THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
Best Solo Artist • Best CD or Album Release of the Year
03rd June, 2021 0
As an artist Amy Petty is so much more than merely a girl with a guitar. Honored by securing two top honors at this year’s 35th REVIEW Music Awards for Best Solo Artist and the much-coveted Best CD or Album Release of the Year for her stunning collection of original material on The Darkness of Birds, the minute you see Amy in performance or listen to her recordings it is easy to reference such power players as Tori Amos or Fiona Apple, however that would be a mistake given the caliber of work Amy achieved on this release.
With a sensibility that focuses upon the nuances of raw emotion and introspection as opposed to glitzy showmanship and posturing to placate audiences, the material served up on The Darkness of Birds while true to its title is equally uplifting and inspiring, allowing her voice to take flight and transcend whatever darkness may reside in the narrative she is conveying. Or as Petty said in these pages back in January, 2020 upon release of the album: “We are taught that beautiful things are good and we are supposed to like them, but I often find there is a certain beauty in darkness. You miss out on so much if you ignore this.”
Unfortunately, securing the Best CD or Album Release of the Year honor for the beautiful and poignantly rendered collection of original material contained on The Darkness of Birds, which was released weeks before everything shut down in 2020, was an experience similar to being voted Queen of the Prom only to have Homecoming cancelled.
When asked what she was striving to achieve with the album and how it was received overall considering how things shut down after its release, through the wisdom of hindsight Amy is both appreciative and somewhat traumatized by the series of events that displaced her ability to shine in the spotlight.
“What I was trying to accomplish with The Darkness of Birds is to prove that I could do it,” she explains.
“The first two albums I put out were over 10 years ago and so much had changed about my life since then that I had a case of tunnel vision where I was focused on tackling what was right in front of me and was uncertain about how much I could do at one time. I wanted to see what I was capable of accomplishing.
The songs seemed raw and not necessarily representative of me and my life right now, so I wanted to see what I could do and that was the driving force behind getting those songs recorded.”
“As to how it was received after its release, it was so weird because I feel in so many ways that the album was released and the Apocalypse happened because of it,” she confesses.
“The whole world shut down, yet I feel like everybody that has heard it gets it - they get the music and they understand me. But it’s hard to judge how people feel about it when you can’t take it out and perform those songs live and hear the reaction of the audience. I’m basically a Mom living in the suburbs and it’s kind of dark in the way it touches people, so a lot of people may have expected an album of lullabies and they got this instead.”
Did Amy get much traction around the state with the album or push it much through marketing, given that the brakes from the lockdowns stifled her ability to perform it live? “I didn’t push too hard on that. In fact, it’s amazing how little work I did pushing it. It got a lot of plays and certain songs got enough attention that they could be singles; but it’s funny, because the songs I initially thought of ditching are the ones that turned out to become the most popular, which is kind of interesting.”
When the Pandemic hit and Amy had this amazing release on her hands, did she go the online streaming route in order to connect with audiences? “Actually, I did not do one streaming show,” she explains. “There are people who can do that really well and I think streaming got so oversaturated that I stepped back for a minute and said to myself I’m more about quality than quantity.”
“When you perform songs before an audience they change meaning depending upon the audience you are performing in front of, so to me streaming is like a rehearsal for something because basically you’re doing it alone.”
“There’s some things about the music industry I take with a grain of salt or a teaspoon of sugar,” she continues. “I didn’t want to do one more thing when it came to working outside my comfort zone, so I decided to just unplug. I did a 35-minute concert in the Spring and recorded and edited it so it sounded highly produced with no glitches; and then another around Christmas that was purposeful with a beautiful string quartet, along with a couple other things that were all one done because I wasn’t the one pushing the buttons. I don’t know how to make videos. I make music.”
“Because of all this, I’m actually toying with the idea of doing a Re-Release Concert and staging a couple big shows in order to take out The Darkness of Birds and re-brand it. It had a January 24th release date and six weeks later a torpedo hit. I did my release party at The State Theatre in Bay City on Feb. 29th and a week later things shut down, so I think we might pull together a do-over.”
“I took the pandemic and shutdown very personally,” she confides. “Basically, I said to myself if the world is going to shut down so am I. I didn’t do much music at all. And then when the dams broke, because I live by the river, that created a whole new level of trauma, so I decided to ball up for a little while and be quiet because all these invisible things were coming at me. I needed a minute, but I have been writing more - not music but journals, which is where I get my lyrics and always where it starts. I’ve also been doing a lot of studio work for other artists and exercising that vocal muscle in different ways. I am booking gigs for the summer months and things are picking up now, thankfully.”
Shifting the conversation over to her selection as Best Solo Artist, what does Amy feel are the qualities an artist needs to possess in order to distinguish themselves as a solo performer? “That’s a great question because every solo artist that I’ve seen in performance has been so very different that it’s moved me in different ways,” she reflects. “I would say number one is authenticity. You need to be yourself and project yourself and who you are and not be apologetic about it.”
“When I first started gigging out I would say, ‘Someday I won’t have to apologize for myself’, because while I’m good with musical engagement I’m not that interesting, so felt I had to apologize for that. I lead a simple life and go out to dinner with friends, but am not that interesting off the stage.”
“That’s why I cannot stand television shows like The Voice or America’s Got Talent, because they make you feel like if you don’t have a story behind your music you’re not worthy to be heard and that’s just not true. Everybody has a story to tell and the way I see it your audience will find you or you will find them. You just need to figure it out.”
Apart from getting back into the scene of live performance and possibly staging re-release shows for The Darkness of Birds, does Amy have any other goals for the next year?
“I want The Amy Petty Band to become more of a thing,” she concludes. “I would really like to see that entity grow. I will always perform my solo thing, but I’m surprised how this time off made me realize how much more I could be doing with the guys in my band, who include my husband Billy, Mike Robertson on guitar, Donny Brown on drums, and Andy Reed on bass. Plus I would love to enlist Loren Kranz on keyboards - I love that guy!”
“Apart from that, I’m working on a few other projects that I can’t announce yet, including some long-term work that I’m excited about and hopefully it all comes to fruition and I’ll be announcing that soon. Other than that I also intend to release another album.”
“It’s just exciting to be recognized for both my work as a solo artist and for the recorded material contained on The Darkness of Birds. It truly means a lot to me.”
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)