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Hugh’s Room presents Amy Sky – Alive and Awake
May 12, 2013 @ 8:30 pm$30 – $34
An Interactive CD Release
featuring a Live Concert and Interview with Amy Sky
Come celebrate Mother’s Day up close and personal with Amy
“Travelers who undertake a journey for the right reasons are always helped by invisible hands.” – Amy Sky
“ALIVE AND AWAKE
EMI and Cafe Records are proud to present ALIVE AND AWAKE the long-awaited, much-anticipated CD by Amy Sky.
ALIVE AND AWAKE is her first CD of all-new material since 2001. It’s a gorgeous and inspiring collection of 16 new songs, with a 17th bonus charity track available through iTunes. The CD is the first of a three-phase project scheduled to roll out over the next year that will include a book and a one-woman show, all connected to Amy’s remarkable life and career, and her work as an advocate and activist for mental health.
ALIVE AND AWAKE is a beautiful and cohesive collection of songs, chosen to reflect Amy’s belief that “art can be tremendously healing,” And although her songs have always reflected an artist whose lyrics have come from a deep place of observing the human condition, the focus for this CD coalesced around her work as a mental health advocate; in particular, the area of mood disorders and mood hygiene.
Believing “that secrets only have power when they are secret,” in 2006 Amy went public with her own struggles with depression and postpartum psychosis, a severe form of postpartum depression. That same year, she agreed to become one of the faces of the Transforming Lives Public Awareness campaign sponsored by the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, a decision that would prove to be transformative and pivotal for her.
As part of the campaign, giant posters of Amy were installed in bus shelters around Toronto. As Amy was absorbing the impact that her public revelation was having on her own life, a story came to her from a friend that would help cement her feelings about where she wanted to go with her career as a songwriter and performer. The friend told Amy about a woman who had been suffering from postpartum depression. As a result, her husband walked out, ending the marriage. The woman had reached such a point of despair that she had decided to take her own life. That dark day she saw Amy’s poster, and instead of harming herself, she reached out to the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto and found the help she needed.
That story crystallized things for Amy. “I realized that I had a choice. I’ve been blessed with a burden. If I can choose between doing music that just gets applause, or music that saves lives, for me there’s no contest.”
From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like a natural evolution for this therapist’s daughter. Friends and colleagues can tell you that even before her own struggles with mood disorders, Amy was a nonjudgmental and deeply compassionate friend, with a canny insight into their issues. Millions of people struggle with mental health issues, but the stigma prevents them from talking about it, or from seeking help. But no one who knows her was surprised that Amy had the courage to go public and speak openly about her own story.
The campaign had an unexpected effect. Since speaking out about her experience with mood disorders, Amy had developed parallel careers: She was suddenly not just a successful singer and a go-to songwriter/arranger/producer and actor, but now people were seeking her out to speak on issues of mental health.
For years, Amy had been writing and performing material that always seemed to dig deeper than most of the standard pop fare. Songs like “I Will Take Care of You,” or her musical interpretation of Dr. Maya Angelou’s powerful poem “Phenomenal Woman,” leapt off her CDs and became hits. People would tell her that when these songs came on the radio, they would have to stop doing what they were doing. Amy was staggered by the number of people who approached her to say that they had to pull their cars off the road, because the songs touched them so deeply that they would weep when they heard them. And so while she was building a fan base through the usual channels of radio and video airplay on multiple formats — pop, rock, country – she was also building a loyal fan base of people who would write letters or come to shows and tell her how her music inspired them, or pulled them through a difficult time and uplifted them.
When it came to writing and choosing material for ALIVE AND AWAKE all of the pieces started to fit. Amy wondered, “What if I deliberately set out to enlighten with my music?” In a sense, says Amy, her ah-ha moment came when she understood that there had been a real change in what she wanted to accomplish with her songs, and “the depth of commitment to help people cope with their pain. Millions of people go through this. It steals your life and it affects the entire family circle. I chose the songs I could use to deliberately explore the emotional side of prevention and recovery from mood disorders.”
And she realized that even though it was starting with her songs, she wanted to go deeper and use her skills as a story-teller and a performer to entertain and to help people take the steps to transform. The ideas that inspired this new CD are going to be carried forward in the next year with two more projects: a candid autobiography that tells her own personal story, including her mental health journey and the highs and lows of her own remarkable career, and a one-woman show. Tying the pieces together will be an enhanced interactive website at www.amysky.com, with information and resources on mood hygiene.
