Amy Speace wrote her new album, Land Like a Bird, with her life in a state of transition. Having spent many years in Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey, surrounded by concrete, taxi horns and rushing trains, Speace suddenly found herself in the South. She’d done quite well as a New Yorker: she was signed by Judy Collins — who called Speace “one of the best young songwriters” — to Wildflower Records; she was awarded an NPR “Song of the Day”; and she toured with Collins, Nanci Griffith and Shawn Colvin. The city’s WFUV-FM named her song “Weight of the World” the #4 Folk Song of the Decade in its 2010 year-end Top 10 list.
“But life takes its twists and turns and as much as I loved Manhattan, I felt the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another. Relief and anticipation went hand in hand with the grieving,” she says of the change.
Space began writing Land Like a Bird as she bade farewell her Jersey City apartment with the view of the Statute of Liberty and lower Manhattan (inspiration for the song “Manila Street”). Many of the songs were goodbyes to people and places (“Had to Lose,” “Ghost,” Ron Sexsmith’s beautiful “Galbraith Street”). She brought these songs and unpacked them in her new East Nashville home.
Land Like a Bird follows Speace’s 2006 Songs for Bright Street on Collins’ Wildflower Records and 2009’s The Killer in Me. The latter, her “breakup album” which featured guest vocals by Ian Hunter, earned much critical praise. “Amy Speace is a rising star,” opined USA Today. NPR said, “Her velvety, achy voice recalls an early Lucinda Williams. Sounding grounded but wounded, Speace exudes the vulnerability of someone who’s loved and lost.” The Washington Post advised, “If you bemoan the lack of solid singer-songwriters in the world who can bridge inner turmoil with universal experience, Speace is just what you need to hear.”
The new album was produced by Neilson Hubbard (Kim Richey, Matthew Ryan, Glen Phillips, Garrison Starr) at Mr. Lemons studio in Nashville. Hubbard played bass, keyboards and vibes. Speace and Hubbard first met seven years ago while performing on an Arizona TV show and discovered their simpatico musical directions. However, they did not remain in touch. When Speace moved to Nashville last year, they were reintroduced, immediately co-wrote a song, and decided to collaborate on what would become Land Like a Bird. Kim Richey sang background vocals on “Land Like A Bird,” “Half Asleep & Wide Awake” and “Real Love Song.”
“As the fall became winter and the winter became spring, Neilson Hubbard and I would meet and write or record and snippets became songs became demos became a sound we both were chasing,” Speace says of the making of the album. “And by early fall 2010 we were inside the record we both knew we wanted to make together, a full turn of the seasons from my arrival.”
In other news, Speace will be seen on the forthcoming Big Star documentary Nothing Can Hurt Me: The Big Star Story http://vimeo.com/11881695 which includes her performance of “Try Again” with the surviving Big Star members, the Posies and Evan Dando at the Alex Chilton tribute at SXSW in March 2010. Speace and charter Big Star member Jody Stephens had met at the Folk Alliance a few years back in the band’s home of Memphis. Speace was a huge fan of Big Star and was pleasantly surprised that Stephens, in turn, as a fan of hers.