Amy Speace – Swallow Hill, CO

Amy Speace

“That’s a love song,” Amy Speace laughed after playing the title song from her latest record, The Killer In Me, at Denver’s Swallow Hill. “I played that song for my therapist and she said it was the first truly codependent love song. I asked her if I could stop coming, she upped my sessions.”

The songwriter spent the evening joking about her roots, her old hometown of New Jersey and even Pete Seeger while playing tunes both new and old.

“It’s cold to be here in Denver,” she said. “I came from Nashville… when I left my house it was 10 degrees and the entire town was going to shut down from snow, bunch of wusses. As my plane landed the pilot said, ‘Welcome to Denver, it’s -10.’ and I texted everybody I knew in Nashville and said, ‘Shut up.'”

“I’ve been living in the New York City area, and by that I do mean Jersey,” she explained before a new song about her old neighborhood called Manilla Street. “I recently moved down south to Nashville, it’s a totally different environment. I like it mostly but I can’t find good Chinese food and I definitely can’t find a good bagel. I’m considering joining a temple just to find a bagel.”

Before Haven’t Learned a Thing she told a story about a man named Frank that she came across in Maine carrying a huge wooden cross. “I was so fascinated by Frank and the thing is that he said he wanted to have people think about God for five minutes everyday and I grew up as a Catholic and my mom’s mom was one of 18 and she was the only non-nun or priest. We all grew up thinking we had the call, it was terrifying… at this point in my life I’m somewhere between Buddhist and Agnostic and glass is half-full hoping and my mother has got me covered because she’s praying me out of Purgatory, every day.

“Frank and I struck up a friendship and I asked him where he was walking to and he said from Maine to Mexico, clearly crazy. I tell this story because I figure he’s walking in a straight line because I figure if people see him to wave and him and maybe go give him a glass of water and I’d say he wasn’t coming here except since I’ve been telling this story I’ve been getting emails from people who say they’ve seen him. He was last seen in Portland, Oregon and also in Baja so Frank is either going on vacations or I have this image of Frank franchising his act… I wrote this song after a conversation with Mary Gauthier but I like to think of Frank.”

Called back for an impromptu encore of Weight of the World she launched into a final story saying, “I’m on a label owned by the wonderful Judy Collins and she heard me singing this song and she swiped it and I’m happy for that, she’s been singing it around the world at festivals. I’d been hearing that she was doing this and really, if you’re a songwriter what you want is a great voice to sing your songs and Judy Collins is in the top 5 greatest voices of all time. I really wanted to hear this and more importantly I wanted my parents to hear it so my dad could stop being concerned that I’m still paying off student loans.

“So I heard that Judy was going to be at the Newport Folk Festival this year, it was the 40th anniversary and I had been told by her manager when in the set she’d be playing it. So I called my parents and my local radio station was broadcasting live so they could podcast it and we could all listen to it together and it was going to be really exciting. And I had heard from other people how she was introducing this song and told a story about this young songwriter she heard and at the end of the long story she mentioned my name. And right before this song she had done a duet with Joan Baez so Joan was on stage and Pete Seeger was MCing the concert and I’m hearing this on the radio and I’m dying… this is going to be the biggest day of my life as a folk singer, you can’t get any bigger than that. You know, if Bob Dylan had shown up I think I might have died.

“There they are, the three of them and Judy starts the story and my father’s going, ‘Has she said her name yet?’ and my mom’s saying, ‘Shut up, Dan!’ and we’re listening for the moment Judy Collins says ‘Amy Speace’ on the stage of the Newport Folk Festival and just as she’s about to say my name, Pete Seeger interrupts her with a joke.

“I want to say this, my last address before Nashville was Jersey. I’m a Jersey girl, I know Pete Seeger is 90 years old, I know Pete Seeger is the godfather of folk music but I definitely going to kick his ass. You tell that man, ‘If I had a hammer, Pete Seeger.’ Oh yeah, I’m putting it out there.”

Set List
Dog Days
The Killer In Me
Manila Street
Haven’t Learned A Thing
The Real Thing
Weight of the World

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Photos by Nichole Wagner

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