INTERVIEW: Amy Speace

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

I’ve been great, busy, creative, exhausted, sleepless and ready to hit the road with this record

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Ginger Ale & Lorna Doones”?

It started with the image of the soda and the cookie. Felt like an important thing: that after such an event, these are the things they gave this woman in the recovery room. Comfort food. It reminded me of when I was sick, my mother would give me a shortbread biscuit and Ginger Ale to calm my stomach. I heard from more than a few women that they were given Ginger Ale and Lorna Doones after their abortions at the clinics, so I started there.

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

I’d been wanting to tackle the subject for a while, and the increasing momentum in the US to chip away at women’s constitutional right to make decisions on her own and with her doctor about her body has been extremely concerning. I felt it necessary to just tell the story through the eyes of a woman walking that journey on one particular day. It wasn’t intended to be a polarizing political song, just the story of this one woman. But in the last few months, it’s become more than ever an important story to tell as I’m watching, State by State, the right to choice being targeted and taken away.

Any plans to release a video for the track?

Yes. We shot the video at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Nashville, TN.

The single comes off your new album Me And The Ghost of Charlemagne – what’s the story behind the title?

It’s the the title of the first song on the album. I wrote that song while on a tour in Germany, staying in Aachen, which happens to be where Charlemagne was born and buried and his bones are interred at the Cathedral that faced the place I was staying one night as the bells tolled all night and kept me awake. So I wrote.

How was the recording and writing process

I write every day, or most days, and I trust my process now, so the songs emerged over the last few years in between making the album with Applewood Road and touring that record, and when I got pregnant.  Once I wrote “Charlemagne” and “Ginger Ale” I knew I was onto a kind of theme about dreams and truth and I either wrote toward that theme or I pulled out songs that were already written that spoke to that theme. As for recording, I worked again with Neilson Hubbard producing and many of the same players I’ve worked with since 2011’s “Land Like A Bird”.  This time, though, we kept it really simple. I sat and played and sang at the same time, as I was 9 months pregnant. We wanted it to be more intimate and we wanted to keep it really focused on my voice and my acoustic guitar. Mostly, these were 1st or 2nd takes.

What was it like to work with Neilson Hubbard and how did that relationship develop?

I met Neilson a long time ago, while he was still making records as an artist. We were booked onto a TV show in Arkansas somewhere and were flown in to tape this show. We barely spoke, but we heard each other’s segment and I remember thinking, that guy has some deep truth in him. Over the next few years, I’d heard he was producing and many people in my NYC circle would tell me “you should go to Nashville and make a beautiful record with Neilson Hubbard.”  When I moved here in 2009, my manager knew Neilson and got us together and we both just rambled on and on about music and recording process. We also found out that way back in Arkansas, he also had that same feeling about me, about wanting to connect over music. So it was strangely serendipitous that we connected years later. The first thing we did was write a song together, which was “Drive All Night” From Land Like A Bird. It was easy and then we wrote “Vertigo” and a few others and demo’d them, but we knew we were making a record. I’ve been working with him ever since. He’s an incredible all around artist: writer, producer, player, photographer, film maker. His son was born a year before mine was and his wife really helped me in my first year as a mother, so Neilson is family to me, but as well, he’s incredibly inspiring and I love working with him.

How much did he get to influence the album this time around?

It was his idea, when he heard the songs, initially, to set up his studio in my living room and have me just play the songs there, sitting on my couch, a la Johnny Cash’s American Recordings. But my husband and I were in the process of selling that house in East Nashville and moving to Hendersonville to make room for our baby, so we had to record in the studio. Which is why we did all my tracks at once and the vocals and the guitar at the same time.

You’re known for playing with different genres – how did you get to balance them on this record? Would the theme of a song lead you to focus on a particular genre, for example?

I don’t think in terms of genre. I just write the song to the best of my ability and then ask, “is this true” and if it gives me goosebumps, I know I’m serving the story. I have no idea what genre my music sits in. I know it’s influenced by folk, by pop, by roots, by the blues, by musical theater, by classical music. By Dolly Parton to Jaques Brel. So I don’t worry aobut genre, I let others define that.

How does your background as an actress does influences your music and does it work other way around?

I think my time in the theater honed a particular skill with being able to see through the eyes of someone else and write in their voice, and see details in gesturees. I feel like I see my songs through the eyes of a playwright or a director. It’s important to me what image opens the curtain and how much of the story to tell and how much to leave to the audience.

What aspect of life and death did you get to explore on this record?

Clearly, having a baby was a huge influence on this record, as I was questioning whether I would want to continue touring, being away from home, chasing this dream. That’s the title track. So I guess, each song has a bit of turning around in my hand the notion of truth and lies. And what kind of life do we want to pursue and do we get the chance to see the dreams through and if not, what happens then?

How did your pregnancy get to serve as a source of inspiration for the writing?

Some of the songs were written pre-pregnancy (Back In Abilene, Some Dreams Do), but “Both Feet On The Ground” I wrote to my son while walking along the Cumberland River during my pregnancy. I kept it simple so I could repeat it over and over again in the cadence I was walking. I also chose to record Ben Glover’s “Kindness” because I heard it right after I’d told Ben I was pregnant and it just struck me as the most perfect sentiment for my son, the kind of lullabye I’d wish I’d written.

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

Anywhere and everywhere. The world in front of me is full of stories. Abilene came from a story a fan told me. Icicle King was just wordplay until I realized what was going on in the little boy’s world, the darkness that makes him fantasize so beautifully, but I didn’t know that’s where the song was going when I started writing it. Grace of God was literally written at 2am with Jon Vezner at a folk festival and it’s just all true, it’s my own story, my own gospel song. Standing Rock was inspired by friends’ who spent a winter protesting in South Dakota. The first few lines are from their Facebook status’.

Any plans to hit the road?

Yep. I start next week in London, in fact.

What else is happening next in Amy Speace’s world?

I’ve been writing a blog since I was pregnant, www.Menopausalmommy.blog, that I’m expanding into a book. And I continue writing songs and hope to get back to the studio in the Spring to record something very very acoustic, maybe an EP, maybe a full length. I don’t know. But I was afraid that once I had my son I’d stop writing and the opposite of that has happened, so I’m sitting on a pile of songs I’m dying to record.

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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