Quick Q and A with Amy Soucy

Amy Soucy is authentic.  She’s authentic with her music and she is also an extraordinarily authentic human being.  As a full-time yoga teacher and mindfulness instructor, she has dug deep into herself to produce heartfelt music that is bound to touch the listener.  Amy was greatly influenced by both Patty Griffin and Tracy Chapman whose music resonated with so many people—male and female—during the Lilith Fair years twenty years ago.

Come learn more about Amy Soucy.

Here’s a taste of Amy Soucy in concert.  Amy will be participating in “Steady On: Celebrating Lilith Fair at 20” along with Sharon Goldman, Lara Herscovitch, and Sloan Wainwright on September 8 at the me&thee coffeehouse in Marblehead, MA.

You are taking part in the touring program “Steady On: Celebrating Lilith Fair at 20.”  What are your thoughts about that groundbreaking concept and what do the original participants mean to you?

I absolutely love the concept! I think it’s a much needed reminder of the power of these artists and their music, some of which I had forgotten, and the incredible success that proved that an all-female lineup could not only succeed but far surpass expectations. I think I heard Sarah McLaughlin say in an interview that it was a “big middle finger” to the testosterone-fueled times, haha. I also feel really honored to take part alongside women I admire, and am grateful to call my friends. Many of the original participants, like Tracy Chapman, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, et al, were my earliest inspirations. They lit an early flame in me and ignited my love for singer-songwriter, folkie music. I remember at 15 or 16 listening to Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” with my friend, over and over and over until that melody was embedded in my bones!

If you have to cite one Lilith Fair musician as one of your guiding lights, who would it be and why? 

Well, I was a huge Sarah McLachlan fan at one point, and her album Fumbling Toward Ecstasy had a huge impact one me, but… I have to say that Patty Griffin is, hands down, my personal heroine of song. I first heard her powerful voice on a compilation CD of singer-songwriters in the early 90’s, and it was like a wallop to the heart and the gut. I knew immediately I wanted to hear more of her, AND be able to sing and write songs like that. The immediacy of her voice, combined with the compassionate, deeply human stories she tells (I think she can touch a raw nerve like no one else) has made me a fan for life. Her music has been such a touchstone for me, and an invitation to open my heart more as a songwriter and a human being.

Now, tell us about how you discovered your voice and your ability to create music.  Did you grow up in a musical family?

I have four older brothers, all close in age to each other but quite a bit older then me. When I was very little, like 3 or 4, they’d all be off at school and I’d be home alone with my mom all day. She bought me a kids’ record player and I would spend a lot of time alone listening and singing along to all kinds of records, from Disney, to Sesame Street, to movie and Broadway soundtracks. I think she bought the player to keep me occupied during the long days, but she also heard me singing along and realized I had a talent, so I’m going to say she actually discovered my voice and ability. Go Mom!

I grew up in a “sporadically” musical family. I say that because none of us like to practice, haha, but I have one brother who plays bass and guitar and has been in a string of punk, garage and rock bands through the years, plus my oldest brother played tuba in high school and the next brother plays and collects guitars, makes homemade string instruments, and had an immense record collection growing up! Oh, and my father played saxophone in a wedding band in the 60’s… does that count as a “musical family?”

You attended a school for performing arts and received a degree in Musical Theater Performance.  Did you always feel comfortable on stage?  What were some of your favorite parts?

I went to one of the first magnet schools for the arts in Michigan. The founding teachers had actually lived in NYC and had professional performing careers, and they wanted to try and create a program similar to the “Fame” school. In many respects they did a fantastic job. It was a wonderful program that allowed me to actually consider the performing arts as a viable life path. The music and theater program took us students beyond your average “choir/high school musical” programming, into deeper forms like opera, art song, and musicals with more mature content (we produced and performed in Sweet Charity and Gypsy, which tackle pretty mature subjects for high schoolers!)

I always felt pretty comfortable as a performer, yes. There were nerves too, but I was pretty fearless in a costume and t-strap character shoes (for all you musical theatre nerds out there). I worked at a summer stock theater for a couple of years and played some of my favorite roles there, one being Janet in Rocky Horror Picture Show. I think it satisfied my love of musicals AND my taste for pop/rock music.

Moving from Michigan to New York City was a big adventure for you and your pursuit of your dream.  What did you learn about “show business” during that time?  Was it everything you thought it would be?

Oh goodness, I was such an innocent! I had no idea how hard it would be, honestly, and how many people would be vying for the same exact spot – even at auditions for small regional theaters and crappy off-off-off Broadway productions. I understand now (and joke about it) that I certainly didn’t think too far ahead in my twenties, so I didn’t really know what to expect, beyond the little bubble of my college and summer stock theater experiences. I definitely developed more persistence and more initiative over time, and I learned – through much trial and error – not to take things so personally.

Tell us about your first foray into writing songs and going out and performing them. How did standing solo in front of an audience compare to being part of a theater production?  Was that transition difficult or easy for you?

In my late twenties, a friend of my then boyfriend was dating a singer-songwriter and we used to go watch her play shows at dive-y places around New York City. She encouraged me to start writing and singing more, so I started to cobble together some of my journal writing, and would get together with different friends I knew who played guitar to just sing melodies and explore. I actually didn’t perform solo with a guitar until much later, but I did sing with a jazz guitarist for a few years – we had a weekly gig at a hotel bar in the financial district. That musical relationship brought forth some of my earliest songs, and helped me build some confidence before I actually took the leap to standing solo before an audience with my own guitar and songs. I’m gonna be blunt and say that standing alone before an audience, singing personal songs, is so much harder for me than performing in a musical ever was! It’s been a difficult transition because I feel so much more exposed, laid bare as a person and a performer. No costumes, no make-up, no lyrics and lines written by another writer. Yup, definitely more fraught for me.

Your album, This River, is a beautiful offering to music fans.  What was your experience in the recording studio like?

I’m proud of my little record, so thank you. I had a wonderful experience in the recording studio, and I’m actually grateful that I waited so many years to do it. I’m a late bloomer in many areas of my life, and that proved a blessing for me on this project, because I felt ready, and the songs, to me, felt ready to be recorded. I also had a wonderful team of people around me, who I had been developing musical and personal relationships with for a few years… people like Mark Dann, masterful engineer and musical wizard, and Stephen Murphy, who had a clear vision for the songs and brought them to a whole new level with his gonzo guitar skills! And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Sharon Goldman (the creative force of nature behind our Lilith show) who had been prodding me to get my butt on stage more often, and to make a record. She, Penny Nichols, Fred Arcoleo and Glen Roethel showered the CD with their golden harmonies, and we had a slew of wonderful musicians lend their talents on fiddle, harmonica, drums, more. All in all, a very sweet and supportive first-time experience.

Am I correct in remembering that you are a yoga teacher?  How has the practice of yoga influenced your music?

Yes, I’m a yoga and mindfulness teacher. That’s my day job, if you will, and I’m pretty grateful to have embarked on that complementary career path.

How has it influenced my music? That’s a big question, so I’ll give you the short answer. Yoga influences me as a creator and performer because it helps me breathe, reminds me to check my ego at the door and be present with whatever, and whoever, is right in front of me. That helps with those feelings of vulnerability and exposure I mentioned earlier, haha. Yoga has also taught me to remember that I am a human BEING first, and the human DOING can come later. When I remember that and make time for myself, for self-care and quiet, I am so much more in touch with my authentic self. I can more easily connect to what I want to say as a writer, feel how I want to show up as a performer, and access the wide open, generative space of my creativity… I think that was the long answer!


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