactive isotopes from the ground.
Emilie Vaughna senior at Canyon Crest Academy in San Diego, didn’t know the sunflower was Ukraine’s national flower when she wrote her song, titled “Sunflower,” at age 14.
Today, that tune has become his way of helping Ukraine following the Feb. 24 invasion by Russian troops.
She had recorded ‘Sunflower’ over a year ago but only released it on March 25, pledging to donate 50% of the earnings from the first three months of streaming to two humanitarian charities. helping Ukrainian refugees – World Central Kitchen and Friends of Moldova. , a small border country to which many refugees have fled.
“It was raining and I wasn’t in a good mood,” Vaughn recalls the day she wrote words. “I had a bad bout of depression and a panic attack, so I started playing guitar and writing.”
Vaughn, 18, is honest and open about her ongoing battle with depression and anxiety. She uses her music as therapy to help cope with mental illness. She hopes her musical message will also help others cope.
She called her song “Sunflower,” she says, because the people in her life help light up the rain. “My friends and family, who made me feel better, are the sunflowers of my life.”
In a singsong, lyrical voice, she sings, “So be my sunflower, light up all the rain. Pour every hour, take away the pain…”
It wasn’t until Vaughn did some research shortly after the Russian attack that she discovered that the sunflower is Ukraine’s national flower. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, the song I wrote years ago is made for this moment.'”
A viral video posted by Ukraine World showed an elderly woman from the city of Henichesk on the first day of the invasion handing over sunflower seeds to Russian soldiers. What at first glance appeared to be a generous peace offering became a symbol of defiance when the woman berated the soldiers and urged them to put the seeds in their pockets so that the flowers would grow where they died.
Since then, sunflowers have been held up by anti-war protesters and have become a symbol of solidarity with Ukraine.
Vaughn calls it a bit of a miracle that the lyrics of a song she wrote four years ago fit so well with today’s conflict in Ukraine and that, coincidentally, the title of her song is “Sunflower “.
Although she’s been playing and composing music since starting elementary school, Emilia didn’t release her debut single, “Pieces and Pages,” until last January. “Sunflower” is her second release, and three more recordings are set for an upcoming EP. A “Sunflower” music video is being edited for release later this month.
Vaughn plays piano, guitar, keytar (a keyboard/guitar hybrid), and ukulele. Her father, Ted, who spent a decade as the contemporary music director for the Solana Beach Presbyterian Church, built a recording studio in his bedroom. His mother, Licia, works as a patent litigation lawyer.
After taking music lessons at Rockademy in Solana Beach, Vaughn joined a recording studio, OC Hit Factory, run by platinum-winning artist/producer Thomas Barsoe in Orange County. He takes 16 of his artists, including Vaughn, to Nashville in May to audition for two record labels.
With all the pieces in place, Vaughn has signed publicist Dani Thompson and is moving forward.
Thompson is hopeful. Less than two weeks after the release of “Sunflower”, Vaughn’s song had climbed to #2 local, #13 regionally, #31 nationally and #37 globally in the top 40. charts from Reverbnation, a respected music. distribution and promotion platform for independent artists.
“It’s an impressive achievement for any independent artist in the industry, but even more so considering that she only made her public debut with original music in January of this year,” notes Thompson. “We have something special here with Emilia.”
“I’ve wanted to do something like this for a long time with my music,” Vaughn says. “My goal is to do something involving music to make people happy and help people with mental illness.”
There’s no way to estimate how much money Vaughn’s pledge will bring to Ukraine, as she’s a new artist, and each song download generates between a fraction of a penny and just over 1 penny, depending on the streaming service. Nevertheless, it could be an avant-garde gesture that would inspire other artists.
Fundraising, after all, is only part of its mission.
“Most pop songs are about sex, drugs and money,” Vaughn says, but she hopes her lyrics will lift the spirits of those in need and shine a positive, hopeful light during times difficult and dark.