Q&A: Amy Helm Discusses New Music, Resolutions, and What to Expect on Thursday Night

Posted on Tuesday January 12th in

Finer-25

Fresh off Jam Cruise, and armed with an acclaimed debut solo album and a new backing band, the Handsome Strangers, Amy Helm comes to Brooklyn Bowl on Thursday night. Ahead of her arrival, she spoke to Knockdown Alley about going solo, some of her favorite things about Brooklyn Bowl, and what you can expect at Thursday’s show.

As a longtime member of Ollabelle and the Midnight Ramble Band, what inspired you to put out Didn’t It Rain, your first solo album under your own name? After spending time absorbing all of the incredible music, both in Ollabelle and the Midnight Ramble Band, I wanted to take what I had learned and create a new platform for myself as a singer. I wanted to challenge myself to step a little farther out and to see what it is like to lead a band from the front lines.

And how different was the process of putting together these songs and the album compared to your previous work? It was completely different in that it was uncharted territory for me. Writing and discovering songs, singing them, and finding my voice in them was a skill set that was very new to me. The process required a different type of focus and skill than I had used as a member of a band. The musicians that surrounded me were a real guiding light in that process.

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You’ve played Brooklyn Bowl before with different bands, but next Thursday it’s as Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers. What can we expect this time around? Songs straight from your album? Any covers? Ollabelle material? I’ll definitely be playing a lot of material from my debut album, along with songs I’ve performed with the Midnight Ramble Band, and a handful of cool covers that we’ve worked up over the last year.

And as someone who’s performed here before, what’s your favorite thing about playing Brooklyn Bowl? The good vibes, the party atmosphere, and the pigs in a blanket on the menu!

Your new three-piece backing band is the Handsome Strangers. You’ve obviously played with Byron Isaacs before, but how did you link up with Dan Littleton and David Berger? Were they, in fact, strangers before coming aboard? I actually met Dan through my father, who was working on musical projects with Dan and his wife, Elizabeth Mitchell, at the Barn in Woodstock. I have known Dave off and on for many years as he was connected to my friends in Ollabelle, but I didn’t have the chance to play with Dave until I began to build this band. Byron, Dave, and Dan are extraordinary musicians and I’m so grateful to make music with them.

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Didn’t It Rain has a little New Orleans flavor to it. And next Thursday at Brooklyn Bowl is your last show before hitting the road with Anders Osborne in February. Have you played with him before? And have you always been drawn to NOLA music? I haven’t had the opportunity to play music with Anders yet and am really looking forward to the tour coming up in February and March! I spent a lot of time in NOLA with my father, singing and performing with him regularly. I took full advantage of my time in NOLA by going out and seeing as much music as possible. I also joined a gospel choir during my time down there, and that continues to be one of the most rewarding experiences that I’ve ever had.

We’re just into the New Year, but looking back at 2015, which bands — new or at least new to you — did you discover? One of the things that I enjoy most about being a touring musician is the opportunity to hear new and fantastic music all of the time and to connect with new musicians. Here are just a handful of some bands that blew me away: Hurray for the Riff Raff, Shakey Graves, Trampled by Turtles, Southern Soul Assembly, Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys.

Keeping with the New Year theme, do you have any resolutions, musical or otherwise, for 2016? Staying close to my patience and my gratitude.

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