Monday, May 11, 2009

Process, progress & vision: Songwriter Amy Obenski


I first met Santa Cruz songwriter Amy Obenski shortly after we'd both released our first Cds in 2003. Now, multiple tours and CD's later, Amy is one of the Bay Area's most thoughtful troubadours whose sound and reach continues to expand. I asked Amy a few questions before she set off on a West Coast tour to promote her latest effort, "From the Deep."

Q When did the light bulb go off, when you said, 'I must play music'? or How did you start?

AO I'm not really sure when this first happened. But I've wanted to sing since I was a very little girl. I wanted to be a famous singer and buy a threatened rain forest. I was very into nature and animals and had pictures posted all over my room from World magazine. I started singing in choir when I was five at my elementary school, and I remember singing Annie's "Tomorrow" for a family audience when I was maybe four years old.

Q Who is your main influence? What, or who, inspires you?

AO What really inspires me is watching my friends play their music. I have big name inspirations like everyone else. But I find my true inspiration comes after seeing my friends or regular people play like you and me. I think it's because I can really relate to them, and they aren't some blown out of proportion rock star on a pedestal. Not that rock stars aren't regular people, of course they are, but it registers differently for me. I guess I'm just more inspired when I can talk to them before and after, and they are just being themselves.

Q Can you describe your writing process? What comes first-words or music?

AO This changes all the time. Often the words and melody come at once, and then I add the instruments and chord changes afterward. Sometimes I write the instrumental first and then add a melody and words. The melody and words almost always come at the same time. Occasionally, I have a melody and I take a poem I've already written and slip it in there.

Q How has the recording process changed the way you work?

AO Wow. This is a big question. I've become more of a composer and I think this is due to the recording process. For my first album, my approach was to just record what I had and not put much thought into it. I invited other musicians to come play and just jam out on the recording. But then after seeing how that went, I decided to start taking a more methodical approach. Now I take more time to think about each instruments parts and discuss it with the musicians, as well as composing some of the parts myself. I'm also much more careful with the production of the album, my overall vision, and the quality of the sound.

Q What will you do next, do you think?

AO Well, I'm going to play a lot of shows this year and probably start writing and recording again next year. This is how the cycle goes. Every time the CD Release comes around the response is a little bigger. Really I just want to connect with people, share my music, and hopefully contribute to some folks in a positive way.

Amy's tour kicks off with a show in San Francisco on June 6th, 2pm at the Mama Art Cafe, http://www.mamasf.com.