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Singer-songwriter Amy Helm brings her intimate trio to snOwFOAM concert

By Mark Saal, Standard-Examiner - | Jan 23, 2020
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Singer-songwriter Amy Helm performs Friday, Jan. 24, at The Monarch in downtown Ogden. 

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Singer-songwriter Amy Helm performs Friday, Jan. 24, at The Monarch in downtown Ogden.

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Singer-songwriter Amy Helm performs Friday, Jan. 24, at The Monarch in downtown Ogden.

OGDEN — Singer-songwriter Amy Helm, daughter of legendary drummer and singer Levon Helm of The Band fame, is making her first appearance in Ogden this weekend.

On Friday, Jan. 24, the personable Helm brings her Amy Helm Trio to The Monarch in downtown Ogden for the fourth annual snOwFOAM concert, presented by Ogden Friends of Acoustic Music.

“Actually, this is going to be a pretty special show,” Helm said in a recent telephone interview from her home in Woodstock, New York. “It’s a little different than usual — it’ll be an acoustic trio.”

Along with Helm, that trio will include musicians and singers Zach Djanikian and Connor Kennedy.

“There will be a lot of harmony, some excellent guitar-picking on their parts, and chunking around on the mandolin on my part,” she said. “And hopefully, people will enjoy it.”

Helm says she’s been doing a little more acoustic music these days, and she really likes the vibe of these more stripped-down sets.

“Musically, it’s very intimate, and it’s fun to find the shape for the set and still do a lot of high-rocking, energy numbers,” she said. “We do take the audience on a ride with the tempos.”

Helm’s parents are the late Levon Helm and singer-songwriter Libby Titus. Amy Helm was a founding member of the alt-country collective Ollabelle, and spent time as a backing musician in her father’s Midnight Ramble Band before going out on her own. Her first two solo albums were 2015’s “Didn’t It Rain” and 2018’s “This Too Shall Light.”

Just last week, Helm finished mixing her third studio release, and she’s excited to share the new material.

“I can’t believe it,” an elated Helm said. “I don’t have a release date, and I’ve got no clear plan yet, but I do know the songs are done and mixed.”

Helm calls the as-yet-unnamed album a “brand new creative thing.”

“I’ll tell you the truth, I’ve never felt so connected to anything musically as I’ve done with this new record,” she said. “It’s been a really enjoyable process, and I loved making it.”

Helm says the new album is extremely personal as well. She recorded it at The Barn, her father’s long-time studio in Woodstock and home to the Midnight Ramble concerts.

“Going home to make this record — and doing it in the room where I learned to become a musician — was incredible,” Helm said.

This is in contrast to her last album, “This Too Shall Light.” For that one, Helm strayed outside her comfort zone, doing mostly covers of others’ work and recording them in a Los Angeles studio.

“I think I had one original song on that record,” she said. “That was me going in as a singer to do an interpretive album, and it was incredibly exciting and challenging.”

This new album is mostly originals, according to Helm, with only a cover or two.

“It’s very different from the last one,” she said. “I changed the way I stepped inside the songs. It’s not better or worse, it’s just different.”

Helm and Djanikian co-wrote one of the songs on the new album, so the singer-songwriter teases that the audience might just hear a song or two off the new record.

Helm has backed off touring in recent years, saying being a mom to her two sons, ages 11 and 8, is her No. 1 priority.

“These are two high-energy boys,” she laughed. “It’s like having the equivalent of 10 kids.”

Helm said it’s nice to be home and be able to “get into a groove” with her family.

“But then I’m home for a couple of weeks and get antsy to play music,” she said. “It’s that endless struggle and balance all musicians face.”

Helm has also been dabbling a bit in a new side project, the rock ‘n’ roll band Capitol Sun Rays. Along with Helm, it features Luther Dickinson, Grahame Lesh, Allison Russell, JT Nero and Drew Lindsay.

“We won’t tour too much in 2020, but we’re looking to find slots for shows in the future,” Helm said.

Although descended from music royalty, Helm confesses that she didn’t always want to be a musician.

“There was a time when I didn’t know if this is what I wanted to do,” she said.

Helm always knew that she could play music; it was what she was good at from a young age.

“You know early on if you’re a player or singer,” she said. “Your talent and opportunity usually intersect, and you know your calling — whether that’s carpentry or guitar.”

Still, Helm went through a period in her 20s where she questioned whether she wanted to pursue music as a career.

“I was a teacher,” she began. “I waitressed, bartended, worked in a flower shop — I was a water girl at a nursery. But after mixing martinis and realizing it’s not as great as it sounds, music quickly became much more attractive to me.”

If there’s one thing Helm learned from her father, it’s to keep things light and not take anything too seriously.

“He laughed about stuff, Helm said of her father. “He’d say, ‘If you’re not having fun on the gig, then you’re doing something wrong. So either change how you’re reacting, or the songs, or the band you’re in.’ That was a great lesson, because at the end of the day you’ve got to love what you do and enjoy it.”

So, that was one of the lessons Helm learned from childhood. But what about the genetic component? Is there anything Helm inherited from her famous father, who died in 2012,  and her less-famous-but-equally-talented mother?

“Well, I definitely have my dad’s nose,” Helm joked. “And I think that — I hope that — I inherited some of his grit, and his backbone.”

But mostly, Helm hopes she inherited her father’s feel for the music.

“I’ll even take a teeny bit of his pocket,” she said, using the term for when a drummer is in a groove musically. “His backbeat. If I could have a hair of that backbeat, I’d be sailing.”

The Amy Helm concert begins at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24, at The Monarch, 455 25th St., Ogden. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 on the day of the show, at ofoam.org or 801-513-0857. Ages 16 and younger are admitted free.

An Ogden Friends of Acoustic Music pre-show party will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. that day. It will feature a meet-and-greet with the Amy Helm Trio, light refreshments, and a cash bar. Tickets to the party are $15.

Organizers say a good time will be had by all. And if anyone doesn’t have fun at this year’s snOwFOAM concert?

Well, in the words of Helm’s famous father: “You’re doing it wrong.”

WHAT: Amy Helm

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24

WHERE: The Monarch, 455 25th St., Ogden

TICKETS: $20/adv., $25/day of show, ages 16-younger/free; ofoam.org or 801-513-0857. A pre-show party will be held 5-7 p.m., with a meet-and-greet, refreshments and a cash bar. Party tickets are $15.


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