Amy Steinberg
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Amy Steinberg

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The best kept secret in music

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"Amy Steinberg - Genghis Cohen LA"

The Players: Amy Steinberg, vocals, guitar, keyboards; Jo-Jo Moceri, drums.

Material: Traversing raw folk, blues and spoken-word poetry, Amy Steinberg is an independent musician who has evolved beyond the confines of the coffeehouse club scene. Though Ani DiFranco’s influence is prevalent, Steinberg’s bedazzling voice rings with the undeniable depth of a soulful Janis Joplin. Pairing this unique style with poetically potent lyrics, this artist constructs melodies that are consistently memorable.

Musicianship: It is very infrequent that an artist can turn every head in the venue with one or two lines from a sound check; but that is precisely what Amy Steinberg can do. Her emphatic vocal tone also delivers her passionate message in a way that rivets the listener to a song’s lyric. Alternating between an acoustic guitar and a keyboard, Steinberg plays the instruments with the nonchalance of an artist who’s been doing this for a while. Meanwhile, Moceri’s simple snare beats do little more than keep the time for Steinberg’s songs.

Performance: Exhibiting complete control, this Orlando-based musician had a sizeable Los Angeles crowd wildly screaming and clapping at the end of every number. Joking between songs and locking eyes with every person in the audience, she appeared to be performing for a group of her closest friends. Further demonstrating charisma, in a final number, Steinberg easily engaged everyone in a hearty sing-a-long.

Summary: Amy Steinberg is not to be overlooked by labels searching for another righteous babe. Her standout vocal skills (combined with her uncanny ability to not only keep her audience interested, but actually prompt them to participate) puts Steinberg in a league of her own. Considering the widespread popularity of Ani DiFranco and the lack of artists able to successfully follow her footsteps, Amy Steinberg could prove to be a hot commodity in today’s shifting music market.


By Scott Perham
- Music Connection - Los Angeles


"Amy Steinberg"

"My parents had hard hot sex and I was conceived..." Amy begins, and I realize that this is a little bit more information than I needed when I asked her about her history. Next time I'll be more specific.

Amy Steinberg is more than your average run of the mill singer songwriter. The twenty-nine year old wordsmith who just won an Orlando Music Award for Best Solo Artist, is a classically trained pianist and a veteran of the theater. Her wry observations and musings often make for entertaining and well crafted pop songs, whether she is working her magic behind the keyboard for a dozen people or a full house at The Social in downtown Orlando. And the girl can sing.

After moving to Orlando five years ago after a short European tour for Hair, Amy decided it was time to get serious about her music. "I started out solo, going out to open mic nights with my keyboard...I would just go and do all these crazy songs," Amy remembers. "I would just get crazy, I would just do outlandish, brash stuff that would get people's attention, and I started to meet everybody in town. Then eventually I got more serious about songwriting. The first band I joined was Sosumi, which was an all girl band. That was awesome, it was an experience for me and it opened the door for me to form my own band. I saw in essence how simple it was to put players together and make a band."

"People kept pigeon-holding me when I joined Sosumi, that I was a lesbian," Amy says. " It was fine with me, I really don't care what you think about my sexuality, but I was the only straight girl in the band. It made for an interesting dynamic. It also made for my first brush people who are going to talk about you. In fact I still get residuals from it."

"I took a lot of stuff that learned in Sosumi and put together my own project, and that lasted two years, with The Amy Steinberg Band, with those particular players." The Amy Steinberg Band caused quite a stir in Orlando. Amy had a good size following from Sosumi, and it wasn't long before the Amy Steinberg Band was earning a reputation as a must see live band. They were playing to packed houses at the Sapphire Supper Club and other downtown joints, in addition to good sized crowds at The House of Blues. The band was nominated in 2000 for two Orlando Music Awards, one for Best Pop/Rock Band and another for CD of the Year.

