“I just love those words, the play on ‘this too shall pass’. It felt close to my heart” We chat with Amy Helm

Amy Helm, photo by Ebru Yildiz

Hey Amy, how the heck are you today?

Very good, thanks!

What have you been doing with your day so far?

Hunted down a triple espresso, made it to the van by 10am, successful morning on the road!

And where are you right now?

Driving through the beautiful prairies of Saskatchewan,  heading towards Edmonton.

What can you tell us about your new record, This Too Shall Light, in two sentences?

We recorded the whole album in four days. I think you can hear that in the playing and singing, spontaneous and going on intuition instead of tight arrangements.

How did you go about writing and choosing which songs to record?

Joe and I talked about and listened to a whole bunch of tunes. We were choosing songs that could work in a specific sonic atmosphere that Joe wanted to create- loose, open, rich in harmony and not ‘practiced’.

What can you tell us about the studio you recorded in, and how that influenced the record?

United recording is an extraordinary, iconic room, where many iconic recordings were made.

Joe chose that studio for its ability to set up in one space, allowing the players and singers to hear each other in the room while still having enough separation to get the richest tones on each voice and instrument.

I’m a huge fan of Hiss Golden Messenger, how did you come to record MC Taylor & Josh Kaufman’s song?

I’m a fan too! Josh and Mike came to Woodstock to do a two-day writing session with me. The two days turned into a collaboration that took on a life of its own, and led to an albums-worth of material we plan to record together down the road. ‘This Too Shall Light’ was one of the songs Josh and Mike wrote, and I felt it would really suit the Joe record. Mike and Josh were fine to let me try it with Joe, so we cut the song in LA.

And how did it turn out to be the title track?

I just love those words, the play on ‘this too shall pass’.  It felt close to my heart, and I thought it would be a great album title.

What can you tell me about ‘Mandolin Wind’? It’s one of my favourite songs on the record.

It’s one of my favorites too! I love the playing on that track, the creative and spontaneous conversations between Doyle and Tyler, and the incredible musicianship all around. That track really shines a light on the exquisite players on the album. The long outro is one of my favorite moments on the album.

Mandolin Wind was one of the first songs that Joe played for me as a possible song to cover.  It was part of the map of how we wanted the album to sound vibe-wise.

I really like ‘Freedom for the Stallion’ too, can you tell us what that song’s about?

Allen Toussaint wrote that song so long ago, and unfortunately it couldn’t be more relevant then it is today, and to our fragile world.

What’s the one song on the record that you really want people to hear?

I’m excited for people to hear the beautiful playing, as well as the excellent harmony singing by Alison Russell, Adam Minkoff,  and JT Nero. ‘Odetta’ and ‘Michigan’ capture the strong harmony vocals nicely.

Obviously there’s a lot of talk about equality in general life at the moment, what’s your experience of being treated differently as a woman in your industry?

I’ve been fortunate to not have had any negative experiences in this regard.

When was the last time you were starstruck?

Bringing my six old to a birthday party for his buddy Stellan. His parents are friends and work with Neko Case, and I’ve met her a few times now. Can’t seem to get my ‘dorky fan’ thing together around her. I tried to act casual around the snack table and make small talk, but I kept thinking “you’re Neko Case, you’re SO cool, wow!” I’m sure I was acting like a dork, no doubt about it.

If you could recommend one song to hear this week, what would it be?

‘American Flowers’ by Birds of Chicago

What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?

You didn’t miss a beat, enjoyed all the questions!

Finally, how do you take your coffee?

Triple espresso with a little bit of heated half & half poured in. The cream ups the flavor of the espresso,  and it’s perfect!

To find out more about Amy you can visit her website. You can also follow her on Twitter, like her on Facebook, or see what’s going on on Instagram.

Her new record, This Too Shall Light,  is out on 21st September 2018 and we thoroughly recommend buying it.

Max Mazonowicz

Updated: Aug 06, 2018

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“I just love those words, the play on ‘this too shall pass’. It felt close to my heart” We chat with Amy Helm | The Digital Fix