Amy Obenski
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Amy Obenski

San Francisco, California, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | SELF

San Francisco, California, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2015
Solo Folk Rock

Calendar

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May
17
Amy Obenski @ Luna Red

San Luis Obispo, California, United States

San Luis Obispo, California, United States

May
16
Amy Obenski @ D'Vine Wine Bar and Bistro

Lompoc, California, United States

Lompoc, California, United States

Apr
09
Amy Obenski @ Don Quixote's International Music Hall.

Felton, California, United States

Felton, California, United States

Music

Press


"Review of "Restless""

Over­all, Rest­less is an album you can’t just play once and let it col­lect dust. You will find the array of tunes on this album to be most delightful and pleas­antly accept­able to be put on “repeat.” From Sarah Mclach­lan to Natalie Mer­chant and from the six­ties era Car­ole King through to the nineties era Frente!, Amy is able to expand her vocal influ­ences and cho­sen instru­men­ta­tion for a vari­ety of lis­ten­ing
plea­sure that show­cases both her pro­gres­sive and adult con­tem­po­rary sound. - Modern Mark of KSCU Radio


"Review of "Grow to Catch the Wind""

Obenski’s sul­try song­writ­ing style grows out of a deep need to exam­ine every­thing around her. ‘My inspi­ra­tion comes from my ana­lyt­i­cal nature—I’m an observer of things, the way peo­ple act, the way social inter­ac­tions occur and my rela­tion­ship to them. And it often turns into a song.’ Beau­ti­ful bal­lads that were orig­i­nally straight piano/guitar com­po­si­tions have sonic string arrange­ments on the newest release, Grow to Catch the Wind. - Good Times Santa Cruz


"From the Deep Review"

Amy Obenski is sure to break through the singer/songwriter ranks and make a lasting impression with her new album From the Deep. In its jazz-steeped compositions, which move from haunting to soothing in one intuitive swoop and feature grand piano, guitar, cello, viola, bass, drums, mandolin and accordion, we find a talented artist reaching her creative peak. Soaking up the eclectic beauty of her surrounding Santa Cruz and infusing it into her music, Obenski’s honey-flowing tunes possess incredible depth and a natural grace. - Performer Magazine


"Performance Preview"

Amy Obenski is the sort of artist who deserves to achieve big things, and with any luck she'll do just that and ride the wave of the female singer/songwriter genre in its post-Feist-iPod resurgence... it is likely that her new release From the Deep will continue her rise to stardom. - Silicon Valley Metro


"CD Review 03/09/2006"

If you're a nascent musician, you may feel as though the likelihood of releasing an album and having it gain nationwide attention must be a struggle bordering on the impossible, even in this era of Myspace superstars.

Well, it's not impossible, and I've got the CD to prove it: Kite, by Amy Obenski.

Amy Obenski is a Santa Cruz resident (go Slugs!) who had always wanted to be a musician and songwriter, but never got beyond the university choir. After graduation, she got a job in local government in San Jose, but soon realized that what she really wanted to do was become a famous singer. So, one day, she actually did something about it.

After taking a weekend "realize your potential" course, Ms Obenski was inspired to write her first song. Two years later, in 2003, she released her first album, What We Tell. And not long after that, she received a call from an MTV executive; they had heard one of the tracks from What We Tell on somebody's iPod, and wanted to license the music for the MTV show "Made". Eventually, MTV would license all of Amy Obenski's songs, for use on two of their shows.

This incredible story can be found at Amy Obenski's website, linked above, and in this article from the Santa Cruz paper Good Times Weekly.

But back to Kite, Amy Obenski's latest CD. Wait a minute, you're probably saying. It's Folk, and you don't like Folk. Well, let me first clarify that I don't dislike all Folk music; just all Folk music that I've heard. But I like Kite, which means that either A) It's very good Folk; or B) It's very good Amy Obenski music, and we should not be so quick to pigeonhole music into neat little categories. But if you want me to drill-down to proper radio semantics, I would say that Kite is more AAA than Folk, and would be welcome on any station that plays Beth Orton.