After two years, the group was exhausted and burnt out, and Amy decided to take a break from the band and do a small solo summer tour, and it was then that the band lost the momentum. "It just sort of fell apart," Amy says. "Our last gig was September twelfth, right after the World Trade Center. It was really a strange ending. It wasn't a happy ending, it wasn't a horrible ending. It just sort of dwindled away after I took that tour. The excitement was gone. We weren't really gelling, I didn't know how to end it, so I went on tour. I wasn't really planning on ending it, I was just taking a break. We had been playing so long and so hard it was just exhausting."

Raw Material From The Ethereal, released this August, was a culmination of life changing habits and plenty of soul searching. Amy is quick to point out that she is very proud of the new album and says, "It's a monument to this past year for me. After September 11th, there was a lot of soul searching for me. I think that's what mostly what this album is about. The ethereal is the other world, the place where God resides. What is that, and where do I stand with that? I also got sober and clean on October twenty-fourth last year. That's been a big turning for me too, is just getting clear headed and finding a clean space to live inside. Raw Material from The Ethereal, it's a lyric taken from "Simplistic Logistics", which that was the first song that I wrote after stopping everything and getting clean." She adds that she was, "just trying to figure out who I am, where I am, and what I am."

The new album was produced by Amy along with Atlanta musician Justin Beckler, who she met while doing a gig at Eddie's Attic. "The special thing about this album is that it was produced by one person and myself. We sat in his basement for a week straight, and just made magic. He put his flavor into it and just really built the songs. For the songs, all I had was a guitar and a voice, and we built them." The cd opens with "Praylude", a spoken word rant accompanied by a driving organ solo that would be at home in any respectful southern Baptist church on a Sunday morning. "It's almost supposed to be campy," Amy says of the opening track. "It's definitely a piece that I wrote, but in all seriousness, yes I do have to give up control and turn it over to something bigger than myself, but I always sort of fuck things up. But when I give it over to a divine source things seem to go a little bit more smoothly for me."

Tracks like "Simplistic Logistics of Existence" with its undeniable piano hook or "Jackie She Found It In Jesus" in which Amy sings about looking for things in all the wrong places, demonstrate her extraordinary talent and flair for writing memorable songs brimming with irresistible choruses and thought-provoking lyrics.

On stage Amy teases and titillates, working the crowd into charged frenzy with her sheer passion and incredible stage presence. Invigorating and inspiring are words that Amy tosses around when asked to describe her live show. "I always get people coming up to me saying that they feel inspired to do something artistic after seeing me, which is something that is important to me, because I think to create is to be free. In human existence we live in these chains, we live in these cells of bodies, egos and consciousness, and minds. To break free of that is when we're painting, we're writing, we're singing, or writing a poem or something."

The next few months will see Amy taking a solo tour with dates in New Orleans, Memphis, Charleston and then out west to Los Angeles. While things are on the upswing for the Orlando chanteuse, she admits to still fighting her demons. "If I sing my sex songs I get shit for that, I get shit for being a bigger girl, or I get shit for being gay, or I get shit for that, shit for this. But on the other side of that is all the blessings that come along with that. All of the people that are touched, and all the goodness that comes from being open and honest - it's who I am. I can't help being who I am."

Amy Steinberg is the quintessential performer.

By Juliett Rowe
- Rag Magazine


"The Amy Steinberg Interview"

Amy Steinberg makes me tired. Not because she is boring. No sir, quite the contrary. This is an individual that could put a group to shame. The lyrical mastermind is delivering her third independent CD, coming out with a live album, teaching music, participating in an Orlando's first poetry SLAM team, writing a novel and preparing for a move to LA. Hhhmmm…

This is nothing new. Amy has been this full of activity since the tender age of four when she began to play the piano. At nine she was creating poetry. Through college, Amy was diligent in writing songs and joining bands. She then attended Marymount Manhatten, earning a degree in theater and also studying at Boston Conservatory of Music and American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. Amy then decided to head south to Orlando five years ago and grace us with her creativity and sultry stage presence.

