Looking back on a twelve-month span between her son’s first birthday and the loss of her father, award-winning singer and songwriter Amy Speace culled eleven new songs directly from her depth of personal experiences—childhood memories, coming of age in New York City, and losing a parent while learning to become one—to create her new full-length album, There Used to Be Horses Here; out April 30th on Proper Records/Wind Bone Records. While many of the subjects on the album are heavy, There Used to Be Horses Here isn’t a sad record. Instead, it’s a direct reflection of that year in Speace’s life, propelled by a playwright’s eye for detail, a performer’s gift of vocal delivery, a poet’s talent for concise writing, and the extraordinary musicianship of collaborators, The Orphan Brigade. The end result is a sum much greater than its parts; a calling card for fans and critics alike to ask themselves whether Speace still fits only into the folksinger box she’s long been placed in—or perhaps, with this new album, she deserves to be seen in a new light.
Available today, the album’s second single “Shotgun Hearts” speaks to and celebrates Speace’s time in New York City. “A year ago I was playing a show in NYC and found myself walking the same path as my younger self from 20 years prior thinking of the days and nights when I was just starting out as an actress and a songwriter—riding the subways late at night—when everything felt sparked with desire,” says Speace. The second verse, colored with sweet nostalgia, transports listeners to the heart of the Lower East Side.
Delancey and Broome and a bottle of single malt scotch
There were holes in that night to fall in where the spin wouldn’t stop
We wandered the cobblestone streets in our costume sin
Late for our lovers and lying about where we'd been
Previously, Rolling Stone premiered a music video for the album’s first single and title track, “There Used to Be Horses Here,” calling it “melancholy but gorgeous,” and noting that the video’s vivid imagery of a picturesque farm and its beautiful occupants serve “as a metaphor for all that we lose to both progress and the passing of time.” Speace laments, “During the last week of my father’s life, I drove [the road on the way to her parent’s house, past a farm she’d grown to love] and the farm had been sold, gutted for condos, and the horses were gone. I wrote this song very quickly after he died, the loss of both the horses, my childhood, my parents’ house, and most acutely, my father all tied to the images in this song.” SiriusXM’s The Village also debuted the single this morning with an exclusive interview. Click here to listen.
In its most powerful moments, There Used to Be Horses Here sets Speace’s majestic voice to symphonic arrangements, yet her songwriting remains intimate and emotional. As a fan and friend of the Nashville band The Orphan Brigade, she invited its three members—Neilson Hubbard, Ben Glover, and Joshua Britt—to collaborate as songwriters and co-producers, inspired by their persistent rhythms and sweeping sonic palette. Remembering her vocal sessions, Speace says simply, “While I was singing over what those guys were playing, it made me feel like I was flying.” Speace observes that every vocal performance on the album is the first or second take, and that the musicians in the room are finding their way in the moment. The approach sums up her goal as a producer: “You need to make sure you press ‘Record’ while musicians are fumbling, because while they’re trying it out is when the magic happens. You should never let anything be perfect.”
There Used to Be Horses Here is an album and exhibition of songcrafting that Speace is immensely proud of. “The best songs I have written have been since my son was born when I thought I was going to lose all creative powers to mothering—and it didn’t happen,” she says. “It kicked it into high gear and made me think, ‘I may not have much time left on the planet. Maybe I should just get to the point.’” When There Used to Be Horses Here winds down to its end, listeners will look back over the eleven-song journey to see Speace’s knack for vibrant storytelling and ability to capture hardship in beautiful detail on display; her craft sharper and more meaningful than ever before.
There Used to Be Horses Here Tracklisting:
Down the Trail
There Used to Be Horses Here
Grief is a Lonely Land
Give Me Love
Mother is a Country
Don’t Let Us Get Sick