Interview by Scott Preston
Amy LaVere was born in a small Texas/Louisiana border town, nurtured by musical parents with a passion for traditional country. Her family moved 13 times by the time she entered high school, ultimately landing in Detroit where Amy fronted the infamous punk band Last Minute while still in her teens. From there, her musical journey became a wild ride of impetuous travels, sudden elopements,and itinerant vinyl siding sales. The early ’90s found her in Nashville as part of the burgeoning Lower Broadway scene, where she began to play upright bass as half of the popular roots duo The Gabe & Amy Show. By 1999, she’d moved to Memphis where the city’s diverse music community quickly embraced her unique style. “Memphis doesn’t allow you to be trite,” she explains. “It not only forces you to be original, it’s an accepting and supportive place for that which may seem unusual anyplace else. There’s very little music ‘industry’ here, but plenty of musical freedom. ”
Two years, hundreds of gigs, and a whole lot of liven’ later, Amy went into the studio with Jim Dickinson to craft her much-anticipated new album, Anchor & Anvils, released in 2007. “She has the whole package,” the Memphis music legend says. “You run across artists all the time that have part of it, but Amy has it all. And it just keeps growing.” Dickinson – whose celebrated work as a musician includes classic records with Ry Cooder, Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones (Sticky Fingers) and Bob Dylan (a 40-year relationship that’s extended from Blonde on Blonde to Time Out Of Mind), and whose landmark role as producer includes such eclectic classics as Big Star’s Third/Sister Lovers, The Replacements’ Pleased To Meet Me and his sons’ seminal The North Mississippi Allstars – captured Amy and band at his Zebra Ranch recording barn/’art project’ in rural Mississippi. “As a producer, you take the artist out to the edge of the cliff, where they have to learn to trust you,” Dickinson explains. “And of course, you push ’em off. A lot of them fall. But Amy has the wings to fly. In fact, I think it’s one of the best records I’ve ever made. There’s an underlying darkness that’s kind of ‘Twin Peaks’-ish to me. Plus she can triple-slap the upright bass like Willie Dixon on steroids.” (from amylavere.com)
Cincy Groove: Are you working on any new projects?
Amy LaVere: In an ethearial way we are going to go back into the studio sometime in this fall. I would like to speed things up but they are releasing my last cd as new in the UK in July.
Cincy Groove: I understand you just got back from England not too long ago. How did that go?
Amy LaVere: We went there to perform one show. It was a showcase that we played. There were a lot of publicists, promoters, magazines there to see us perform. It was an amazing experience. We played at this tiny little place, so it wasn’t too hard to hear me sing.
Cincy Groove: When did you start playing the upright bass?
Amy LaVere: I think I was about 22 when I started and I discovered it was a lot easier than playing the guitar. I was living in a house in Nashville at the time where a lot of musicians would rent out rooms. There were two upright bass players living there at the time. I really enjoyed playing the upright bass.
Cincy Groove: I know you have acted in the past, do you have any new acting gigs?
Amy LaVere: There is an acting gig in the works, but its top secret (laughing). Its a project with Craig Brewer who did Hustle and Flow and Black Snake Moan.
Cincy Groove: Now how did you end up in these big time movies?
Amy LaVere: Walk The Line happened because I was playing at this little place called Murphys and the casting director happened to be there. He knew there was a call for the Wanda Jackson part. I had no idea he was out there and the irony is that I cover a few Wanda Jackson songs from time to time.
Cincy Groove: What was it like working with Jim Dickinson?
Amy LaVere: Very intimidating at first. I backed him up on a few shows so I knew him, we were familiar with each other. I respected him so much it was hard to feel comfortable at first. But that changed so much throughout the recording process.
Upcoming Amy LaVere tour dates:
For complete show details visit amylavere.com
May 29, 2008 Greenville, SC – The Handlebar (w/ North Mississippi Allstars)
May 30, 2008 Atlanta, GA – Variety Playhouse
May 31, 2008 Jackson, MS – Hal and Mal’s (w/ North Mississippi Allstars)
June 04, 2008 New York City, NY – Highline Ballroom
June 05, 2008 New Haven, CT – Cafe Nine
June 06, 2008 Saratoga Springs, NY – The Parting Glass
June 07, 2008 Albany, NY – Washington Park Festival
June 08, 2008 Baltimore, MD – Federal Hill Jazz and Blues Festival
June 11, 2008 Asheville, NC – The Grey Eagle
June 14, 2008 Manchester, TN – Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival
June 26, 2008 Knoxville, TN – Sundown In The City
August 15, 2008 Halden, Norway – Down on the Farm Festival
August 16, 2008 Halden, Norway – Down on the Farm Festival
August 30, 2008 Johnstown, PA – Johnstown Folk Festival
August 31, 2008 Johnstown, PA – Johnstown Folk Festival
September 04, 2008 Memphis, TN – Overton Park
September 27, 2008 Private Party Memphis, TN – Peabody Venetian Ballroom