Needless to say, all of this training molded Amy into one expressive, audacious, awe-inspiring individual.

She hasn't stopped since. And why would she? With talent like this, it would be some sort of sin. Words amazingly roll off her tongue into a sea of contemplation. Sometimes shocking. Irregularly rough. Constantly catchy. Purposely provoking. Forever fun.

The new album produced with Justin Beckler from Atlanta, whom Amy refers to as "genius," is titled Raw Material from the Ethereal. Get a good helping, Orlando, she's headed out west!


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aXis: Since you and your band have split (peacefully), how has that made you stronger? Different?

Amy: Every moment you make it through makes you stronger - the longer I'm alive the more pain I can sustain. Breaking up with a band is like losing a loved one, and although it was peaceful, it was also difficult and strange. Solo has always been the way of my heart, so it's getting back to the inside of the inside, you know? Growth is inevitable, so is peace.

aXis: What goal(s) are you trying to accomplish right now?

Amy: I want to find inner ecstacy, stay surrendered to a higher idea, experience truth, see the world, move through space with grace, write a novel, climb to the top of myself, and have a kick ass cd release party.

aXis: What part of Amy Steinberg do you enjoy most, the lyrical Amy Steinberg or the musical Amy Steinberg? Does either side try and outdo the other?

Amy: Most of the time the 'word' comes first. Then rhythm. Finally, music. Although, when I picked up the guitar the opposite started happening. Patterns are always subject to change. Do I try to out do myself? I suppose I'm always trying to write, record, or perform better than the last time, but it's all a process of blossom.

aXis: You are usually compared to Ani Difranco. Blessing? Curse? Both?

Amy: Ani is an incredible, inspiring goddess. I am flattered when I'm compared to her, however, I see only smatterings of influence from her. If I were to compare myself to anyone it would be an amalgamation of the humor and brass of Bette Midler, the bluesy balls of Janis Joplin, the lyrical gymnastics of Ani DiFranco, and the wail and intensity of Alanis Morisette. I've thought about that for a lonnnnnnnng time. People ALWAYS ask, WHO DO YOU SOUND LIKE? And it's ridiculous to think you are your own island. I recognize my influences and am grateful to them.

aXis: Is your audience primarily women? Gay women?

Amy: My audience is men, women, gay and straight. I was in a lesbian band, SOSUMI, for awhile and accumulated a large female following. The gay factor is moot.

aXis: Tell us about your new cd's.

Amy: Raw Material from the Ethereal is the new full-length. I'm very proud of it. It was produced by Justin Beckler, a genius from Atlanta who I was blessed to meet at a performance in Atlanta. We've become soulmatebestfriends and he is the reason this album exists. It is an album about ripping yourself apart and then slowly piecing yourself back together, saying goodbye to the excess shit you've accumulated inside. I'm especially proud of this cd. "Emphatic at the Attic" is a live show, and really captures the sense of a Steinberg experience.

aXis: OK – the you are involved in a SLAM team. Do you slam each other? Is that like a wrestling team? What is that all about?

Amy: Hahaha! No, it's a team of Orlando poets who competed (and won) to go to Nationals (Minneapolis), where we will slam against teams from all over the country. (Basically the audience is the judge and the spoken word gets scored.) The wrestling that's involved is intellectual, and quite exhausting actually! It's been a fuckin trip. Shoutout to my teammates: Duwana, Jibreel, and Rubin. They have been supportive of my music and inspiring with their brilliant poetry. We are going to kick ass up there. Brokenspeech, J.Bradley's vision organized the slams around town. This will be the first Orlando team, which is wonderful.

aXis: You have ALOT going on - a novel, a move to LA? What's wrong with O-Town?

