Rising Stars [Issue
Tune Teacher By
Amos Lee, carrying the torch of 1970s singer-songwriters with more
than just a dash of soul influence, releases his self-titled first
album on Blue Note records this March
27, Lee has smoothly made the transition from working stiff (until
just recently, he taught elementary school in his native Pennsylvania)
to up-and-coming rock sensation. Benefiting from positive word-of-mouth
and having fans in high places - Bob Dylan and Norah Jones have
both featured Lee as a concert opener - Lees debut is being
met with high anticipation.
A University of South Carolina grad, Lee started writing songs at
18. He continued to create music while teaching, until music just
started to take over his life. Once I stopped teaching I was
like alright, Im gonna give this thing a go, Lee remembered,
and try to work being a professional musician. It was just
a slow burn.
After a brief jaunt through the Midwest showcasing his new disc,
Lee recently landed a monster gig: opening for Dylan and Merle Haggard
on a seven-city theater tour. The trip includes multiple-night stands
in Seattle, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Hell also take on the
South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin in between that tours
Clearly influenced by Dylan, John Prine, and other folkies, as well
as 70s soul artists like Bill Withers and Stevie Wonder, Lee
brandishes a sometimes giddy/sometimes dark sound thats groove-oriented
enough for the John Mayer-Jason Mraz crowd, but sultry enough for
late night bar playlists. Lees adept guitar picking combines
with his smooth voice to create a unique folk-soul sound.
The discs range, from the bluesy Dreamin to
the catchy shuffle of Give it Up, indicates Lees
unwillingness to stay in a musical rut.
When I was a kid I listened to a lot of R&B and hip-hop, Lee
explained. As I got older, I started getting into soul music and folk music and jazz and stuff like that. But growing up I was
a kid who just liked whatever.
taste may have changed as he got older, but he still allows all
kinds of music to inform his sound. I listen to everything
now, he claimed. I have an iPod, so I just listen to
whatever the hell comes on. Ive got my whole record collection in there.
While his iPod rotates all the right tunes, Lee doesnt let inspiration turn into imitation. In the studio or onstage, he just plays whatever comes out. I try not to worry too much about if Im sounding like somebody or if I dont sound like somebody, Lee said, I just kind of write the songs and hopefully they can
speak on their own.