Over the past few months, Irish singer-songwriter, Amy Montgomery has been our latest artist-to-watch. We featured her HERE in my ‘Songs about overcoming adversity’ series. The song that I brought to your attention for the series was Intangible, which incidentally comes from her forthcoming debut EP (out Nov 20).
It’s safe to say, a week out from the release of her EP, Montgomery is all set to build on her 2019 success, which incredibly saw her earn a songwriting nomination in the Northern Irish Music Prize. In short, many in the industry including myself, believe Amy Montgomery is a revelation. But don’t take my word for it. Have a listen to Amy’s incredible vocals for yourself and moreover be sure to check out her flamboyant stage persona.
That said, I recently caught up with Amy to chat about her debut EP Intangible, her creative process and her enchanting warrior spirit. Here is some of that we talked about.
Amy, your debut EP Intangible is a bold introduction to your music and vision as a singer-songwriter. If we reflect momentarily on the five tracks, what would you say is the most surprising thing that people are going to hear from it?
If you’ve followed my music career and releases up to now, I would say that ‘Anywhere’ is definitely the most surprising track on the EP. It steers my genre away from the ‘alt-rock’ sound, into more of an indie/pop rock vibe. But for anybody whose introduction to my music is this EP, then the cover of SVE’s ‘Jupiter 4’ will come as a surprise I think, because it’s lofi and gritty with heavy instrumentation and vocals. I love the contrast between the feel of the tracks.
Did all songs come together quickly, or was there more of a methodical process to it?
The songs were very individual creations and not written purposely to be grouped together on an EP, it just seemed fitting with the tracks that we had to choose these particular ones. ‘Intangible’ and ‘Anywhere’ recordings were finished in March/April time. ‘Jupiter 4’ and ‘Old Photographs’ were both recorded in the thick of lockdown. The journey from the writing to producing was very fluid, but was also quite challenging in a sense. Michael (producer, co-writer, drummer) and I really stepped out of our comfort zones production and mixing wise, we experimented with a different approach to mixing and got Kyran Daniel (Australia) in for the mixing of ‘Intangible’, and Chris Sheldon on the mix of ‘Anywhere’. So yes, the songs came together quickly, but with the added spontaneity of trying out a new approach for the production.
The title track sees you take control of your own narrative. It feels like you have given yourself permission to heal. I understand you wrote it about your mother?
Yes…giving myself permission to heal. Or more accurately, allowing myself to sit with my pain and not deny it. Yes, I wrote it about my mum who I lost to suicide in 2016. Butterflies were one of her favourite things, she would buy anything with them on it. I usually write best when I’m in a very reflective mood, it’s a special space in time that you have to utilise before it slips through your fingertips. The day that I wrote ‘Intangible’, I was on a sailing boat, staring out at the water. I suppose I reflected on a lot of things simultaneously. The big questions about the meaning of life, and how change is always happening, but also more personal reflections about my mum. I started the song as if I was talking to her. I wrote the first verse and chorus and wrote the second verse in the studio. This is usually the way for me, because I’m good at getting attached to the first snippet that I write, and have to wait a while to write the second verse! 😉
Anywhere is a song that immediately stood out to me. It’s about hope, right? Can you explain how this song creatively came together?
‘Anywhere’ was a really lovely co-write between Michael Mormecha, Paul Tierney and myself. We wrote this just before the first lockdown back in February/ March. It started with the melody and lyrics of the first verse and evolved from there. After that verse was written, we knew the feel and message that we wanted the track to have. Which was of course, a message of hope and encouragement to trust in yourself. The cool noises that you hear half way through the acapella verse at the start is Michael, inspired by Herbie Hancock’s ‘Watermelon Man’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘Workin Day and Night’. The arrangement of ‘Anywhere’ was tricky though! We never had the pre-chorus ‘And through and through…’, but knew that it needed something, so once we finally got it, that felt good! The lyrics came so naturally, but all in all, this song was a challenge to write, it took brain power! But maybe that’s because I’m so used to the songs presenting themselves as fluently as a waterfall. But it was such good fun! Especially because I’d never done a co-write like it before! The track is mixed by Chris Sheldon who has produced and/or mixed for the likes of Foo Fighters, Biffy Clyro and The Pixies!
Old Photographs is a song that is very emotive. My favourite lyric is “Getting to grips with yesterday/ Getting up in tomorrows grill / Practicing at being a human…”. What drove you to write those particular lyrics?
Michael wrote these lyrics. But it of course takes on a new lease of life and meaning when I perform it, so to me, the first two lines are talking about how we can be everywhere but the present moment. The heaviness of fixating on the past, and the worrying about the future. But whilst we cannot help these flaws of sorts, they are what make us human, and if we practice the true nature of being human which is of course exerting love and compassion, then these flaws perhaps transform into perfect imperfections.
What is your favourite lyric or moment from the EP? And why?
My favourite lyric is ‘All the rivers will continue to flow, whether we’re above or we are buried below’. It might seem slightly morbid to some people…but to me, reflecting on death and what happens after this life is extremely beautiful. Deep, contemplative thoughts are right up my street, and I feel like I have a new found courage to share my thoughts of this kind with a lyric like this.
Reflecting back on the creative process of the EP, what song would you say took the longest to hone its sound and your vision for it?
‘Anywhere’ ! (It’s) sound was such new territory for me, so the carving of it had to be precise, and with every chip, I was learning too. I was learning about co-writing, different song arrangements, using my vocal differently… more delicately in parts.
Amy, please tell me about your admiration for Sharon Van Etten? And why, you chose Jupiter 4 to cover?
After discovering Sharon Van Etten on the John Peel Stage at Glastonbury, I developed a connection with her whole album ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’. But with ‘Jupiter 4’, I admired the fact that it’s a love song but it’s so haunting. I always love this kind of juxtaposition within music! I wanted to push myself and play every instrument for this cover.
Finally, I don’t think I have seen you without your warpaint, except maybe for the video Anywhere. Can you tell us a little bit about its origins and how you draw strength from it?
My warpaint was inspired by a lovely lady who I met at a festival about 5 years ago. Every time I put it on, it reminds me to bring the attitude of a humble warrior. To have strength, courage and determination…but never forgetting compassion and respect for others along the way. I love the ritual of putting my warpaint on before a show, but that said, it’s never there by the end of the gig! Ha!