Band: Amy LaVere
From: Memphis, TN
Sound: country and jazz-tinged ballads touched with breathy vocals to help the weighty subject matter go down nice and smooth
Similar Artists: Jenny Lewis, Katharine Whalen, Norah Jones, Dolly Parton
Listen Now: "Killing Him"
Okay sure, let's point out the obvious; technically, Amy LaVere should be classified as an "artist" rather than a "band", so "Band of the Week" in this case is perhaps a bit of a misnomer. Fine. But, lest you think we'd spend this week fawning over some delicate diva who would actually point out such a semantic discrepancy, consider this: LaVere attacks a tree-trunk of an upright bass in fronting her own band, a bass that's actually bigger than her and that anchors all the amazingly sweet yet sour boozy ballads that burst forth from her Southern pipes.
LaVere's bio reads like the musical equivalent of Forrest Gump's journey through American history, detailing an early life spent caroming and ping-ponging around the country soaking up whatever inspiration was there for the taking. Among the highlights: born to musical parents in a small Texas/Louisiana border town, moving 13 times before high school, fronting the infamous Detroit punk band Last Minute as a teen and summarizing all subsequent adventures as "a wild ride of impetuous travels, sudden elopements, and itinerant vinyl siding sales."
Busy bee. Far from slowing down, LaVere has added even more footnotes to her ever-evolving autobiography, honing her chops as a burgeoning actress in such films as Walk the Line and Black Snake Moan while also working with Memphis legend Jim Dickinson - whose production credits include Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Ry Cooder and Aretha Franklin - on her excellent 2007 album Anchors & Anvils. Curious about the extent to which all these varied experiences helped shape the album (as well as her broader musical perspective), EAR FARM grilled LaVere via email just hours before she headed back out on the road with touring band members Steve Selvidge (guitar) and Paul Taylor (drums). Check out our exclusive Q&A after the jump.
EF: What were your primary music influences when growing up and coming into your own as a musician? How is your music informed by your upbringing and experiences?
LaVere: Both of my parents were musicians. My dad had a scholarship as a drummer in the band although he never finished and instead became an iron worker to provide for his family. My mother played classical piano, but we didn't own one. We lived in a trailer in the woods. Sometime before I was born she bought a guitar and played it all the time. This is the first music I heard, I think I can remember what it sounded like while I was in the womb. She wrote a lot of songs and learned songs. Willie Nelson has always been my Dad's favorite and she learned a few of his but mostly folk songs and dark nursery rhymes. When they would have friends over, my mom would break out the guitar and everybody would just light up. I just wanted to be her, really.
EF: Somewhat related, how autobiographical are the songs on Anchors & Anvils? There definitely seems to be a weight to this record, as is even suggested in the title itself.
LaVere: I have been in a relationship for last few years with an artist as passionate and crazy as I can be and we can look like a couple of Tasmanian Devils coming up the street if our steps aren't rhymin' but I think we have a way of keeping each other honest and true to out crafts. We exploded a couple of days into my record and it really set the pace for the whole thing. I was miserable. It was Paul (Taylor, drums) who named the record in the end. Of course, we are happily arguing again these days.
EF: How did you end up working with Jim Dickinson on the album? What was the recording process like, and was it intimidating at all given his resume?
LaVere: I had been aware of Jim for a long time. I discovered him through the Replacement's Pleased to Meet Me first. Paul had grown up with his sons Luther and Cody, they played in a band together called DDT for years and years prior to them becoming the Allstars (ed. note - The North Mississippi Allstars). Paul was actually living in a little house down on Jim's property when we first became friends. He made the introductions and I ended up getting to back Jim up playing upright on a few of his shows. After being around him some I just got up the nerve and asked him. I think he's supernatural. I'd love to make another record with him.
EF: What's the current Memphis music scene like?
LaVere: The music scene in Memphis is moving so fast I can't keep up. I used to be out every night checking out these new bands and supporting my friends but now we're traveling so much I'm not sure what the hell is going on and I hate it. But I can say for sure it is vibrant and honest and full of surprises.
EF: You've also done some acting as well. How did that come about? Any upcoming roles?