Amy: I love Orlando! It's my home and I'm not moving anywhere. I'm going on a spiritual and professional journey. My sister just got pregnant and will be giving birth in February, so I'll be back. Basically from November to February I'm heading west to check it out and drop my music in some hands. I signed a management deal with a great guy from NYC, Indigo Mazelin, he's out in L.A. now too, so I have to be near him. The novel is a dream, I'm a few chapters in, and I'm having a blast writing it. Never thought I could do it, but I believe now that I can. I will never really leave Orlando, a scoop of my soul is embedded in the gravel on Orange Avenue.

© Axis Magazine - Published 8/02
- Axis Magazine


"Goodbye, Again?"

'Can I get some of that sauce?" grumbles a nearby patron, all greasy-spooned and loud in the Jersey chrome confines of some Denny's diner.

As if on cue, raven-haired local troubadour Amy Steinberg enters the building, a veritable ray of light shining through the smoke and coffee stench.

"I'm very disappointed that we're not in a booth," she graces, and at once her desire is realized in a shiny corner-cushion seat cleared seemingly just for her. Amy Steinberg gets what she wants.

And why shouldn't she? Long a staple of uncommon genius on the Orlando music scene ("A staple? Meat is a staple," she jokes), Steinberg must be tiring of her position just beneath that fateful moment that will rocket her to the rock-star moon. Or maybe not. Her new record, "Raw Material From the Ethereal," her third studio full-length, shows no signs of wear whatsoever. A potent blend of spoken word and stream-of-consciousness musical wordplay, "Raw Material" is nothing short of a joyous, bold, unstoppable tour de force of personal realization.

"My knees are bruised a bluish grey from kneeling down to pray" she mantras on the opening track, "Praylude," before laying into a frantic sermon laced with messages of learning and letting go. Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to get through this thing called life ...

And what a life, indeed. With five recordings under her belt (three studio, one live, one EP), Steinberg is finding herself at a creative peak. Blame it on poetry, perhaps, which provides her with another outlet (she's one quarter of an Orlando slam team that's headed for the nationals this month), a forum in which her free-form lyricism runs amuck in the absence of careful arrangement.

But, more likely, blame it on Steinberg herself, who, like many creative folk in the wake of 9/11, has taken the time to redefine her life and her newly band-less solo career. ("I'm chain smoking and guzzling coffee, she laughs. "That hasn't changed.") Her redirection started with a monthlong residency under seasoned slam poet Saul Williams, which kicked in, perhaps fatefully, last Sept. 14. There at New Smyrna's Atlantic Center for the Arts, Steinberg -- along with three other verbal visionaries (including DJ Spooky) -- spent a month in apprenticeship to the master in search of an artistic statement, with only room, board and inspiration as payment. It couldn't have happened at a better time.

"I call that my emotional bottom. I think a lot of people hit a bottom then," she says, of the post-9/11 mental trauma. "The experience that I had there was about really looking at why I do this. And if I'm going to do this, then I've got to have an action behind it. That was the bouncing-off point for this new album and these new songs -- that I've got to fucking say something."

Something, perhaps, more than "fuck." Prior to the present record, Steinberg had become notorious for her free use of relative obscenities in her shows, rallying crowds into uproars with explicit talk of her sexual forays.

"I'll tell you why I started writing things like, 'If I suck yours, will you lick mine?'" she explains. "When you're starting out in a town like this, you have to get a foot in the door with the audience. Your esoteric views on Buddhism? They're just not interested. They want to drink and party and talk about sex. And I like sex."

Looking back, though, she does have regrets.

"If I could turn back the clock -- I mean who wants to do a piece while the audience is screaming, 'Fuck All Night!' when you're thinking, 'I just wrote this piece that I'm really proud of?'"

So it is that "Raw Material," recorded earlier this year with producer/collaborator Justin Beckler in Atlanta, is just that: something to be proud of and something quite raw. For those who know her music, it's a grand representation of her peculiar, consistent magic. Virtuoso guitar fingerings give way to a Janis Joplin-fed wail of emotional purity, all rooted in (but not limited by) the vast musical history that informs it.

