Elbow, Emiliana Torrini, Andrew Bird
Current live line-up: Amy Vee - vocals, guitars, live loops, percussion, melodica. Sometimes joined by various other musicians.
Life, Love, The Human Condition
Some 12 years since her debut as the founding member of The Virtues, and with two subsequent solo releases and thousands of kilometres of touring under her belt, seasoned Australian songstress Amy Vee has returned to the spotlight, exploring the turbulence of life’s joys and despairs with newer sounds from an older soul.
Juxtaposing her trademark ethereal alt-folk sound against digitally de-constructed beats and textures, Vee has distilled over a decade of experience as touring singer, songwriter and musician to present a contemporary collection of new songs, exploring themes of grief, fear, acceptance and the all-too-quick passage of time.
“Musically, these songs were a slight departure my previous recordings. I expanded the scope from using mainly acoustic instruments to include some electronic sounds and samples. In essence though, these are still just simple stories told to music”, said Vee.
“There’s a new calm in the songwriting that I’ve embraced. It seems to have balanced well with the energy and detail of the production techniques we explored in the studio.”
The first track, a dark and twitchy ditty titled Ten Years, places Vee’s wistful vocal and guitar work over sparse layers of body percussion and oscillating synth bass and drum lines. Some of Vee’s rarely cited influences such as elbow and Radiohead have been intimated here. However, her signature sublime delivery has been expertly etched across the song’s surface.
“I didn’t come at the creative process this time with a view to making an album,” said Vee. “I had a few new songs I’d been sitting on for a while and I wanted to release them individually. I felt like they all had something important to say. I’ve been through a lot in this last while – I was blessed with a daughter and I lost one of my dear friends – these are maturing experiences. And for me, with personal growth always comes new music. It’s the only way I know how to process everything.”
The last time Vee purged her psyche in a studio was in 2013, culminating in the debut solo album, Fits and Starts. The 10-track treasure was the fruit of a more focused creative process and successful crowd-funding campaign, stylistically undulating between ghostly folk and down-tempo indie pop. The album travelled well with audiences and critics alike, prompting Triple J radio’s Sarah Howell’s to deftly describe it as “absolutely beautiful”.
Setting out from her base in Newcastle, NSW, Vee launched the album with an extensive tour, sometimes performing with her 6-piece band (including live string section) and otherwise playing solo, armed only with her guitar, live loops and the occasional surprise violin or melodica.
"The first thing that strikes you about Amy, apart from her amazingly husky vocals, is the confidence of her songwriting. There has always been an ethereal quality to her live sets, and it’s good to see this hasn’t been lost with the addition of a full band… the beautifully arranged tracks left the near capacity crowd in no doubt that this would be an album to watch out for” – themusic.com.au
Meanwhile, Vee supported her songwriting endeavours by working as a hired multi-instrumentalist, performing vocals, guitars, bass, violin and keys for other touring bands, including an ongoing role with Australian rock icon Jon English.
“Gobsmackingly talented and beautiful… Ever the consummate professional, making everything seem so effortless and perfect, I love having her on board” – Jon English
A psychology graduate, Vee was also putting her mental health expertise to use, gaining national recognition for her work across a range of suicide prevention and mental health promotion programs and maintaining an advocacy role that supported her passions for arts, health and community.
But as 2013 drew to a close, a new creative pursuit began to take priority with Vee preparing for her first foray into motherhood. Continuing to tour and perform throughout her pregnancy, and returning to the stage only two weeks after the arrival of her newborn baby mid-2014, parenthood didn’t even come close to slowing what was essentially a bullet train schedule.
Juggling music, advocacy and motherhood with her usual Zen-like composure, Vee added another string to her bow in mid-2015, stepping into rehearsals for The National Theatre Company’s production of Evita, as the coveted lead role. Despite the show’s well-received short season in early 2016, celebrations were cut short when Vee received the devastating news on opening night of the sudden death of Jon English, who over the years had become more than a bandmate, but also a friend and mentor.
Bereft, Vee hit the studio, calling on her long-time producer and collaborator, Gareth Hudson (owner of Newcastle studio Hazy Cosmic Jive), to help shape her experiences into a definitive sound and nurture that “newer calm” – perhaps inside as well as out.
“I find being in the studio cathartic on any day, but after the intensity of the last couple of years, I was keen to start turning some of my thoughts and feelings into something musically tangible,” said Vee. “I trust Gareth – when I present a song he seems to instinctively know what I’m trying to achieve and how to translate it into something unique but tasteful. I never feel like he’s trying to ‘brand’ it with his own iron either. It’s a really rare thing to find a producer who clicks with you in that way. I feel like we’re a great team,” she added.
Vee plans to take her newest collection of songs to stages around the country in due course. Meanwhile, her new direction looks set to solidify her reputation as a prolific and hard-working creative and one of the more remarkable and enduring independent artists of her time.
“… a truly exceptional songwriter very much in control of her art” – Carol Duncan, ABC Radio
The new single, Ten Years, is available now on most download and streaming platforms.