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INTERVIEW: Classical Performer Amy Owens

Hi Amy, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hi there! Thank you. I’m doing very well and feeling joyful, thanks for asking!

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Discreet”?

“Discreet” is the result of a musical collaboration between composer/producer Howard “Merlin” Wulkan and myself. This track highlights the unexpected combination of Howard’s aesthetic, coming from an industrial and electronic background, and mine, which is based in stage music (mostly opera and musical theater). My favorite thing about this song is the vocal line because it is so much fun to sing! I was experimenting with melody over a musical idea from Howard and practically giggled when I landed on the gesture that accompanies the words “do I think I can sneak past it,” grinding and bending the voice sneakily on the word “sneak.” It’s so theatrical and playful, with a hint of irony. It’s one of the melodies I’ve written that most closely resembles my personality. Recording it was a lot of fun, especially when we had horn player Marc Gelfo in the studio, who lent his suave musicianship to a solo on the plastic trumpet, of all things! I hope that people can feel the pure fun in this song and enjoy singing along.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

This song, like most that Howard and I wrote, began first with musical ideas, from which I would discover what the song was “about.” I’ve stashed a lot of poetry and lyrics over the years, and I’ve written several humorous poems about the confrontation addressed in the lyrics. Because this funky, theatrical tune spoke to this recurring theme in my life, it was a perfect pairing. I want people to experience the song on their own terms, allowing it to help them confront whatever they are dealing with, but for me, the original confrontation was with stuff. I think this is especially appropriate with the Marie Kondo craze right now! When I was a child, I used to imagine I had a magic wand that I could wave to instantly clean my room. As an adult, I sometimes go back to this same fantasy. Can’t I just wave a wand and have all of this be done already? Hence the words “Now I work my magic, just like that you’re gone, now I bid you bye- dee-bye.” We’ve all got piles of clutter—mental, emotional, physical—that need clearing out. I believe that we can tackle anything with a bit of humor, drama, and maybe a magic wand.

How was the filming process and experience behind the video?

I gave filmmaker Wilder Troxell complete artistic freedom to create this video. He is so talented and versatile and hard-working, and I really wanted to collaborate with him. He directed, filmed, choreographed, edited, and even danced in the video. It’s people like Wilder and Howard that make me love collaboration—everyone gets to put their own stamp on a project and build on each other’s ideas to create something new, and we all have fun in the process! I especially appreciated Wilder’s unique skill with choreography and movement, which allowed me to tap into the days when I used to dance a lot more. I am so inspired by the dancers who participated in this project, and I am so grateful they lent their talents!

The single comes off your new album HEATHOR – what’s the story behind the title?

The name HAETHOR (pronounced HAY-thor) is a derivative of Hathor, the Egyptian goddess of music, dance, and joy. Howard and I were drawn to this goddess for many reasons, but we found the symbolism around her to be particularly inspiring for music-making. For example, she is associated with the Milky Way, and there are multiple songs on the album that draw on the theme of stars and the heavens.

How was the recording and writing process?

The word that I keep coming back to is FUN. There were no expectations when we began writing music. We were just exploring. I was tapping into a creative side of me that hadn’t seen much attention before, and we ended up with an album of which we are enormously proud.

What was it like to work with Howard Wulkan and how did that relationship develop?

Howard “Merlin” Wulkan is an exceptional human being who leads with an open heart and creative vulnerability. The first time I met him in person was actually in the studio, and we started writing immediately. Several months before that, he attended a performance of Carmina Burana, a big orchestral piece where I was featured as a soloist. He sent me an email after the performance which began a dialogue about music and resulted, after many leaps of faith, in the album we have today.

How much did he get to influence the album?

The album is a complete collaboration, and both of our musical styles are woven together inextricably.

Do you tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else rather than in your own?

Definitely. I prefer collaborating in general, and in the performing arts, everything is a collaboration. But so much of the preparation happens alone, and I can sometimes be militaristic with myself, demanding excellence at every turn. In collaboration, I am constantly taking in the ideas and needs of other people, and I find a balance of discipline and compassion there that I can then bring into my individual work.

What role does NYC play in your music?

What an interesting question. New York City. I do love her. New York City is the place I feel most like myself, most grounded, most at home. When I moved here in 2014, that’s when I really discovered who I was. I could never have written this music had I not had the chance to discover who I really was and what I really believed, and although I will continue on that journey of discovery till the day I die, I know that it was this city that started me on that path.

Any plans to hit the road?

I am constantly on the road with my classical singing career. I don’t think I spent three nights in a row in my apartment last year! But I hope to incorporate more HAETHOR songs into my live performances moving forward.

What else is happening next in Amy Owens’ world?

Over the next few months I will be singing with the New York Festival of Song at Lincoln Center, performing a recital with the George London Foundation, and appearing with the Mobile Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic, and Houston Grand Opera. A couple of new music videos are in the works, and I’m releasing an album of Leonard Bernstein’s vocal music this Spring. In the days I have off, I’m studying conducting and working on writing my own show, occasionally practicing the accordion. There never seems to be enough time to do all the things I want to do, but I am grateful for every day that music can be a part of my life!

Check out the music video for “Discreet” HERE.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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