“If there’s any way I can help lead people back to the life that depression and mania has taken from them, then that’s what I’m going to do. I feel like I understand it because I have been there myself, and I have the gift of being able to communicate that. Going forward in life, I feel this is my path. I want to do it beautifully through art and music. I believe in the ability of the arts to help people heal.”
But anyone who spends five minutes in Amy’s presence quickly realizes that this warm, funny, radiant, statuesque beauty isn’t about finger wagging or “do as I do” lectures in her life or her art.
ALIVE AND AWAKE is not a bunch of “‘Take your Prozac’ songs,” she laughs, “but it did grow out of my research – as a person who has explored many modalities of healing. I believe we have to address the whole person – to function at our best we all need to correct imbalances in mind, body, heart, and spirit.”
Musically speaking, ALIVE AND AWAKE brings Amy full circle. The CD was produced and arranged by Amy and recorded in Nashville at Starstruck studios and various studios in Toronto. Starstruck is owned by country superstar Reba McEntire, the first person to cover one of Amy’s songs. Amy worked with Ed Seay, the renowned Nashville-based engineer who was one of the pros who welcomed the young Amy Sky as a singer-songwriter learning the ropes when she moved to Nashville in the early ’80s.
For ALIVE AND AWAKE, Seay handpicked a crack team of legendary Nashville session players that Amy dubbed “the Nashville Picker-Uppers.” This group includes Dan Dugmore (James Taylor, Stevie Nicks, Neil Diamond) on pedal steel, who spent years working with one of Amy’s heroes, Linda Rondstat. The other members of the Nashville Picker-Uppers — all storied veterans of the music industry — are Biff Watson on acoustic guitar (Martina McBride, Dolly Parton, Willie nelson); Kenny Greenberg on electric guitar (Taylor Swift, Brooks & Dunn, Gretchen Wilson); Mike Rojhas on keyboards (Dave Stewart, Joss Stone, Stevie Nicks); and Paul Leim on drums and percussion (Tom Jones, Randy Travis, London Symphony Orchestra).
To record the vocal tracks in Toronto, Amy enlisted the aid of Juno award-winning engineer John Bailey, and the legendary producer Kevin Hunter (Natalie Cole, Peter Paul and Mary). Background vocals were done with with husband Marc Jordan and her daughter, up-and-coming singer-songwriter Zoe Sky Jordan. To complete the family circle, son Ezra Jordan plays piano on the song “Serenity.”
Amy Sky was born and raised in Toronto, and graduated university with a degree in classical theory and composition from the University of Toronto, while writing music and performing in various bands around Southern Ontario. Not long after graduating, she was recruited as a backup singer for the touring band of the legendary Ronnie Hawkins. On that tour, Amy caught the ear of an entertainment lawyer in Nashville who paired her with established writing partners who could help mentor her. Amy moved to Music City. She relocated to Los Angeles in 1986 for a decade, built a reputation as a go-to songwriter. In the same time period, she was signed as an artist to several major record deals. But none of the labels were able to figure out how to market the successful songwriter with the rich, soulful voice, and she ultimately gave up her dreams of having a career as a singer to focus on songwriting.
In that same decade, Amy met and married Marc Jordan, a fellow award-winning Toronto expat singer-songwriter who had also moved to Los Angeles and made a name for himself there as a “writer’s writer.” In the mid ’90s, with a toddler and a baby on the way, the couple decided to return home to Toronto to raise their children.
What Amy found when she settled in Toronto was a very healthy indie scene where artists across a range of genres were recording and releasing their own music. For an artist who had been through the rollercoaster of being signed and dropped by major labels that were attracted to her talent but couldn’t figure out how to market her – other than suggesting she “sex up her image,” this was energizing. Free from pressure to conform to someone else’s ideals, Amy decided she’d put out the record that she’d always wanted to make.
