10 Minutes With Amos Lee
Q&A with OSMF headliner Amos Lee
By Jim Caligiuri, 12:13PM, Wed. Apr. 18, 2012
Friday headliner at this weekend’s Old Settler’s Music Festival is Philadelphia native Amos Lee. Discovered by Norah Jones, the young soul-folk singer-songwriter surprised everybody when his fourth release, 2011’s Mission Bell, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard album chart.
Geezerville: It’s been more than a year since Mission Bell. Are you working on new songs?
Amos Lee: I’m always writing stuff. How much I keep, I don’t know. I just compile stuff. That’s been my process for the last record and the next one. I just write a ton of stuff and then hopefully something keeps living for me. I haven’t been recording anything really. It’s just a process of what you want to keep.
G: With Mission Bell you took your time as opposed to the earlier albumss where the process was forced. Is that how you’re operating this time?
AL: Really what I’m going to do is let the songs tell me. If I feel strongly about a group of songs then I’m going to move forward and want to record them. I’ve been toying with a bunch of ideas on how I want to write this next batch of songs.
Traditionally I’ve written solo and I will probably continue to do that. But I’m interested in collaborative writing for sure and collaborative music-making, not just writing. Just making music for music and not for my next album.
G: Your music draws comparisons to Seventies soul singers like Bill Withers or Donny Hathaway. How do you feel about that?
AL: Those guys are way over my head. I’m honored to be mentioned in their company, but you’re talking about artists that I revere and I hope to become like artistically.
I guess in the long term, time will tell. It’s nice for people to compare you to people and say nice things, but it’s really about being committed to the creative process and trying to stay true to whatever you’re trying to do. Bill’s work is still important to people because he’s one of the greatest writers ever, and because he stuck by his guns and made the records he wanted to make.
Donny Hathaway is another American genius. I wouldn’t put my self on the same plane, but I’m certainly influenced by those guys.
G: How did you feel when Mission Bell went to No. 1?
AL: I was really happy. I honestly thought that the hard work we put into it would pay off. It’s kind of hard to know because the records before that did pretty good, but they didn’t do much commercially. So I was happy, happy for the band and the people that worked really hard to get it out there.
G: The last song on Mission Bell features Willie Nelson. What it was like working with him?
AL: It was surreal. We flew a track to him in Hawaii. I guess that’s how it goes these days. We were recording in Tucson and unless you’re bestowed with a huge budget it’s hard for people to come in. It would have been nice to be in the same room, but it was awesome just to listen to the playback. I got a chance to sing that song, “Behind Me Now,” with him at Farm Aid and all I could do was sit back and go, ‘Wow!’