February 11, 2010

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Amy Petty’s year
New project in the works, performances near and far
By Michael Witthaus music@hippopress.com

As 2010 accelerates, Amy Petty is booking shows, writing songs and occasionally stopping to catch her breath. In a little over a month, the Manchester singer-songwriter hit a personal trifecta, playing Club Passim in Cambridge, New York City’s Bitter End, and a feature set at the January Tupelo Music Hall open-mike night. The hometown gig, surprisingly enough, turned out to be the most challenging.

“I have performed in front of thousands of people and numerous stages and that is the only one that I still get nervous on,” she said recently from her home in Manchester. “But there were so many people there to support me, so many people that I sing with all the time.”

Saturday night, she’s bringing a few of her Tupelo friends together for a local showcase at Boynton’s Taproom. Club owner Josh Boynton asked Petty to organize a “Songwriters in the Round” night, and she tapped Chad Verbeck, Jandee Lee Porter and Dale Reynolds to play.

“Chad’s in a band called Rockspring — they’re fun, mostly rock with a jam band feel, maybe a little bluegrass — he’s really good songwriter and showman. He was the first one that came to mind.” She met Porter when the two shared the stage at Portsmouth’s Blue Mermaid a few months back. “If I’m a folk/soul/rock kind of sound, she’s folk/country,” Petty said. 

Reynolds runs the open mike at Tupelo. “He’s just so good … one of these people that see the beauty in everything,” Petty says. “When you talk to him, you just feel like your world gets a little bigger — then of course to hear him sing.”

Though the show happens the night before Valentine’s Day, Petty doesn’t expect many Hallmark moments during the evening.  “We all write the same kind of stuff,” she said. “We would have to put major spin on it to make them love songs.”

Petty is hard at work on a follow-up to last year’s Mystery Becomes You, a moody, introspective work with occasional moments of wistful longing.  Petty called it a “glass half empty” record.

These days, she’s a bit more hopeful and forward-looking. “I’ve always said I’m a happy girl who’s trying to write sad songs,” she said. “Maybe I can be a happier girl who’s writing happier songs.”

She says these emotions are evident in her new material.“I talked with my producer, and he said, ‘All of your songs now seem like they’re about redemption.’ I like that,” Petty said. “I think it’s true, and I don’t really know why. I haven’t been able to live with it long enough to figure out exactly why that is.”

She’s written about 15 new songs for the project, and expects to have a few more by the time she goes into the studio later this month. 

“In terms of the journey of the album, there’s one emotion we haven’t hit,” she said. “I don’t know what it is yet, but I just feel like there’s a couple more that I need to write. But I’ve been writing like crazy the last couple of weeks, so I think they’ll come.”

Petty always knew she’d be a singer, gravitating toward opera in college, but didn’t set out to be a songwriter. “I had a few songs I’d written in college, and I needed a musical outlet,” she says. “I realized that I really, really could write music.” 

Last summer, she played the Berkshire Folk Festival. “I was up on stage getting ready to do my part of the show and I look over and Catie Curtis is finishing her set, and I’m just about ready to start mine,” Petty said. “I look back stage and Melissa Ferrick is standing there. I’m thinking, how did this even happen?”

“I don’t know how I got here,” she said. “I took tiny steps and really didn’t have a destination — but this is a good place to end up.”


Songwriters in the Round
What: Songwriters in the Round, hosted by Amy Petty, with Chad Verbeck, Jandee Lee Porter and Dale Reynolds
When: Saturday, Feb. 13, at 8 p.m.
Where: Boynton’s Taproom, 155 Dow St. (3rd floor) in Manchester
Tickets: $7
Info: www.boyntonstaproom.com