What I like about the album is that it does start off very light (musically, if not lyrically), with a raft of coffeehouse-friendly tracks that allow Ms Obenski's comforting voice to, er, comfort us. But then, she surprises us with a mood change that starts with the excellent "Lady of Tomorrow", continues with "Bomb the World" (a cover of a Spearhead song), and plays through much of what would've been called Side B, in the bad-old-days of vinyl.

Don't get me wrong, she doesn't turn into Rage Against the Machine or anything, but there is still a subtle edge to this album, which I heard and appreciated.

But more importantly, Amy Obenski's success as a new artist is impressive, and I hope that it gives other new artists the inspiration to continue trying to make their dreams a reality.

Even if they don't go to the university that has the world's best mascot. - Estrogenius Radio


"CD Review 03/31/06"

I can't believe this is only Amy Obenski's second record. The songs on Kite are not only fantastic, but there doesn't seem to be a single wasted note. Obenski's voice is haunting and the arrangements compliment the vocals perfectly. I'm hesitant to categorize it, but if I was to compare her to an artist we can all relate to I would say she sounds a lot like Joni Mitchell or Suzanne Vega. Great record and I can't wait to see her live. - High Bias


"Interview 03/09/06"

Obenski flies her 'Kite'
By Cody Kraatz
sentinel correspondent

When people compare her to Joni Mitchell or Joan Baez, local singer-songwriter Amy Obenski finds it "kind of strange," because they're not really her influences.

"I listened to the music of that era, but I was more into listening to Bob Dylan," Obenski says, and recently poetic songwriters with acoustic, folksy sounds, like Iron and Wine, Erin McKeown and Laura Veirs, have had a lot of play in her CD player.

Obenski says, "I'm more inspired by local people and friends." Her albums are close-knit affairs, but in four years of performances in small local venues she has generated a substantial following. Fans filled 100 seats at the release party for her 2003 debut "What We Tell."

In the 200 seats at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz, there is room for new fans when Obenski celebrates the release of "Kite," a CD recorded like her first by her friend Dee Fortney in his home studio. Obenski sings mostly original songs and plays piano and guitar.

Her backup on the album will also play in Friday's show, Ted Framhein on bass and Paul Stevens on percussion, and she will be joined on some songs by vocalist Debbie Reed.

The new CD brings her vocals to the forefront, with folk guitar and gentle percussion behind lyrics that are simultaneously personal and political.

"I didn't go into songwriting thinking, 'I'm going to write a political song,' " she says, "but it sort of comes out that way. I'm not trying to make a message, except to connect with other people."

In one song, "As We Go Down," Obenski touches on a negativity she finds overtaking the anti-war movement. "There's a tension between people who are for the war and people who are against the war."

Obenski says, "sometimes the people who are against the war are being just as hateful and angry as those for the war," and suggests that people who want to work for peace "should be peaceful in all ways."

Addressing the ambiguous "she" and "he" in some of her songs, Obenski explains, "I think it changes a lot. I didn't even realize that myself. In a way I'm talking about myself, but I'm also talking about all women. It's hard for me to think about life without thinking about it from a feminine perspective."

She also sees her mother referenced in that ambiguity. In writing "Sun and Sky," though, Obenski had two particular people in mind, and she performed it at their wedding.

In the first track on the CD, "Carousel," Obenski compares her restless thoughts to a runaway kite, a theme that adapts to the album's overall sense of minuteness and exposure to powerful forces in the world.

Obenski adds, "actually, my husband came up with the name, which is kind of funny because he named my first album. It's kind of a trend now."