"My other two records, I restrained myself. I was trying to fit into that Sarah McLachlan 'chick' thing, like polishing it off," she says. "I started thinking, why people come back to my shows is that I'm so exposed, like on this album. This is who I am, y'know. What am I going to do, put on a mask and pretend to be somebody else? And how long can I hold that up?"

Sans disguises, then, Steinberg digs directly to her core throughout "New Material," often drifting into spirituality but never to the point of saccharine religious subservience.

"I've always sort of felt like God is an issue," she says. "I've been agnostic most of my life, truly, but I think that I've found God ... goddess or whatever -- that spirituality doesn't have to be this stale thing."

"Jackie She Found It in Jesus," a rolling roll call of acquaintances and their personal searches, begs, simply, for "peace of mind." It's a song about gazes through bottoms of cocktail glasses and hazes of bong smoke, all looking for the same thing. Heavy stuff, to be sure, but as cast through the winsome glow of Steinberg's engaging populism, it soars.

"I was teaching and this lady came in named Jackie," says Steinberg, who supplements her career by offering lessons at Mars Music. "She was just this beautiful soul, and she told me that she was a re-formed crackhead and that she had found God, and that I should find Jesus. She wasn't the Bible-beating kind. She was just a joyful, delicious woman who wanted to give me the Lord. I know I had always looked for it in my writing or men."

After this, Steinberg smiles.

"But I don't think peace of mind is something that works really well as a writer. I'm much happier when things are fucked up."

In some ways, they've appeared more fucked up than they really have been. Despite popular belief, Steinberg has not left Orlando officially in the past to pursue her musical career. She's toured extensively, sure. And she recorded "New Material" in Atlanta, too.

"Really, I've never left before," she says.

Until now. This fall, with representation secured and an impressive record in hand, Steinberg is finally heading west in search of the big time. Or at least an attempt at such.

"I never wanted to be a local hero. I can even remember thinking of certain people that have been around [Orlando] 10 or 15 years and thinking, I'll never do that," she says. "You play the same bars 8,000 times and it starts to drain you."

But, she adds, "This town has really become my home. I don't want to leave. When I think of leaving I get sad."

So why leave, then?

"The dream, of course, is to have somebody throw a bunch of money at you and go, 'Here, go travel the world,'" she says, leaning in. "I mean, I don't like to downplay myself, and say, 'I can only be on an independent label' or 'I can only be underground.' I want to be in this business and use the gift that I've been given by God or goddess or whatever."

At this, Amy winks, her study in contradictions drained into the last drop of coffee and the final puff of nicotine. It's a shame to see her go. Nobody makes sauce like Amy Steinberg.

By Billy Manes

© Orlando Weekly - Published 8/1/02
- Orlando Weekly


Discography

Clown Princess - Live One Woman Show - 2003
Raw Material from the Ethereal - Full-length - 2002
Emphatic at the Attic - Live - 2002
360 Hibiscus - Full-length - 2001
Sky High - Full-length - 2000

MANY AWARDS including:
Top 100 Unsigned Artists
Music Connection - Los Angeles 2003

Singer/ Songwriter of the Year
Songwriters Showcases of America - 2003

Singer/Songwriter of the Year
Orlando Weekly - 2002, 2001, 1999

Many movie credits including:

Scored Indie Film "Rock Girl"
directed by Lee Arcuri

"Sky High" used in film "First Taste"
directed by Billy Corben

"If I Was" Used in Canadian documentary directed by Gretchen Kelbaugh

Radio Airplay regularly on 104.1 Real Radio in Orlando, Rollins Radio 91.5, Tampa's WMNF 88.5 and many internet stations, including Radio Crystal Blue and more

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Amy's show is incredibly original because she brings the audience into her world. Her vocals are dynamic and strong, her piano playing - fast and rhythmic, and her guitar work - emotionally fulfilling.