Amy Steinberg Band
The year 1999 has been great for singer/songwriter Amy Steinberg. A native Bostonian, Steinberg pursued her musical career as a solo acoustic performer in Orlando, playing with the likes of Steve Burry (of My Friend Steve fame) at popular downtown open mics. Even though critically acclaimed as an earnest and spirited acoustic folk singer and performer, Steinberg felt that something was still missing — hence, she formed an original band. After teaming up with Bea Gayle (drums), Gabe Williams (bass), and Haui (guitar), the Amy Steinberg Band officially introduced themselves to an eager and responsive audience in Orlando. So far this year, they have been steadily gigging at downtown Orlando venues to capacity crowds and have also been nominated for an Orlando Music Award in the category of “Best Acoustic/Folk Act.”
The band’s new album, Sky High , consists of songs that instill hope and enlightenment, leaving room for introspection by its listeners. As an art, Amy Steinberg’s words and music open wounds and lets them heal, feeling all the restless cyclical passion in between. As an artist, Steinberg is a thinker and a teacher who lives to inspire others.
One of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, I talked with Amy about what exactly inspires her.
Were music and the arts a big part of your childhood?
Amy Steinberg : Well, my parents are both extremely creative [and] looney. Dad played sax and mom was a visual artist, so they got me involved early. I came out of the womb with a flair for individuality. Theater became a huge part of my life around age 11 — my lucky number — and I went to performing art camps in high school. [I was a] theater GEEK.
And when you came to Orlando, how was the experience of playing with an artist like Steve Burry?
It was amazing how supportive everyone was from day one of open mics. There was already a Burry Buzz going on when I first moved here, two years ago, but he was genuine and giving. Joseph Martens and Susanne Turner were like mentors, and gave me every opportunity to get up and play, whether it be at the Crow Bar or the Go Lounge… Schweizer, Gargamel, Nature Kids, and so many others gave me opening slots… I LOVE them ALL so much… this scene is highly incestuous.
Tell me about your earlier gigs “back in the days.” Has the scene changed over the years? If so, how has it affected you and your music?
I’ve only been here two years. Not much has changed other than some of the best venues closing down.
If we categorized your music in a sandwich between two artists, which ones would most fit the bill?
I’m somewhere between Janis Joplin and Ani DiFranco. But there’s Bette Midler in there, old school Bette. I get off on making my audiences LAUGH and have a good time. Sometimes I can get a bit raunchy, Bette style.
Let’s talk about the Amy Steinberg Band. Where did you find these guys?
I met my drummer, Bea Gayle, when I first moved here and answered an ad for an all-girl cover band. The band was a nightmare, but it brought Bea into my life. She had come down from Jacksonville to do it, so she had to go back. I told her that the minute I had a band together I wanted her — she’s amazing. Gabe Williams, my bassist, I met because he was playing with Garden Groove, another great local band. That band wasn’t right for him, so I snagged him! Haui, my guitarist, fell down from heaven. I’ve known him since open mic days, and after a few failed attempts at guitarists, he fit the bill EXACTLY. The whole band, other than me, is extremely mellow and grounded. And that’s what I needed…
Do you have a preference in playing with a band or solo?
I much prefer the band. There’s a fucking truckload of energy when we play.
Tell me about the album, Sky High . What kind of messages and stories does the music tell? Are these personal experiences of yours?
All of the songs on the album are written from the heart. You got the usual heartache songs, “Instantly,” “Little Reminders,” and the angry girl with her heart smashed on the ground song, “Frustrations.” Then you have spiritual, inspirational songs… my personal favorites are “All We Are,” “Mother Moon,” “Run Don’t Walk,” “If I Was,” because it’s all from the heart. I’m a Cancer, and it shows… vulnerable and emotional. My Leo rising accounts for the powerhouse stuff. I’m an Astrology and a theater GEEK.
Your lyrics are honest and inspirational. Do you have racy overtones in your lyrics that have to be toned down for certain shows?
I purposely left the rubbing, sucking, and licking songs off this album. For some reason in this society, the minute sex is mentioned, people automatically assume that you have no integrity. It’s very important for me to establish myself as a passionate, honest songwriter this go around. For the Borders shows and stuff like that, I keep away from my fucking stuff. But in the bar scene, this stuff goes over quite well…
How do you feel about having to do “tone down” as an artist, and also how do you feel about censorship in general?
Sometimes censorship is just plain necessary. I teach music over at Mars to young kids, and they are incredibly impressionable. I don’t mind leaving out the fuck and the suck when I have to. However, as you can see from hearing the album, I didn’t obliterate my dirtiness completely, I think that would be ridiculous.
In “Run Don’t Walk,” you say, “Run Don’t Walk, Scream Don’t Talk, Soar Don’t Fly, Do Don’t Try.” Do you consider yourself a spiritual person or a motivator? How do you hope your music inspires people?
I really hope that this song, “Run Don’t Walk,” is inspirational for people. That is the motivation. Get off your ass and be somebody. Each one of us has god-given gifts that just go to waste when they aren’t used.
Now, speaking of risqué lyrics, what’s this I hear about a Lollipop song?
HAHA… there’s the sucking and licking…. the lyrics are “If I suck yours will you lick mine, it’s gotta go both ways this time….” It’s actually a song about giving and taking in a relationship, but it’s great fun, and it’s always requested. It’s not on this album, for the reasons I mentioned earlier.
What are you hoping this album will do for the Amy Steinberg Band?
I hope it takes us sky high… I hope to establish myself. We are trying to form our own small label, using Righteous Babe Records [Ani DiFranco’s label] as a model. I do not want to be told what to do. Ever. It doesn’t suit me.
Another favorite of mine is “If I Was.” You say, “If I was a form of currency, I’d be a Benjamin Franklin/ If I was a long-distance carrier, fuck it, I’d be two cents per minute.” So, then, what if you were an instrument?
I’d be a bass drum, loud and booming.
And if you were not a musician?
If I wasn’t a musician I would be involved with children, like I am now. One of my long-term goals is to open a performing arts center somewhere in the country where it is desperately needed. I really love kids, and inspiring them is better than all of this music stuff. Then you really know you are making a difference!