In 1996, Amy released her debut CD COOL RAIN. Ironically, the musical style – a unique mix of pop and country with a tinge of gospel – that had confounded record company marketing teams for a decade was instantly embraced. COOL RAIN achieved Gold status in Canada for record sales and spawned four hit singles, including “I Will Take Care Of You,” a song that is, more than 15 years later, still one of the most-played songs on Adult Contemporary radio. She had a number-one video with “Till You Love Somebody.” She was nominated for a 1997 Juno Award for Songwriter of the Year, and a 1998 Juno in the Best New Artist Category. In the same time period, she won two SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors, and Music Publishers of Canada) awards for “Till You Love Somebody” and “Deliver Me,” co-written by Roch Vosine for his own album.
In the same year, Amy found her career taking an unexpected turn when she won one of the female leads for the Toronto premiere of the UK hit musical BLOOD BROTHERS, co-starring with David Cassidy and Michael Burgess in a major run at Toronto’s legendary Royal Alexandra Theatre.
In 1998, Amy released her follow-up BURNT BY THE SUN, and had four more hit singles with “Waterfall” “Heaven” “Ordinary Miracles” and “Love, Pain and the Whole Damn Thing.” She was nominated for a Songwriter of the Year Juno, and the song “Love, Pain and The Whole Damn Thing” won her a SOCAN Award. She also reprised the lead role of Mrs. Johnstone in BLOOD BROTHERS at Artpark, N.Y.
In 1999, Amy was featured in two hour-long network specials for two different national networks: CTV’s “Amy Sky — Songs of the Heart” and Bravo! Productions’ “An Evening with Amy Sky and Marc Jordan.”
2001 saw the release of PHENONMENAL WOMAN. The lead track featured the anthemic poem by Dr. Maya Angelou that Amy set to music (with Angelou’s blessing). That song became a hit, along with “Touch” and “I Believe in Us.”
In 2001, Amy returned to the stage, this time co-starring with Margot Kidder and Maggie Casella in the extended run of THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES in Toronto.
In 2003, Amy released WITH THIS KISS: A ROMANCE COLLECTION, which spawned the award-winning duet with Marc Jordan, “Everything Love Is.”
That was followed by the 2007 release AMY SKY — LIFE LESSONS: THE BEST OF AMY SKY, which included her hits along with three new tracks, including the AC smash “Do You Dance.”
At the same time, Amy took on another career as a television host, for three seasons of parenting shows on Rogers TV, titled “The Toddler Years with Amy Sky.”
In that same era, Amy broadened her career, producing CDs for other artists. She reunited with her friend and songwriting partner Olivia Newton-John, co-writing, arranging, and producing five CDs for the music superstar: 2005’s STRONGER THAN BEFORE: GRACE AND GRATITUDE (2006): CHRISTMAS WISH (2007): A CELEBRATION IN SONG (2008), a fundraising CD for the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre; as well as the songs for Olivia’s character in the series “Sordid Lives” (2008). Songs from GRACE AND GRATITUDE were included in the soundtrack for Deepak Chopra’s DVD “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.” Amy also produced “La Voce” for pop-classical tenor Mark Masri, and several children’s records for Fisher-Price.
In 2008, Amy released a Christmas CD THE LIGHTS OF DECEMBER, which has spawned four radio holiday favorites: “Let It Shine” “Angels in the Snow” “That’s What Christmas Means” and “(Your Love) The Greatest Gift,”, a duet with Mark Masri and American piano sensation Jim Brickman.
As a multi-Juno nominee and multi-SOCAN winner, Amy has had her songs recorded by international artists like Reba McEntire, Diana Ross, Olivia Newton-John, Heart, Sheena Easton, Marie Osmond, Anne Murray, Natalie McMaster, Melissa Manchester, The Rankin Family, and dozens of others.
Amy is not only active in the Toronto, Nashville, and Los Angeles music communities, she has also lent her support to many charities, including The Parkinson’s Foundation, Princess Margaret Hospital, National Ovarian Cancer Association, The Hospital for Sick Children (for whom she has also served as an on-air ambassador), Easter Seals, MADD, Gilda’s Club, Casey House, Covenant House, Ontario Child Abuse Prevention and Zareinu. She was awarded the first-ever CRIA Applause Award, for her work testifying in Ottawa on behalf of artists’ rights, which aided in the establishment of the historic Neighbouring Rights Royalty.
Photo credit: Greg Hoxsie