Hi Amy, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Oh, just fine, thanks.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Where Am I?”?
Sure. To sum it up, it’s about loneliness, regret over lost time, and who to blame when you are a victim of something. It is loosely based on personal experience, but also, weirdly, the short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Often the songs I write are based on things I have read mingled with something I have been thinking about or am feeling at the time.
Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?
I was sexually assaulted two years ago, and have had a series of relatively violent sexual encounters as well, so this was my way of parsing through those memories and taking ownership. Saying goodbye to regret, and feeling alright about it all.
Any plans to release a video for the single?
Not right now. Maybe in the fall. I’ve never made a music video before, so I would want to really wrap my head around how to do that, and find someone great to collaborate with.
The single comes off your new album Not Us – what’s the story behind the title?
It was originally supposed to be called, “It’s me and you, not us” and then I shortened it to “Not Us.” Essentially, every time I’ve been an “us,” I’ve lost something of myself in the process. I wanted to express my desire to be alone. Not because it was forced upon me, but because I chose it. Over the course of writing this album, I went through a break up, was attacked by my landlord, and came out as bisexual. Writing music is the easiest way for me to learn about myself, but also to feel empowered, so this album was very essential.
How was the recording and writing process?
This was the most fun I’ve ever had recording music, which is a little weird to say, considering the content. I guess what I mean is that it’s the most involved I’ve ever felt on a recording project. I worked very closely with my producer, Lorenzo Wolff. I came to him with some songs and my ukulele, and he and I worked through them together to find the sound for the whole album. He assigned me with homework, like writing a new chorus for one or coming up with a bridge for another, changing the melody or rewording some phrases. It really is a collaboration between the two of us, and he provides so much valuable input and direction. At the start of it all, he said “I want to make something that is timeless, something that will still be good in fifty years,” and I firmly believe that that’s the case.
How has your theatre background influenced your music and the other way around?
I learned to write music while in clown school, so it all feels like theatre. I treat songs like stories, and as I write, I think of how I would perform them. I still prefer shows to recording. Playing in front of people is always better than singing alone in a room. I like feeding off of the energy of a crowd and being able to change things up at the last minute, based on the vibe. That’s all clown training. The two different genres, music and theatre, have bled together, and I think about them very similarly, even though they are different.
What life events and struggles get to inspire the songs and lyrics on this album?
The subject matter is pretty weighty. Bad relationships, abuse, and being the victim of assault. None of it is easy to talk about, but it is necessary and important to create a dialogue around these topics, as otherwise it is easy to feel voiceless and keep it all to oneself.
What role does NYC play in your music?
It’s very apparent that I live in New York, especially on this album. One song is about going to Coney Island when I was alone on Christmas, one song is about the B train, in another I reference the Empire State Building. You know, it’s funny, because I never realized all of that, the continued thread of New York, until you asked.
Any plans to hit the road?
Not any time soon. Maybe in the summer! I would love to play more, but music is only part of my life, and I can’t be away from the city too too much.
What else is happening next in Amy Virginia’s world?
I’ve got a play, a solo show, going up the first two weeks of April. It’s something I wrote about growing up with a brother with down syndrome. It’s called The Michael Show, and it’s at the Tank Theater. I am very excited and nervous. And then there is always Spring Street Social Society, the underground events based social club I co-founded with my creative partner Patrick Janelle. That’s technically my full time job, and always exciting, giving me opportunities to collaborate with so many artists. We do about 16 events a year, so it keeps me busy, but very happy.