Amy LaVere is an American singer, songwriter, upright bass player and actress. Based in Memphis, TN, LaVere's music is usually classified as Americana, combining a blend of classic country, gypsy jazz, and southern soul. She has released three albums on Memphis label Archer Records, and has multiple acting credits in major motion pictures.
According to her Facebook page, LaVere "routinely gets antsy" [impatient, or restless] after she’s been off the road awhile. Born in Shreveport, Louisiana and a native of Bethany, Texas, she’s really more a child of America - a self-described “General Motors brat” whose father’s jobs kept her small family frequently on the move. Her life as a touring musician seems tailor-made for a woman who is seemingly one part upright bassist and another part gypsy.
More recently LaVere says she’s been surprised at how much she’s enjoyed “nesting” in the Midtown Memphis home she shares with Paul Taylor, her boyfriend and collaborator. Typical afternoons have found her in between bursts of household chores, sips of warm tea, back-scratches for her lab mix, Charlie, and living-room band practice with Paul and guitarist Steve Selvidge. In the early evening, with the temperature hovering in the teens outside, there’s dinner as classical music plays underneath.
Welcome to the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, right? But like the music on Amy’s stereo, this relative calm is merely a rest between movements.
LaVere’s music jumps genres as a mix of rockabilly, jazz and bluesy balladry. She doesn’t like categorizing it anyhow, and feels boxed in even by the notion. As in “Killing Him,” she sometimes lets the specter of death or consequences of murder inform her thoughts on love. (These days, she’s shaping what you might call a Civil War post-murder ballad.) But the uneven intersections in her work explain why she makes her home at the musical crossroads of Memphis.
The city has “serious pride in its history,” she says, “and I think Memphis walks a fine line with really trying to balance what is authentic… and also staying up with being progressive. It can be a real detriment to someone’s creativity to go into a town (elsewhere) that has a cookie-cutter sort of thing that’s driving the music industry.” Here, she says, there is a more ad hoc system that keeps the process organic, allowing artists “to feel more free.”
She adds: “In Memphis, it’s perfectly acceptable if you want to wake up and drink a mimosa on your porch and then just stay drunk all day and have a social afternoon. It’s in no way looked down upon to truly relax here. It’s OK to just really enjoy life.”
Though excited by the exposure $5 Cover will provide her music, simply participating in the project means “my dreams have been fulfilled,” she says. After small parts in “Walk the Line” and Craig Brewer’s 2007 film “Black Snake Moan,” she remains a performer who thrills whenever her music hits the radio.
“I was out with Paul Christmas shopping, and I was worn out,” she recalls. “Paul went in to get a gift, and I was sitting in the van waiting on him. I was starving and cranky. And they played ‘Killing Him’ on the radio. And I said, ‘Awwww, they’re playing my song! It’s awesome to think you work hard at something, and it actually sees the light of day.”