The Homecoming

“You’re really great at your job,” the young woman said. It was freezing cold outside, a quiet Monday night in the bookstore/bar. Tom T Hall’s The Homecoming, the story of a musician’s life, played in the background.

“You mean BEING A ROCK STAR?” a tiny part of me wanted to shout. The rest of me smiled and thanked her and kept on washing beer glasses, polishing the bar, sweeping the floor. Earlier that day, I’d read fine writing about being on the road by Allison Moorer and Tift Merritt, seen Instagram photos from friends’ gigs in England and Germany and thought – even knowing what I know, how hard touring can be – that other people’s road diaries make me queasy with envy even when I’m out playing: “You had a dressing room?” or “You played at Shank Hall?” Except for when you’re up on stage (“You played on a stage?”) doing your best and giving your everything, that spectre of doubt – that you’re doing enough; that you are enough – is always there.

Am I crazy? I’ve been living for the moment I have a new record together – songs mixed and mastered and sequenced; everything lined up to go to the pressing plant and a release date and somebody to help me do publicity and the cover art and a photo. Now I’m starting to book gigs and it dawned on me just yesterday – this is happening. The thing I’ve been wanting for years (okay, I’ve really been wanting to publish a book, something I’ve never done, but I got involved in the whole agent and book proposal process and the publishing world moves at a speed that makes me think of tablets being chiseled one letter at a time); the thing – new work – that means I exist, that there’s a point to everything. It’s the way I know how to plot the course of my life, in three minute song increments; in multiples of twelve. In record albums. They used to come every two or three years: 96, 98, 01, 03, 05, 08, 10, 12. And then the last five or six years slipped past me. Some touring and playing in Eric’s band, a few solo shows, resurrecting the past a little here and there; working on writing, trying to become an author. I’ve started to compare my career to the walls of Five Guys Burgers & Fries – loads of glowing press, reviews, Best Ofs – and then you check the dates and realize they’re all from the last decade, and blurry with a mix of dust and hamburger grease.

I thank Greg Roberson, the Memphis drummer who came up to do some recording with Eric three years ago and said “Amy, what have you got? Let’s record something.” That was the start of this album The Old Guys that is finally finished and coming out February 23. 2018. I thank Eric my husband and producer for telling me “It won’t happen unless you show up.” Yep, this is like an award show speech, only the award is the one I’m giving myself – to still believe I can do this; to convince myself that anyone else will be interested; to care so much that the caring is its own reward.

One year before I turn sixty, and there’s no more music business, for me anyway. Or I don’t know how to find what’s left of it. I don’t know how to do anything but what I’ve done for thirty-five years now: write some songs that say how I feel, bring them to life so that feeling comes back again and again, and share them. I remember being twenty-eight, the age my own daughter is now, and saying “There’s no way I’ll be doing this – riding around in a van, playing in bars – when I’m FORTY.” Forty seemed the real there: that magic moment when all childish fantasy would fall away and wisdom prevail. So I had a kid. And realized I couldn’t stop. That being a mom meant even more reason to hold on to the artist part of myself, because that was what helped me make sense of being a mom. Of everything. As the parenting part has receded now it’s…this business of being older. And I thought I was “older” twenty years ago!

So maybe I am crazy. It’s the only way I know how to be, when I’m not pouring beer for people, or cooking meals, sweeping the floor, polishing the bar. Writing and dreaming of that moment when some girl says “You’re really great at your job” and I say “You mean this?” (gestures at guitar and microphone).

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The Old Guys will be released February 23, 2018. Tour dates coming soon. In the meanwhile I’m playing a benefit for Planned Parenthood at Bell House Brooklyn with Cindy Wilson of the B-52s & Kaki King, Wednesday December 6. And pouring beer & selling books.

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12 thoughts on “The Homecoming

  1. Tom Senor

    That there is no longer a music business for people like you tells us all we need to know about the sad state of the music business. Speaking of “music business,” how can fans order your new album in a way that maximizes your profit? And will there be a vinyl version? Looking forward to your new record!

    1. amyrigby

      I don’t know Tom, it might be better this way? There will be LP/CDs and downloads – I will have some for sale on my site and at shows of course, and will offer a chance to order early to include a handmade book The Old Guys, kind of like I did with the tea towel for Mod Housewife. Thanks!

    1. amyrigby

      Thanks Kate. Hoping I can fix up a Chicago show! See above, I’ll be taking pre-orders and am printing up my own special book of writing/photos/drawings called The Old Guys to accompany the album. xx

  2. happymedium27

    2018 is already looking brighter knowing there’s a new Amy Rigby album on the way! Can’t wait, Amy! And when you’re considering venues to play in DC, give the one at Hill Country BBQ a look (https://hillcountry.com/dc/). They pride themselves in “Americana Roots music.” I’m not sure what that means exactly because the last band I saw perform there was Pere Ubu and they were brilliant… but anyway, it’s a really nice space — even if the stage isn’t high, sorry. Either way, BBQ or not, we’ll show up wherever you decide to play in MD,VA or DC. Thanks for continuing to make amazing music, Amy.

    1. amyrigby

      Thanks John, I think I’ll be at Jammin Java Mar 1 (hopefully a confirmation soon) but glad to hear about Hill Country! Look forward to seeing you guys in early 2018.

  3. Pat Reeder

    Never believe that you don’t have fans who revere your work and are eager to hear more. Laura and I are certainly excited to hear that you have a new album coming out. Be sure to let us know when we can get it and if you’re coming to Dallas. Also, I know you have a longstanding relationship with the All Good, but considering the difficulty of getting a crowd in, would the owner feel too betrayed if you tried booking a show at the Kessler Theater instead? That’s where all the folk/alt-rock people tend to play these days (we’re seeing Pokey LaFarge there next week.) They have a great roster of acts, a devoted local following, a big email list and excellent ticket marketing. I bet they’d get the word out and bring in a good crowd for you. And the venue and sound are fantastic.

  4. Laura Ainsworth

    Oh my goodness, Amy, what you wrote gave me chills. You know, I haven’t spent the kind of time on the road you have, maybe in part because there are just fewer venues for the music I do. My focus has been on creating very solid albums and getting them to people who love retro jazz but are likely to never see me perform live. Unless I open for a big act, I’m probably not going to draw the crowd that could justify a tour with my players. (I can’t afford to lose that much money!) I’ve been fortunate to make money through my writing — and I wanted to tell you that you are SUCH a good writer (both in song and in prose!) that you simply must do as much of it as possible. Love to you! I can’t wait for your new album.

  5. Stribs

    I recall being in Bristol at The Thunderbolt with you and Eric and he liked my ‘Old Guys Rule’ T shirt so much he took a picture of the logo , so I hope that was the inspiration behind the name of your new album.
    I don’t think age comes into it anymore when you’re a classy performer and writer which you certainly are, and Im very glad that you met one of my favourite artists and married him so that you came onto my radar. My musical listening life would have been so much poorer without that.
    Hope the new album brings a new UK tour, and a gig down the sharp end of the country somewhere. X

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