I admire anyone who is passionate about what they do. Anyone whose words can’t help but spill from their mouth and whose eyes light up as their energy changes. I think sometimes people are afraid of passion, or at least afraid of pursuing something wholeheartedly that they’re truly passionate about. Amy Vee is not one of those people.
I discovered this when I sat down at Welsh Blacks on an unsuspecting morning and chatted about music, moving forward and a change of sound. I ended up walking away from the interview so completely enlightened and enthralled by an artist who exudes a total passion for her craft; an articulate, soft-spoken individual who was honestly a complete pleasure to chat with.
So… Down to business. Amy recently released her latest single ‘Ten Years’, which has been doing incredibly well, reaching sixth on the Triple J Unearthed ‘Roots’ chart. I’ll make a point here, as someone who religiously goes through all the Unearthed tracks: literally thousands of songs are uploaded every week from all around Australia, so yes, this is an extremely big deal. The track itself is, of course, brilliant. The seasoned singer/songwriter’s latest single is layered with echoes, body percussion and brilliantly complimentary electronica, with an overarching traditional folk tone propelling the track forward – both lyrically and melodically. Each element intertwines so specifically, highlighting both mystery and wonderment, and a new meaning is revealed with each and every listen.
Amy is of course no stranger to the music scene, both here in Newcastle and nationally, with her critically acclaimed album Fits and Starts impressing all the right people with its collection of beautifully interwoven folk tracks. Her latest venture, however, takes on a dramatic shift style-wise from her previous work.
‘I’ve taken a bit of a tangent from my usual kind of style, using more electronic sounds… What happens normally is I go into the studio with a song that’s really just me and one instrument – usually guitar. But this time, I had more of a vision about what I wanted the sound to be like. I mean, there’s a lot of body percussion in there, for example, and my producer Gareth Hudson really played with the raw sounds and meshed them together really well.’
Finding out about the creative processes behind the music I’m listening to still completely fascinates me. Building a song around a raw lyric or melodic idea is the true crux of the wonder that is art. Despite the difference in overall tone of listening experience on Amy’s new album, there were some constants that remained. ‘The songwriting style in itself is still very much me,’ she says. ‘I was just really wanting to expand musically on what I’ve done previously. I mean, if you keep doing the same thing, it’s not really exciting for you as an artist or for the people listening to your music, so I’ve been really happy that I’ve managed to push some boundaries and create something new and have a bit of fun with it.’
Along with the audio track for ‘Ten Years’, which is available now through iTunes and streaming services, there is an incredibly beautiful video clip accompaniment. Shot and directed by fellow Novocastrian Thomas Hudson in downtown Carrington, the clip showcases a dystopian landscape centred around the simple yet oh-so-effective concept of an individual running forwards but seemingly going backwards in age. It’s the perfect backdrop to Amy’s hauntingly beautiful vocals.
The idea for the video, it seems, is credited entirely to Thomas’ creative direction: ‘Anything visual I will always give to people who know what they’re doing, which is definitely not me. The songs I can do, but the visual stuff is definitely best left to others more qualified… It’s been really great doing the video as well, because people really get that visual accompaniment with the song. It’s a good way to get the song heard.’ She’s very right. Nowadays, it seems people really seek that visual element of the music they’re listening to. This also made me think of the pressure placed on artists to continuously impress their fans in the digital age; standards are now incredibly high. It’s tough out there, kids.
During my preparation process, where I gather as much information about the artist as possible prior to the interview, I was intrigued to discover that Amy intends to purposefully release a series of tracks individually, as opposed to immediately working towards a holistic collection of work such as an EP or an album. ‘Each track is saying something specific,’ she explains. ‘It’s a lot of work and time and energy and money to make an album, and you kind of put it out there and that’s it – it just does its thing. With that process, I just feel like the songs don’t get enough of their own attention. I don’t write filler stuff – I really want to make sure it all means something.’
After listening to Amy’s latest single, as well as her back catalogue, rather religiously lately, I couldn't agree more with her chosen process. ‘I just thought, “I’m going to try this approach this time”, and it seems to be the way things are happening now as well,’ Amy goes on to say. ‘More and more artists are putting out individual tracks. I’ve actually had some really great feedback on the song so far… It’s been really nice to hear feedback about the actual song, as opposed to a comment about the album, as well as hearing about what it actually means to people and the different ways they interpret the music.’
Up until recently, Amy had taken a definitive break from the music scene, with life taking many a different turn away from the touring circuit for the best part of the last three years. The hiatus can be explained succinctly: ‘I was busy creating a human,’ Amy laughs. ‘I took a band out on the road and toured the capital cities for the last album – it was heaps of fun, but yes, I fell pregnant just over two years ago now. Sometimes that’s just how the universe works, I guess!’
With this life-changing yet wonderful experience, Amy reflects that the downtime left space for both creativity and mental vitality to flourish. ‘I’ve had so much to draw upon over the last couple of years, but everything is kind of bubbling to the surface now, and it’s definitely ready to creatively come out… It was hard to find the time sometimes, of course, and I found myself writing bits and pieces here and there. Inspiration never really strikes when you put the time aside; it just doesn't work like that. If I ever got any sort of inspiration, I would try to quickly jot it down, or I found myself singing snippets of lyrics into a recorder – that sort of thing.’
Thinking about my own notebooks with scrawls from 2am thoughts scattered across the pages, I know the process of trying to make sense of all those pieces can be a complete nightmare. But sometimes, it seems, the process of piecing together thoughts, sounds and processes can be quite cathartic. ‘It’s been really interesting, actually, going back through all of that stuff – trying to process it and produce something meaningful.’
Of course, by now you’re all wondering when you’ll be able to catch the wonderful Amy Vee live, showcasing her brand-new material and sound. ‘My plan is to hopefully get on the road early next year and start bringing this new stuff out,’ Amy says. ‘At the moment, I’m still working out the logistics of how a live show will work. It’s so incredibly different from my previous work – I have to think about what kind of lineup I need, what players I need on stage, but also being able to still explore the older tracks on the same stage as well.’
I for one am incredibly excited about watching Amy bring the new material to life, but for now, the wonderful sound of her latest single will be continually flowing through my headphones, with my mind hungry for more.