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Amie Penwell music is alternative, piano pop, with enough soul to dip it’s foot into alt. country and gospel, joining the likes of Ray LaMontagne, Annie Lennox, Melissa Etheridge, and Peter Gabriel.
I believe all of us are trying to better navigate and understand our roles, plights, masks, defenses, and reactions to a world in an increasingly, desperate need to experience more of ourselves in these confines, real or imagined. Giving voice to our own truths, our realities, our power, our fear of that power, and the paradox of the need to admit powerlessness before true change proceeds. I’ve spent the last few years working on a collection of songs that came out of conversations I had, and experiences I’ve shared, with women of diverse ethnic, economic and religious backgrounds. With the help of my collaborators, that collection has become my new record, Windows. It’s an intimate, firsthand look into the lives of nine women on nine different journeys. Each song is a portrait of individual and collective exploration through acceptance, power, will, humility, denial, willingness, faith, surrender, and freedom. The ultimate goal of this work is to stimulate conversations with one another, to help each other and the upcoming generations be more awake, objective, vocal, and free. To walk with one another through the sometimes brutal inventory of facing of ourselves, through the society we find ourselves in.
My main objective as an artist is to focus on what the moment has to teach me, to extract truth, the lesson from the beastly, the beautiful, and every ordinary passing in between. My experience has made clear to me that the more honest I am with myself, the more connected I can be with others. I believe there is no work worth sharing that won’t at least try to be of service to another. With this in mind, when I began working on Windows, the songs were in charge the whole way through. They arrived one by one like premonitions pushing and pulling against each other. The first one pulled me out on a rainy night to catch Maia Sharp (Bonnie Raitt, Dixie Chicks, Art Garfunkel) live at a show in Berkeley CA. As soon as I heard Maia sing her song Underneath, I knew I wanted to write with her. I worked up the courage to send my song “Dogfight On The Moon” This led to my sending the first iPhone recording of “Window” about a successful executive woman in the middle of a meeting for a moment baring witness to the stark contrast of reality right outside the window. I remember standing in the middle of a playground watching 5-year-olds at work listening to the way she changed some phrasing at the end of “Window.” I knew it was special. Maia sent along a verse, chorus and melody for a title she’d been kicking around. It was “Noticing Place.” a song about a middle-aged woman realizing what she is allowing herself to become. I sent back “This Ain’t Happening To You,” an alt-country song about a woman in her late 30’s diagnosed with MS expressing how angry she is at everyone telling her what to do and how to feel when all she wants is to be pissed off. Lastly, we wrote “Angels In The Sand” about an older woman who has reached a place of seeing the spectrum of her experiences both joyful and at times horrific and how they have made up the mosaic of her life. It felt like an effortless songwriting tennis match—or like having a new pen pal. The remaining songs I wrote alone. To raise enough funds to begin, I set out to do a small crowdfunding campaign. After a first go of recording the record, I decided I needed to set them aside and approach the work more organically. Songs can sound perfect, but not feel right. I took another big gamble. I booked six days at Tiny Telephone Recording in San Francisco to record and mix. I will be forever grateful to John Vanderslice (founder and owner of TT) for building his version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, for maintaining an affordable creative oasis for DIY musicians to work in the midst of one of the most expensive cities on the planet. Partnering up with Engineer, Multi-Instrumentalist and Arranger Adam Hirsch, (Ex Eye, Sam Amidon). Drummer Jason Slota, (The Mountain Goats, John Vanderslice) Bassist Matt Penwell, Guitarist Jeri Jones, (Blame Sally) Jeff Oster (Will Ackerman, Deepak Chopra) on Trumpet and Flugel Horn, Pianist Adam Rossi (Luce, Brad Brooks), Cellist Marissa Dietze, and myself on piano, Rhodes, pedal organ, vocals. Over four days, we recorded nine songs on analog tape, leaving the last two to mix. I later re-recorded my song “Mercy” about a young woman who has had faith but lost it, with producer Adam Rossi for Notes4Hope, a breast cancer benefit compilation and decided to add it to the record. Finishing up one of the tracks “Unstoppable” with my long-time collaborator, Drew Pearce, and engineer, producer and multi-instrumentalist, Gawain Matthews (guitar, organ, bass) about woman willing to stand in her full unedited strength, calling on other women to unite in mutual respect, to stand together in the face of everything. The song immediately caught the ear of Director Windy Borman, making it the credit song for her film Mary Janes The Women Of Weed. Lastly, I called on Jim Greer (Foster The People, Yoko Ono) to mix Unstoppable and Window, and master the record. I was raised in Massachusetts by an Irish/Italian family the youngest of four siblings, all avid music lovers. My upbringing was full of religion, poverty, love and the savior of stereos blasting the likes of The Police, U2, Van Halen, Rush, Journey, Prince, Pavarotti, Kris Kristofferson, and Fleetwood Mac, among many others. My core influences are Peter Gabriel, Radiohead, and Prince. My underground hit single, “Mercy,” was featured in the award-winning 2012 documentary, The Eyes of Thailand, which was narrated by Ashley Judd. In 2013, my EP Under City Lights was featured on Season 2 of Web series “Bloomers” and The Ask BonBon Show. In 2015, I was a semi-finalist in the International Songwriting Contest (ISC) in the Adult Album Alternative category for my song “Dogfight On The Moon”. In 2016, my song “Somewhere The Sky Is Blue” with Grammy Award-winning Producer Ricky Kej, in the Dominica Scorsese film Almost Paris.