"I like to think of kite more as a verb than as a noun," she says, explaining that in computer programming the term "kite" means to drag something back and forth. For her, it means "to life, or to be lifted by something beyond one's own power." - Santa Cruz Sentinel


"CD Review 03/08/2006"

Amy Obenski is a 26-year-old singer that hails from Santa Cruz, California. For those of you unfamiliar with the place, it’s a Northern California college town and haven for garden variety, bohemian, Birkenstock wearing retro hippies. The artist describes her music as a cross between Joni Mitchell and Norah Jones and she has had her songs featured on the MTV television program Made.

Obenski’s new album is called Kite, which is an ethereal, one-word title that immediately gets points from me for brevity. The disc begins with “Carousel,” a medium tempo song that reminded me of early Joni Mitchell meets mid career Sarah McLachlan (I kid, I kid) except with a stripped down sound. From a story telling angle, Jean Paul Sartre would be proud of the writer’s lyrical foray into youthful existentialism. “Take What You’ve Given” offers a pleasing ration of jazzy, coffee house cool that is well supported by Amy’s minimalist guitar playing and great rhythm section work by Ted Franhein on bass and Paul Stevens on brush work.

“Lady of Tomorrow” comes midway through the CD and is one of the most impressive tracks on Kite. Offering vocals a la Phoebe Snow, Obenski fashions a stark, somber ballad with effective melody and vocal phrasing, augmented by flurries of three-part harmony. Once again, the sparse trio sound works well in providing the requisite breathing space while capturing the essence of this haunting song.

The acoustic track “Sun and Sky” hearkens back to the work of Janis Ian and Carole King with pleasant harmonies that compliment the simple poetry of the lyrics. The beautiful “Angel’s Road” continues in the vein of jazzy, acoustic folk, which showcases the artist’s gifted singing and solid melody writing skills. Amy closes her CD with “All the Same,” where she muses about the uncertain future as a twenty-something, that yearns to break out the prefab future that has been planned out for her.

When it comes to performing and arranging her earnest material, Amy Obenski is a modern folk singer with jazz sensibilities. Her well played, bare bones trio sound effectively conveys her introspective thoughts about politics, love and existence. Her honest sound is accessible without any thought of being commercial. Though some of the material is a bit somber in the post collegiate, Sylvia Plath kind of way, Obenski is at her best with acoustic guitar in hand accompanying her exceptional vocal talents.

Reviewed by
Phillip E. Hardy
March 8th, 2006 - Sound the Sirens


"CD Review 03/06/06"

I've been really enjoying this CD. It's very homey, very comfortable. Amy Obenski's voice is pretty without being showy. It adds to the music but does not overpower the whole package.

These songs remind me of some of my old favorites from the 70s. They affect me in a similar way as Audra Kubat's music does. Sort of transporting. Especially " Take What You've Given". It's very soothing, mellow would be a good descriptor.

The main instrument here is guitar, but there's a lovely piano on some tunes.

The songs are all well-written but I especially like " Lady of Tomorrow". And it's not just because it uses a piano. I love the melody. The layered vocals are fabulous here as well.

I must also mention that Amy's lyrics are lovely. I am impressed that not only did she write all these tracks (except "Bomb the World" which is a Michael Franti song) but she produced the record and did the artwork.

This is not a "rockin" record, but one that will go perfectly with your morning tea and newspaper.

Posted on March 6, 2006 - Collected Sounds


"CD Review June, 2006"

San Diego Troubadour
Amy Obenski Kite, by Kate Kowsh

With a firm, but feminine voice that sometimes sings in the spirit of Natalie Merchant or Tori Amos, San Diego native Amy Obenski has a naturally slick vocal style. She refines every sound that seeps from her soul, only utilizing just the right amount to get across her musical drift.

Her second album, Kite, is a collection of thoughtful, easy melodies and metacognitive lyrics from an obviously talented, but modest, singer-songwriter. Never in a rush to intrude on the eardrums of her listeners, her music inspires interest because of its unobtrusiveness.

