Amy Helm Ebru Yildiz photo

EDITOR’S NOTE: The concerts mentioned in this column have been postponed due to the rise in numbers of those with the coronavirus, and will be rescheduled for a later date.
Please go to snowpond.org or stonemountainartscenter.com for complete details.

As I’ve frequently stated, I love chatting with folks for the first time and my recent interview with the late Levon Helm’s daughter, Amy Helm, was no exception. She called from her home in Woodstock, New York, where she’s currently running the Levon Helm Studios, to talk about her latest album, “What the Flood Leaves Behind,” her upcoming tour supporting that new release, and her fondness for our fair state which was the first topic of our 20-minute conversation.

Q: Now, you’re coming up to Maine for a couple of shows, correct?
Helm:
I am coming up to Maine, yes I am and I’m very excited, I love coming up to Maine. I’m doing the Stone Mountain Arts Center, which I’ve done a few times, which I love, and I’ve never played in Sidney, so it should be cool. Maine is always a little bit different, it seems to me.

Q: Different in a good way, I hope.
Helm: Different in a great way, yeah; or maybe it’s my projection onto it but I always feel like the kind of psychic space that you get in Maine kind of translates into the culture and into the audience a little bit, it just feels like a little bit more present up there all the time.

Q: And also we’re not a New York City or a Boston where on any given night you have your choice of several different acts. Because of that I feel we’re much more appreciative when someone heads up our way.
Helm: Sure, and a different attention to it, I think.

Q: I agree. Now, I’ve been listening to your latest album, “What the Flood Leaves Behind,” and I am struck by the honesty and heart-felt emotion that’s present on that recording, it’s palpable, it really is.
Helm: Oh, I’m so glad to hear you say that, thank you.

Q: I’ve always said, over the many years that I’ve been doing this, that if music comes from the heart, that’s the first place it touches the listener.
Helm:
Thank you.

Q: Now, you have a few albums under your belt along with some work with other people, are you getting closer with this album to the realization of your music or have you hit it with this one?
Helm: I’ll definitely stick to “closer” (laughter) because I realize that it is so exhilarating to always uncover how we grow as artists, no matter what our craft is. And I think that it is always infinitely open and expanding, and so I’m excited, as long as I’m here and as long as I’m able to sing and have my voice intact and my health intact and all of that, to hopefully get better and better as I go. I believe it’s true for any artist, really.

Q: I like a developmental career, some artists will find a sound that sells and just crank it out one album after another. I prefer somebody that pushes the edges of their own envelope and if they fall on their face, fine, they get up, they try again but at least they’re pushing themselves forward.
Helm: You know, it’s funny, what you just said, that’s what my father used to say to me.

Q: Oh, really?
Helm: Yeah, he used to say that to me and it really struck home. He used the exact phrase that you just did, except I think instead of saying, ‘falling on their face,’ I think he said, ‘falling on their ass.’ He framed it at the jump by saying, “All of your heroes — everybody that you admire that made you want to sing and play — felt that way, too, felt that same fear of failing or not hitting the mark.” And I think that’s so true because you have to do it, there’s such an organic process in how we uncover our creative desires and then follow them, follow that current. And that doesn’t always align with the industry of music and I think it’s a constant challenge of faith and perspective for musicians, I can speak for them, to hold that balance and trust themselves.

Q: It’s funny because my dad said it to me from time to time, too.
Helm: (Laughter) I guess the old-timers had it right!

Q: That they did, for sure. Now seeing you’ve not performed at Snow Pond before, what can folks expect from your show there?
Helm: I’m really proud of my live show. I have an incredible group of musicians that I’m bringing up there and I’m so grateful to get to play with these guys.

Q: Who is in the line-up?
Helm: Adam Levy is the guitar player, Tony Mason is the drummer, and then Zach Djanikian is playing bass and vocals, that’s the line-up; and the musicianship of these guys is just profound, so I think that people can expect excellent musicianship and great songs and a good time (laughter). I like my sets to have a range to them: you can dance but you can also be moved by stuff, and I try to write a set-list that holds all those different aspects of how music can move you. So, yeah, they can expect a great show (chuckle), that might sound egotistical but, honestly, it’s a strong show and a strong band.

Q: Seeing this album came out in June it’s probably too soon to ask, but are you working on something new?
Helm: I am. I’m starting to try to write some material and trying to think about recording more music; and I just bought a tenor guitar so I’m trying to learn tenor and practice that. So I’m just constantly trying to get a little closer to how I want it to sound which will probably never happen (laughter) but I love the work, the work is the fun part.

Q: Is there anything, Amy, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this column?
Helm: Umm, just that I’m excited to come back to Maine and bring these fantastic artists up there with me, and I think that’s it. (amyhelm.com)

Lucky Clark, a 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award winner, has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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