- 27 Nov 20
The Belfast based singer with the golden voice – who lost her mother to suicide – releases her debut EP Intangible today. But – bugger lockdown! – she is now longing to get back out on the road again. Interview: Jess Murray.
Amy Montgomery is a star in the making. At just 20 years of age, the Belfast-based singer's infectious, upbeat disposition suggests that – while the rest of us are trudging through Lockdown Part II – she’s managed to keep her spirits high throughout a tumultuous year.
Having embarked on a plethora of live dates in 2019, including a tour of Australia, Amy was initially thankful for the downtime that the lockdown brought, back in March.
“I was pretty grateful,” she explains, "to take a breather from performance-land and focus on releases, music videos and songwriting. It can be hard to find time for writing when you’re busy touring and playing gigs.”
It was a twist of fate at Kent's Black Deer Festival which led to her Australian adventure. Amy’s genuine enthusiasm and appreciation for the spontaneity of life on the road shine through as she explains how it happened.
“There was an artist playing at the festival, an Australian artist called William Crighton,” she recalls brightly. "He sent me a little Instagram message and told me he had heard us play from across the main field. He said that he loved my sound – and that’s how it started. If he wasn’t right there at that moment, and I wasn’t right there performing, the tour wouldn’t have happened.”
BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF PEOPLE
The result is that Amy Montgomery has begun to forge strong links in Australia. She has been making a name for herself down under, earning a coveted national radio playlist slot on the renowned Double J and signing with Australian publisher Source Music. Her debut EP Intangible – released this week – was mixed by Melbourne-based producer Kyran Daniels.
“Being an Irish artist,” she says, "and coming so far to play, it was natural to form a connection with the people at the shows, and with the people in the music industry that we met there too.”
While she acknowledges it’s important to build your name in Ireland, Amy urges Irish artists to go further afield.
“I would definitely encourage artists to look at other places and to know that they have the ability and that their music is worth it,” Amy Montgomery says. "So many people put themselves in a box and their biggest dream is to play an Irish festival. All musicians in Ireland should dream bigger.
"Not to diminish the amazingness of Ireland,” she adds with a grin.
Indeed it was by busking around her home country that Amy developed the confidence to take on the world. She feels that she gained a better understanding of people along the way too.
“I learned not to judge people for a start,” she smiles. "At the end of the day, every passerby, or everyone you meet, who stops and says hello, or gives you a compliment, they’re probably drawn to the healing that music brings.”
On the EP Amy Montgomery’s thought-provoking lyrics deal with mental health issues. Amy lost her mother Christine to suicide when she was 16.
"She struggled on and off with depression for 20 years," she explains. "I only started to become aware of it when I was old enough to understand it and understand why she acted the way that she did at times."
Amy recalls the confusion and panic when her mother went missing.
"We sent out search parties. It was quite a traumatic lead up to losing her. My Dad and brother told me in person she had died."
Amy believes suicide should not be hidden away by those who are feeling suicidal or those who have lost a loved one to suicide.
"I don't mind people bringing it up with me. It's important for people to know that loss has happened in your life. Loss has a really huge impact on us whether we want it to or not."
"I have not experienced suicidal thoughts but I totally understand that it can be really difficult to reach out."
Amy feels strongly about the need for on-going public discourse on the issue. She sees her music as a powerful medium, not just to speak about it but to actively encourage the listener to open up.
“Perhaps it’ll speak to people in a different way,” she ruminates, "people who maybe didn't think about talking about mental health before. It’s widely talked about online and sometimes on public platforms – but when it comes down to it, the most important place it should be talked about is in an intimate setting. A one-to-one with your friend. Or with a stranger. If everybody did that and spoke about it more intimately with other people, as a nation it would make it a lot better.”
ABUNDANT ON-STAGE ENERGY
While she was writing ‘Anywhere’, Amy says she’d been listening – “on repeat” – to Sia’s ‘Colour The Small One’ .
“It’s something that I always enjoy: the sort of... juxtaposition, when artists mix a beautiful sound with maybe raw or sometimes dark lyrics. That really inspires me.”
On the EP, there is a raw beauty to Amy's powerful voice.
“I think, up to now, I’ve really been enjoying my full rock voice – but with this EP there’s more of a reining-in of my voice, knowing that to be heard, or to be seen, doesn’t mean that I have to use my full rock voice. Sometimes it can be more powerful when you don’t.”
Amy’s abundant on-stage energy comes as no surprise when you consider her early influences.
“It started with the music I grew up with,” she says, "music my Dad would be blaring through the hi-fi. AC/DC, Dolly Parton, Elvis, The Eagles, Black Sabbath… there was a lot of rock! Led Zeppelin!”
Amy Montgomery is also heavily influenced by 90s music matriarch, Alanis Morrisette.
“What really inspires me most about her is her intelligence,” Amy says. "I think when you listen to interviews with people and see how intelligent and interesting they are, that can add another element to your fascination with them.”
BACK TO THE BLACK DEER
Like Alanis Morrisette, Amy Montgomery has a striking, free-spirited aesthetic and a passion for creating captivating visuals – and very engaging music videos.
“During the songwriting process,” she explains, "I usually have like a whole crazy visual in my head, start to finish before I even start writing the song. I don’t know where it comes from or why I do it.”
The beauty of it is that Amy Montgomery is only starting. She promises more exciting videos and releases in 2021 – as well as sharing the Black Deer Festival bill, in June, with one of her musical heroes.
“I’ll play Black Deer on the same stage as Robert Plant, which is pretty cool. I’m shamelessly telling everybody,” Amy says, laughing.
“I’m really ready to go back out there.”
• Intangible is out now. Amy Montgomery plays Ulster Sports Club Belfast on May 8