Amy McCarley
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Amy McCarley

Huntsville, Alabama, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | SELF

Huntsville, Alabama, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2011
Band Folk Americana




"Amy McCarley, Huntsville singer, tells the secrets behind her sophomore album 'Jet Engines' and why it took more than a year to release it"

“Listening to alt-country singer Amy McCarley's snapshot-like sophomore album Jet Engines, you feel like you're in the room as the music is being recorded.” - Huntsville Times

"Jet Engines (CD) by Amy McCarley"

“Amy McCarley has released an excellent sophomore album. It will hopefully receive some deserved airplay and give her some exposure. Jet Engines is worth the price of admission.” - Cashbox Music Reviews

"CD Review: Amy McCarley - Jet Engines"

“Jet Engines is an enjoyable listen throughout - plenty of roots, rockabilly, and country as well as McCarley's very distinctive voice.” -

"Amy McCarley on surviving touring vehicle breakdowns, meeting her musical idol, Huntsville homecoming show"

The guy who showed up to tow Amy McCarley's SUV after it broke down at 2:30 a.m. in Horse Cave, Ky. during her recent six-week solo tour ended up being the 1,000th person to "like" McCarley's musician Facebook page.

"A nice man named James showed up to my rescue," says McCarley, an Americana singer/songwriter based in Huntsville. "So yeah there was a moment there where I'm there by myself at 2:30 in the morning, I've got all this gear in my car. As a woman out on the road at that hour with such expensive equipment, I always feel like I'm running moonshine. I don't really want people to know. 'Nothing to see here.' I was really happy to see James. It would up being the alternator."

Of course, McCarley's tour has also included some more pleasant adventures. Playing The Bitter End in Manhattan. She befriended Norah Jones' guitar player, Jim Campilongo, at a show at the Brooklyn honky-tonk Skinny Dennis. The music video for McCarley's melancholic ballad "Smart Man," from her strong and soulful 2014 album "Jet Engines," premiered via online publication Glide Magazine.

And she met her absolute musical hero, alt-country cool-chick Lucinda Williams, in Nashville.

"I think it's maybe in the 3,000 mile range," McCarley says of her recent trek. "All the way up to Burlington is a pretty good stretch and then coming back down to Austin (Texas) and over to Atlanta and doubling back to Huntsville up to Nashville, down to Tampa."

On Oct. 21, McCarley backed by bassist Matt Ross will play a show at Tangled String Studio, located at Lowe Mill, address 2211 Seminole Drive. Daphne Lee Martin and Hannah Fair will open the 7:30 p.m. bill. Tickets are $15 and available online via PayPal. "I'm excited to play Tangled String," McCarley says. "(Local luthier and Tangled String owner) Danny Davis has been a friend of mine for a long time and I really admire his work with guitars. It's a really cool space and inviting."

McCarley was driving to a Nashville meeting when called for this phone interview.

Amy, has doing all this touring impacted you as performer, the songs you play or how you do them?

Well you know, every room is different. While I may have an idea what to expect by checking it out online and the reputation of the venue, the crowds vary from night to night.

I think it's shaped more the setlist than anything else. And maybe my delivery. I'm always feeding off the energy of the audience and that informs my performance. A certain room might want more upbeat honky-tonk kind of stuff; another room might prefer quieter more intimate ballads. That type of thing.

So I'm guessing meeting Lucinda Williams during the Americana Music Association festival in Nashville was probably the number one highlight from this tour?

Yeah, definitely. That was a really surreal moment. Anyway I walked out to get my car and there's Lucinda standing there talking to a couple of people. So immediately I just kind of had a Beatlemania moment and was thinking, "What am I going to do?"

I walked over to her and thanked her for her music and told her I was a big fan and wished her well on the new record and asked how she was enjoying her time in Nashville and just struck up a conversation. The guy who was standing there ended up being her husband who is also her manager. After a while he went to go get something for her, and she and I were on the street talking for 20 minutes or so. They were about to get a cab and I said, 'Well my car is right here if you need a ride.' So then I'm driving through Nashville with Lucinda and her husband in my car. It was really bizarre. And awesome.

Our conversation, mainly it centered on her new record coming out and how much she was impressed and mortified by my decision to tour solo as a female on the road, for as long as I'd been so far.

Touring by yourself, do you take along a gun or mace or anything like that?

I have several measures of protection.

Has there been a city you've played on this tour you felt particularly in-tune with, to the point where you're thinking, "You know, I could live here"?

I've really enjoyed everywhere I've been. I can't say there's been a place I needed to evacuate and couldn't wait to leave. I've really had a great time touring, meeting new people and checking out new towns.

The one I got to spend the most time is and has such a place in my heart is Austin, Texas. In my college days at Rice we would go over to Austin and hang out. The vibe of the town ... Everybody's laid back and intelligent and there's a lot of good music there.

You've been putting a lot of elbow grease into promoting and working the "Jet Engines" album, and things seem to be progressing onward and upward.

Well it's been a challenge and a joy to work "Jet Engines" with the team that I have. The people I've surrounded myself are great and they're helping me grow my audience and build my brand for lack of a better work, I guess.

It's a lot to manage. And I thought when I was working full-time as a NASA contractor and doing music nights and weekends, that was really hard and I thought taking on music full-time there would be a little more time for goofing off. [Laughs.] That hasn't been the case. Even at Rice playing basketball, Division I athletics and Rice academia, that wasn't even as hard as what I'm doing. It's all consuming and you never know if you're doing enough. There are lots of different approaches to developing a fan base and growing as an artist, and to balance that is not something anyone has pulled me aside and told me how to do it. So far I've just been feeling my way around.

