As so often happens in the course of chatting with area musicians, the whole of Missoula became a welcome third party in a recent interview with singer/songwriter Amy Martin. It’s inevitable. When the conversation turns to questions like “So how did you find your way to Missoula?”, it’s remarkably easy to imagine the community personified as a lush green mother, gathering all comers into her mossy bosom. Give her your inspired, your wanderlusting poets, your honey-piped folkies yearning to sing for their supper.
So how did Amy Martin find Missoula? Born in Iowa, educated at the Illinois Augustana, Martin spent some time in Chicago and a year traveling around South America before falling into the Garden City’s green clutches on a western tour looking for “intentional communities”—as Martin herself explains, an updated way of talking about communes.
“I could just feel it,” Martin explains. “I could just feel that I was being sucked into something cool. I was actually even writing songs on my way over here because I felt like I was on my way to something really good.”
Missoula is often mentioned in terms of being “a launching pad” and “a good home base” for aspiring musicians, and Martin’s attitude towards her adopted home town has something of both.
“I wasn’t really thinking about where my talents would be better served,” she ventures, “but where I’d be happy living. I lived in a big city and it was really overwhelming. What it all comes back down to is that I want to live in a place like this. Here I feel safe and can apply my craft as I choose, and I love it.”
In spite of being a relative newcomer, Martin is in a good position to judge Missoula’s current performing apparatus because she’s played practically everywhere in town: swanky dining spots, hip rock joints and all points in between.
“I try not to have any preconception of ‘who’s going to like this?’ when I walk into a new place,” Martin says. “That’s one thing I’ve learned: You can’t put people in boxes. I know I wouldn’t want to be put in some kind of box based on my appearance or anything else.”
And Missoula has opened up to Amy Martin. Many of the friends she’s made in the music community—among them Mike Freemole, Adam Sherba and Janet Haarvig—have contributed to her debut album, To You, due out in July. Only one of the ten songs to be included consists of just Amy and guitar. The other nine, she explains, are a taste of things to come: a bigger Amy Martin group.
“When you play solo at a cafe or coffee house, you can weave in stories and other personal things. At a bar, you want to see people out there dancing. Playing with a band keeps it fresh.”
Right on, sister.
You can see Amy Martin in both settings this week. She will be playing in Missoula at the Edgewater Lounge Thursday, May 25, the Top Hat on Monday, May 29 and the Black Dog Cafe next Thursday, June 1.