According to her web site, 'Obenski grew up surrounded by the arts in her hometown of San Diego, California. She started singing in choir at age five, and began learning piano at age six. After high school she moved to Santa Cruz, now making it her home for 10 years. At age 23 she began songwriting and picked up the guitar. Her debut album, What We Tell, was released two years later.'

Track one, 'Carousel,' with its slow melodies and introspection, seems to tumble straight from a soul that remembers living in a better place. Obenski finds a way to express her sense of universal awareness musically through song. She dissects the piano, scavenging for the right chords that stomp through you.

Track four, 'I Must Love You,' with its solemn chord progressions, sounds the way a love song should. Rather than just focusing on the perkier aspects of falling in love, like other hackneyed love songs, Obenski pushes a little deeper to include the whole spectrum of emotions one experiences when stricken with this ancient condition. Percussive rattles seep in through the cracks, slithering up into her words like salt in her new wounds.

An obviously intricate, careful storyteller, Obenski has a knack for creating a great visual through her lyrics. Such is the case on track five, 'Lady of Tomorrow,' in which her descriptions of this lady go far beyond just the physical. Obenski sings, 'There's a lady who contemplates the meaning of her words/She speaks her mind but only after she is heard. There's a lady who sings like she's the only one on earth/And listens only to the sounds inside her heart.'

Obenski is one of those rare artists who extend their gifts to their audience as a bridge, connecting them into the universality of music. Like the lady in her song, she will definitely be around tomorrow.

- June, 2006


"Metro Santa Cruz"

"When I was younger, so much younger than today, I used to steal my brother's vinyl copy of U2's Rattle and Hum, the Irish Quartet's somewhat bloated homage to American music. My favorite lyric on that whole album happens during their cover of 'All Along the Watchtower', when Bono tosses off the line, 'All I have is a red guitar, three chords and the truth.' It was so idealistic and innocent that it instantly appealed to me. Amy Obenski's music strikes me in a similar manner. This young woman, who unapologetically wears her feelings on her sleeve, is creating a body of work whose appeal lies in its vulnerability and accessibility. While others dress up their tunes in way too much hyperbole and complexity, ...her simplicity and honesty provide a wonderful counterpoint." - Metro Santa Cruz


"Review of "What We Tell""

"How much of ourselves do we reveal to others? We may tell all we think we know, but we may have to look deeper and longer to know more about ourselves to reveal.

On Amy Obenski’s 11-song CD, What We Tell, she conveys a good deal about her past experiences and relationships, and her message of love rings loud and clear. A different approach in the arrangements and diversity of musical styles add color to help define that message.

Topical songs such as 'Arabian-American', which advises people of Arabic descent to be strong and to hold on through these times of adversity and anti-Semitism, remind me of Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs with her unusual writing style and treatment of controversial subjects. You acquire a taste as the music and lyrics mesh into one and grow on you.

On 'My Baby', the vocal, aided by pennywhistle-sounding flute, helps create a visual of minstrels and troubadours with its traditional old English, Irish, and Celtic melody.

'In the Air' is a metaphor for how it feels to be in a state of ambiguity, searching for middle ground while trying to discover yourself in a codependent relationship and to find something positive in this negative world.

The aptly titled 'Being Free' picks you up with its bouncy, Latin-flavored jazzy rhythm. The message here is somewhat paradoxical, illuminated by a Taoist understanding in its attempt to perceive the truth.

On 'Sandstorm', highlighted by lush vocal harmonies, and on 'Waves of Moments', accompanied by a hypnotic ostinato guitar riff, the message is about being in the moment. We are reminded that always looking forward makes it difficult to attempt to catch 'waves of moments'; we may have to accept the fact that the sweetness and satisfaction of life comes through memories.

