“When you actually live through something real, you realize there are a lot of aspects of love,” says singer-songwriter Amy Stroup. “There’s a lot of pain. It takes courage. There’s something you have to fight for. Actually living a life with someone gets ugly.”
And in that, there is beauty: Amy has been named one of Prairie Home Companion’s “Top 20 Songwriters Under 30” and won a national Peacemaker Award.
Her new CD — “The Other Side of Love Sessions,” in stores on June 28 — compiles the best songs from her previous digital-only EPs and bathes them in a new light.
“All these songs,” she says, “explore different types of love.”
The searching quality of Amy’s music can be traced in part to her inveterate upbringing. Born the child of religious parents in Boston, she spent much of her girlhood traveling. “There’s the military families that move around and the church families that move around,” she jokes.
Under the tutelage of her grandmother’s best friend, she started learning classical piano in second grade. “Every time I learned a new chord, I would write a song to it,” she says. And when she wasn’t writing songs on piano, she was learning to sing in the Church of Christ, a denomination that prefers their music a capella. (“That’s where I learned my harmonies. It’s real pure.”)
When Amy was entering middle school, the family moved to Texas. In seventh grade, she decided to take up the guitar. “My grandmother told me it wasn’t ladylike to play guitar,” she recalls. “I didn’t care.” She sat out back on her six acres of family land, figuring out the chord progressions to Bob Dylan records. She also taught herself half of Jewel’s oeuvre from watching her on MTV Live. Dixie Chicks, Lucinda Williams and Patty Griffin “were my soundtrack growing up. I was organic and self-taught.” This rich stew of influences can all be heard in the music she makes today.
At Lipscomb University in Nashville, she studied classical guitar and marketing, which may not have been such diametrically opposed pursuits as they appear. “I knew the music industry was changing. The record deal was disappearing,” she says. “The next step would be independent and musician driven.”
And so it was: Upon graduation in 2005 she recorded an EP and in 2006 a full-length record, but they didn’t quite sound like music she heard in her head. That breakthrough came with the help of producer Thomas Doeve, who runs Paper Swan studio out of his basement. The first sessions resulted in “Hold on to Heart Love,” a song that captured exactly how she wanted her music to be heard: “Super-honest, underproduced. Organic.” She recorded six more songs, then another EP. Then a third. All in her own name.
Those songs — and more — are collected in the “Other Side of Love Sessions,” and released on CD for the first time. “The traditional label model doesn’t work any more,” she says. “We’re releasing music differently. We’re making iPhone videos and putting them on YouTube. Everything has been organic, grass-roots and hands-on.”