Since leaving Fable, her 2002 debut album, folk singer-songwriter Amy Speace has been hailed for her deeply emotional and empathetic songs. She doesn’t shy away from examining even the most painful parts of her personal history, as she does on her latest album, Tucson, which will be released on April 8 via Proper Records. Today (February 4), she presents the single “Cottonwood” with American Songwriter.
The album originated in July and August 2020, when “I was in a treatment center called Cottonwood Tucson, and it was for trauma,” Speace told American Songwriter on a recent call. She went because “things got overwhelming and it became clear that I couldn’t deal with it on my own, and I couldn’t deal with it just in the context of the therapy I was going through. My therapist said to me, “I think it’s time for you to go into residential treatment for trauma and dig into some of this stuff from your past.”
“The first week, I was just terrified, because I really didn’t know what it was about, and I was away from my son and my husband,” Space continues. “It had been quite an emotional upheaval and I was scared. They had a piano in one of the rooms, and I sat down and this song came out about the truth: what was going on, what I was counting on. These songs, for the most part, spread. She titled the album Tucson after the town in Arizona where his treatment center is located.
Although Speace had little free time as she progressed through the treatment program, she diligently jotted down lyric ideas in a journal. By the time she was ready to return home to Nashville, the songs were fully formed. “Most of the time when I write songs, I spend a lot of time tinkering with them. I let the inspiration flow and then I spend months editing,” she says.
Although Space takes on serious subjects in “Cottonwood” and the rest of Tucson‘s songs, she notes that there is still a sense of optimism in them. “I was dealing with trauma from sexual abuse and abandonment. But the thing is, it’s not a depressing record for me,” she says, adding that it’s because she had ” the opportunity and the space to heal that stuff. I mean, it’s a lifetime of healing, really. But I was really lucky to have had two months of really, really intense work there. above, so that not only did I understand it, I understood the patterns of behavior that I had carried with me all my life that were maladaptive.
Ultimately, Space says, “There was something really liberating about writing the songs.” She hopes the stories she tells will help others, too. “A lot of people said, ‘There are so many men and women who have been through this that the songs would really open the door to conversations. “”
Space always seemed destined to connect with others through the arts. She was fortunate to grow up in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where the public high school ranks among the best in the nation for arts studies. From an early age, she took extensive singing, piano, clarinet and saxophone lessons. Simultaneously, she became heavily involved in her school’s drama department. She dreamed of becoming a Broadway actress or an opera singer.
By the time she went to college, however, Space had heeded warnings about the unpredictability of an artistic career, so she aimed for a more stable life as a journalist or teacher. At the same time, she continued her singing and acting pursuits – and it soon became clear to everyone that these things were her real passion, and her college advisers eventually urged her to go to New York and try her luck in finding a more creative way. After graduating, she took their advice, moving to New York’s bohemian Greenwich Village neighborhood and found success as a Shakespearean stage actress.
Music remained important to Speace and she continued to sing, but it wasn’t until the age of 25 that she finally began writing her own material, inspired by a breakup with a rock musician whose she had borrowed the guitar. She wrote ten songs in quick succession. “It sort of spilled out,” she says. She threw herself into New York’s vibrant acoustic music scene, landing gigs at famous venues such as The Bitter End and The Living Room.
However, landing a record deal wouldn’t prove as easy for Speace as the songwriters and performers were: “I was doing the label tour in New York and one guy said, ‘You know, you you don’t really look like what’s on the radio. You kinda look like Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins. That’s never gonna happen for you.
The vindication came when Judy Collins herself became a fan of Space’s work. “It was just such a weird coincidence,” Space says. Collins even recorded one of Speace’s songs, “Weight of the World”, in 2010. Speace signed to Collins’ own Wildflower label, and they toured together, which led to further openings for Tom. Paxton, Shawn Colvin, Guy Clark and Nanci. Griffith.
Finally convinced that a career in music was her true calling, Space moved to Nashville, where her folksy singer-songwriter style fit right in. With the release of Tucson, she will have ten full albums (and two EPs) to her credit. All were well received, both by critics and audiences during its shows in North America, the UK and Europe.
“I think I’m vulnerable in the way I sing and write, and I think people relate to it because I’m honest,” Space says of her success. “I’m not trying to be hip. I don’t try to be what’s current. I’m just trying to speak my truth.
This approach is certainly evident on Tucson. “Recovering from addiction is a huge, important part of my story,” Speace says, and that, in turn, has given him immense empathy for others, which comes through in his songs. “My depression and anxiety comes from sexual trauma. A lot of women are terrified of speaking out and so they hold back their stories and they get addicted to drugs and alcohol, or they act out and end up in jail. Or, people who have trauma are misdiagnosed as bipolar or borderline personality disorder or narcissism and things like that but sometimes it’s just trauma that masks all the other symptoms so on all materials of this record, I want to emphasize that there are places to go and there are people who have been there.
Help is available 24 hours a day at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
Photo by Neilson Hubbard/Ivey PR