On the last cut, 'No Way to Know', the haunting piano melody with a Carole King feel, tells us to stop analyzing life. Let it go and give yourself up to love in order to feel the 'hope within your heart'." - San Diego Troubadour


"She Got Her MTV"

Amy Obenski got a lucky break. Really lucky. It’s not often that MTV goes hunting down unknown singer/songwriters. Usually it’s the other way around. But in early November last year, Obenski, a 26-year-old songstress, was sitting at her desk in her home on the Eastside of Santa Cruz, checking her e-mail, when she logged on to find a note from MTV employee Sonia Riahi. She’d heard one of Obenski’s tunes shuffle through and play on a friend’s iPod. Riahi inquired about using the Santa Cruzan’s music on MTV’s Made.

“My first response was, ‘is this for real?’” Obenski says. “Who is this lady? How do I know she’s really from MTV? I was surprised. I usually have to get that stuff on my own—I usually have to contact them, call them over and over again to get people to do something.”

But this time it was MTV calling her. It turns out Riahi was for real. The show was for real. And Obenski’s daydream was about to become very real.

At 10 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 27, MTV will be using some of her songs during that night’s episode of Made. Not a bad gig. This is huge exposure for the folk rock singer, who has only sold maybe 200 CDs.

Made takes teenagers and attempts to turn their aspirations/dreams into reality. It gets things “made” for them. Interestingly, the show’s premise is a perfect accompaniment for Obenski’s own lyrical life. In a way, MTV is getting her “made” as well.

Since she was a tot, Obenski already had her own aspirations established: She one day wanted to become famous and also own a rainforest. These are two difficult things to attain. But not if MTV has its way with you.

Until now, Obenski had never really made efforts to get her music in front of bigwigs. She’s always had an independent flavor, content for now with simply performing across the Bay Area and trying to put out her CD What We Tell, which was released in 2003.

But with songs that sound straight out of a Lilith Fair gathering, getting some attention from MTV has been a bit unreal for Obenski. And, fairly improbable. Obenski has only been going at this music thing full time since 2001 when she quit a desk job in environmental policy work to give her dream a whirl. It’s a little crazy that her stuff got in front of the right person so soon. Serendipity?

“I don’t know if I’d call it fate,” Obenski says. “But I definitely think if you’re optimistic and have certain intentions … the world kind of lines itself up for you.”

Obenski has not one ounce of cockiness. Just a sense of confidence that has slowly developed over the years, and admittedly isn’t completely whole yet.

She didn’t exactly get hearty kudos when attending UC Santa Cruz where she majored in environmental studies, and got her minor in music. While studying at the university, Obenski was in the school choir and auditioned for solo parts but never got them.

“In college I had a complex of sorts,” she says. “It was frustrating. I decided that I wasn’t a soloist or I didn’t have the voice. I had a lack of confidence that my voice was mousy and quiet.”

Hardly. Listening to her debut CD it’s hard to imagine this solid soprano having any hang-ups. Her voice is a little ethereal, harkening back to singers like Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, those sorts—folk rock singers of yesteryear. But at other moments her voice is reminiscent of today’s Natalie Merchant and Tori Amos.

When Obenski was in the middle of the singing doldrums a few years ago, she attended a retreat that made her swivel in her office chair. And after swiveling, she hopped right out, pared down her expenses and became a full-time singer/songwriter.

“I was working for a council member in San Jose and I still had these dreams and aspirations for being a singer but I wasn’t doing anything about it,” she says. “The only thing I had done was be in a choir and in a little, tiny band in high school that lasted two weeks or something. Choir really wasn’t what I wanted to do.”

So she signed up for a weekend seminar called The Landmark Forum, which offered education geared toward improving quality of life.

“I registered for it because I wanted to be a famous singer and I wasn’t doing anything about it,” Obenski says. “I knew it’s what I wanted and here I was, sitting in an office every day from 9 to 5 and not singing at all.”

The day after she returned from the seminar Obenski wrote her first song. Talk about being inspired. She’d never written a song before. It was called, “How’s it Going?” and was penned as a one-on-one conversation with the listener of the song, asking them how everything was going. As of now, the song has been filed away for the most part, but that seedling creation led to much more music. Obenski followed it up with local performances at Poet and the Patriot Irish Pub, Henfling’s and Bocci’s Cellar. She then trekked over the hill and started playing in the North Bay Area. Next month she’ll be traveling to L.A. and San Diego for shows.