LaVere: I stumbled into a couple of small acting roles. I've since done some more ambitious parts in some indie films and found that I really am pretty good at it! I don't have anything for sure happening with any new roles but I'd love to "play actress" again.
EF: Musically, you've been pretty prolific, releasing two albums in almost as many years. What's next for you?
LaVere: We are about to hit the road again in the morning, and we have a pretty ambitious schedule this spring and summer. We're releasing Anchors & Anvils in the UK and we're going to tour over there in July and August. As much as I'm ready to move onto new material, I'm glad to have the chance to let more people hear it. I'm pretty proud of it and don't think it really got its fair shot. I have a 45 vinyl record being release this spring on the Makeshift label, a very cool indie label here in Memphis that everybody should check out. I'm always painfully laboring over the next record. I hope we can settle into recording in the fall when it's just starting to frost.
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Well, you heard her, go check out her record! In the meantime (and as mentioned earlier), EAR FARM has the distinct pleasure of crossing paths with LaVere TWICE on our upcoming trip, both at the Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh this Saturday night and also while enjoying some authentic Memphis BBQ with her as we pass through town on the way to Austin.
See Amy LaVere Live:
06 Mar - Charlotte, NC @ The Milestone
07 Mar - Winston-Salem, NC @ The Garage
08 Mar - Raleigh, NC @ Lincoln Theatre
09 Mar - Atlanta, GA @ The Atlanta Room at Smith's Olde Bar
13 Mar - Austin, TX @ Jovita's - SXSW Twangfest Party
13 Mar - Austin, TX @ Anton's - SXSW Showcase
14 Mar - Austin, TX @ Opal Divine - SXSW Showcase
28 Mar - Live Oak, FL @ Spirit of Suwanee Music Park
29 Mar - Live Oak, FL @ Spirit of Suwanee Music Park
1 Apr - Nashville, TN @ Mercy Lounge - Tina Pan Alley Showcase
3 Apr - Memphis, TN @ Sun Studio Live Recording Session
10 Apr - Memphis, TN @ Madison Hotel
19 Apr - Calgary, ON @ Bow Valley Music Club
2 May - Memphis, TN @ Beale Street Music Fest (Tom Lee Park)
3 May - Memphis, TN @ Outdoor's Canoe and Kayak Race (Tom Lee Park)
6 May - Atlanta, GA @ The Earl
7 May - Nashville, TN @ Mercy Lounge
8 May - Birmingham, AL @ The Bottletree
9 May - New Orleans, LA @ One-Eyed Jack's
10 May - Austin, TX @ The Mohawk
15 May - Las Vegas, NV @ Louis's Fish Camp
17 May - Joshua Tree, CA @ Joshua Tree Roots Music Festival
18 May - Los Angeles, CA @ Hotel Cafe
21 May - Monterey, CA @ Monterey Live
25 May - Camp Mather, CA @ Strawberry Music Festival
27 May - Newport, KY @ Southgate House
28 May - Carrboro, NC @ Cat's Cradle
29 May - Greensboro, SC @ Handlebar
30 May - Atlanta, GA @ Variety Playhouse
31 May - Jackson, MS @ Hal and Mal's
5 Jun - New Haven, CT @ Cafe Nine
6 Jun - Saratoga Springs, NY @ The Parting Glass
7 Jun - Albany, NY @ Washington Park Lobster Festival
26 Jun - Knoxville, TN @ Sundown in the City
12 Jun - Manchester, TN @ Bonnaroo
13 Jul - Fishstock, WI @ Camp David
30 Aug - Johnstown, PA @ The Johnstown Folk Festival
31 Aug - Johnstown, PA @ The Johnstown Folk Festival
4 Sep - Memphis, TN @ Levitt Shell, Overton Shell
27 Sep - Memphis, TN @ The Peabody Hotel - Venetian Ballroom
Visit Amy LaVere on MySpace
In the recent past, the following bands have been featured as EAR FARM's Band of the Week:
Drink Up Buttercup
The Big Sleep
Pete and the Pirates
See the entire list of bands featured as EAR FARM's Band of the Week HERE.
05 March 2008
Band: Amy LaVere