During a recent chat with Kenny G, the smooth jazz musician revealed that he doesn’t listen to new music. The curly-haired saxophonist has been living in a sonic vacuum for years.
Singer-songwriter Amos Lee can’t live like the G-man. “That wouldn’t work for me,” Lee said while calling from his Philadelphia home. “I need to hear new music. I have to hear it since it inspires me. When I hear great new music, and I think we’re living during a period of really great new music, I’m moved to write. It doesn’t matter what the genre is, if I like it, it can inspire me to craft a song.”
Lee must have been listening to quite a bit of country and folk. “Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song,” his latest album, features an amalgam of rich, warm country and folk.
“I didn’t aim to record a particular style of song this time out,” Lee said. “I just went with what moved me. My mind is completely open. I’m not afraid of any style of music.”
That fearlessness has led to distinctive, provocative and heavy tunes. Each cut includes at least a shard of reality.
“I think songs should come from a place,” Lee explained. “I think if you’re moved by something that happened to you or somebody, you can bring something to the table that has lots of heart and emotion.”
The “Mountains of Sorrow” sessions marked the first time that Lee recorded with his touring band. “It was a great experience,” Lee said. “We spent most of 2011 touring together and we developed this bond. We have this camaraderie and we understand each other so well, so why not bring it to the studio?”
Bluegrass star Alison Krauss and folk troubadour Patty Griffin joined Lee in the studio. “After doing so much by myself, it was about time I reached out to like-minded musicians and it was a blast,” Lee said. “I had the most fun I’ve ever had as a recording artist. Patty and Alison have incredible voices and they are just, well, authentic.”
Thanks to a burgeoning audience, Lee has graduated from clubs to theaters. “I owe everything to my fans,” Lee said. “ They let me know how much they appreciate my music. The thing that blows me away is that they tell me they tell friends about my music and they’ve really helped expand my base. It’s cool playing larger venues but I’m just as home playing someone’s living room. It’s just about playing. I remember what it was like starting out and playing open mic nights and nobody cared about my music. Nobody wanted to interview me and there were no fans. But I look back at that and appreciate it. I could have stopped but I kept going and now I have this incredible career.”
The future is wide open for Lee. “Who knows what I’ll do next,” Lee said. “I try to do something different with each project. Who knows what space I’ll be in? Maybe I’ll hear some wild style of music and it will impact me and I’ll make a very different album. The possibilities are endless and that’s part of what I love about being a recording artist. Nobody can stop you from expressing yourself. That’s so if you’re playing arenas or a tiny club.”