And further down the road? Some serious exposure on MTV; she’ll release her second album probably at the end of this year, and “basically, it’s kind of embarrassing, but I want to get famous, that’s my goal,” she says. Not too lofty a dream for Obenski. She’s already been Made.

- Good Times Santa Cruz


"Amy Obenski: Kite"

Hearing Amy Obenski's voice is like hearing a familiar voice say "Don't worry, it's OK." It's an oddly calming factor that transcends the music that it carries. Recalling such contemporaries as Joni Mitchell, Maria Muldaur, Suzanne Vega and at times Indigo Girls, Obenski has crafted a record that is as enjoyable as it is a healing session for the harried mind.

This is her second record and it's self-produced and self-released to boot. The first cut, "Carousel" is my favorite of the set. With a lazy, sun-drunk piano riff, the hypnotizing aura casts its net on you, drawing you into its web. The song is a vortex you can get lost in with Obenski's voice gently pulling you in.

"Horizon" and "Take What You're Given" are almost pure Joni Mitchell, with her voice fitting around the notes like a glove.

The California native first appeared to the general public in 2003 with her first record, What We Tell. Interestingly enough, she came to the public's attention by her music appearing on the MTV show Made. This occurred after an exec heard her music on someone's iPod and from that they offered her a deal.

"Lady of Tomorrow" is another excellent cut, similar to "Carousel" but a slight touch jazzier. "Bomb the World" is like an early Indigo Girls song. All of the rest of the cuts are solid songs that drip with sincerity, Obenski's voice front and center for the set. This record is perfect for coming home from the office after a harried day of people yapping in your ear. Crafted with care, it goes from beginning to end without a letdown. - NowOnTour.com


Discography

Restless

2014

Full Length Album


"Grow to Catch the Wind"
2011
Full Lenth Album


"From the Deep"
2008
Full length album


"Kite"
2006

Full length album


"What We Tell"
2003
Full Length album

Photos

Bio

With a stark and honest intensity, Amy Obenski’s rich, crystalline voice cuts through the noise of every day life.   She’s a California native.  Raised in San Diego and now based in San Francisco, the sound of the far west is unmistakably infused into her words and sound.  She’s toured the U.S. and France and even got her song “Carousel” onto the TV Show, Grey’s Anatomy.   


You can catch her perform in a variety of formats:  solo, duo or with a full band.  Her newest project however is using a looper where she plays solo but can double up on her own music to create the sound of a full band plus a small choir. 


Amy’s fifth album was released in 2014.   This album, entitled Restless, was a collaboration between her and a trio of French musicians named The Carbone Band.   Between 2011 and 2013 Amy travelled to France three times to play and tour with them which eventually led to the recording of Restless and a month long Artist in Residence at La Maison des Arts.  The music was a collision of Amy’s free “California girl” sound and the French’s deep passion and intensity.


Restless features the distinctive sound of The Carbone Band and also a string ensemble of students and associates of La Maison des Arts.    The Carbone Band is comprised of Philippe Crochet on guitar, Josselin Sebille on bass and Mourad Aït Abdelmalek on the drums. 


Amy’s musical history stretches back to age five, when she began singing in her school choir.  She took up piano at age six and has been studying music ever since.  She finally picked up the guitar when she began songwriting at twenty-two. 


In Santa Cruz, California, she supported local organizations through a series of benefit concerts called Take Back Your Forest.  Collectively they raised six thousand dollars for the Sempervirens Fund, an organization that purchases and protects redwood forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  She continues to support these types of organizations as much as possible.  In 2012, her Carbon Conscious Tour raised awareness about the burning of rainforest in South America and the affects on climate change.

 

Band Members