With all the touring I was guessing you had moved full-time into music.

Yeah. For the past year, since last October, I've been pursing music full-time. I don't think that I wanted to talk about that, I'm fine to say it now. It's so tenuous and difficult. Anyone out there reading this who's a musician understands the challenge of full-time music work. - & The Huntsville Times

"Review: The New Faces Of Country/Americana Music Release Timeless Albums"

“The new release continues solidifying Amy’s talents as one of the undiscovered gems of country music.” - JP's Music Blog

"Jet Engines (Album Review)"

“McCarley's sound is all her own, and her latest album Jet Engines showcases an artist firmly grounded in Americana, yet well-poised to make an individual statement.” - No Depression

"engagingly natural... totally owns Gillian Welch's Look At Miss Ohio"

[Amy] has a voice … which is engagingly natural and organic as she brings life-worn cares and emotions to her songs… [She also] totally owns a cover of [Gillian] Welch’s Look At Miss Ohio.” - Mike Davies, London

"combination of killing voice and very unique sound make... a real musical gem...."

"The combination of her killing voice and of this very unique sound makes this CD a real musical gem...I particularly love the song Long Way Home...and beyond that, all her music sounds true." - Mike Penard, American Roots Music Show, ISA Radio, France

"great live or in the studio"

"It's one thing to sound great on your record. It's another thing to pull it off live. Amy and her band do both. They are genuine and have soul ... important intangibles few can claim. Live or alone in the studio, Amy delivers good music." - Brett Tannehill, Program Director WLRH Huntsville AL

"unmistakably genuine"

"Amy McCarley is unmistakably genuine. Her energy on stage matches her ability to portray real life emotions in her songs. She is a Huntsville treasure." - Evan Billiter, Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment Events Coordinator Huntsville, AL

"speaks from the heart"

"Amy does a great job with her music. It speaks from the heart with an earthy realness that today's mass produced media lacks." - Nate Emery, WTAK 106.1/Clear Channel/Huntsville's Home Brew

"organic, natural, fully realized"

"This is a warm, organic, natural, fully realized and very well put together sounding record that sounds like Amy Mccarley: her voice, her spirit, her direction. When she sings in that low deep dark honey register, that's good stuff right there. Her voice sounds traveled, elastic, and evokes a lot of different emotions. Very impressed with her album. I love it." - Brad Posey, The Invisible City WLRH 89.3

"real live southern songwriter"

"The whole package: a real live southern songwriter with a unique sound and gorgeous voice in every sense of the word, Amy McCarley is perhaps the best new female Americana artist you've never heard. Raw; transcendent. Not to be missed." - Mark Mason, Director of Writer Publisher Relations BMI Nashville


Eponymous debut record + follow-up offering, Jet Engines, available now on iTunes. 



She is resigned and resilient, vulnerable and strong. Rising roots star Amy McCarley is not exactly — and yet, every last thing — you might expect of a talented singer songwriter. No Depression called her voice “a nuanced instrument best paired with a strong lyrical hook.” And boy, can she write one. Take “Fools Lament,” for example, with verses that wind their way expertly toward a simple, brilliant chorus, “There ain’t no way to change fake to real." There is nothing fake about McCarley, whose voice and vibe delivers the goods from the stage as well as the studio. Her 2011 self-titled debut led her home state of Alabama to name her an Artist to Watch.

The anticipated follow-up, Jet Engines (2014), has garnered positive reviews and made its way onto various “Best Of” lists. In February, LoneStar Music Magazine included the project among its Top Americana Albums. Bill Bowker/KRSH added it to his Top 10 Americana Albums of 2014. In addition, McCarley’s song, “Everybody Wants To,” earned her an honorable mention in American Songwriter’s Lyric-Only Contest (Nov. 2014).

Co-produced by Grammy-winning Guitarist Kenny Vaughan (Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives), Jet Engines was recorded in Nashville’s Tone Chaparral Studios. “The record happened in one day of tracking,” says McCarley of recording with Vaughan and Tone’s George Bradfute. “What we captured that first day wound up winning out over any modest technical improvements I was able to make after the band had gone.” From the Bakersfield-influenced “Here I Am” to the smoldering, alt-country “Hands Tied,” Jet Engines covers a wide range of roots music that has been embraced by fans. The album spent months on the 2014 Americana Music Chart and has led to ongoing, national tours in its promotion.

In support of Jet Engines, this year McCarley has appeared at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas;  played celebrated showcases during February’s Folk Alliance and SXSW as well as first-time appearances at Alabama’s famed W.C. Handy Festival in Muscle Shoals, The Space Camp Alumni Festival in Huntsville and Tuscaloosa's Summer Shindig at The Bama Theatre. In September --after an opener for Kevin Gordon celebrating his album release during Americana Music Festival Week-- her showcase with headliner John Hiatt at EarleFest: A Celebration of Americana Music was preceded by several in-studio live radio performances on California radio programs like KPIG’s Please Stand By with Sleepy John Standidge, Robin Pressman’s Evening Muse on The Krush 95.9, et al.

McCarley is also becoming a sought-after singer and cowriter on Music Row, where she co-writes regularly with the likes of Pat Alger and Wood Newton. 

Soaring to the top of her game – the perfect place to get acquainted with her music.

Band Members