Originally from Harrisonburg, Virginia, Amy Martin spent the majority of her adult life in her beloved hometown. She found a beautiful community of like-minded individuals, but as a queer Christian, she often felt the pain of denial by the institutional leaders of her church and the folks just outside of her social spheres. On her upcoming album, Martin explores the breaking point between investing in a problematic, yet beloved place, and moving on to fully realize one’s self and one’s dreams.
Martin was raised on music and started singing karaoke with her mother at age six. She was first inspired by female powerhouse singers like Martina McBride and Ella Fitzgerald, but after finishing high school she found herself fronting a bluegrass band called Many Nights Ahead. For ten years the band toured regionally and built a loyal local following, and Martin’s own musical voice began merging the line between string band and soul. As the band began to wind down, Martin started to question the possibilities that other places had to offer.
In 2021, Martin packed up her car and moved to Denver, immediately booking herself at every gig she could find to try and plant some roots in the local music community. Before leaving, she wrote a love song for her home, called “Sweet Virginia”, which she released as a single. On her upcoming record, there are some less flattering depictions of the place, including a song called “Antebellum Town”, written after the January 6th riot at the capital. “The sun don’t rise here anymore / So it’s quittin’ time and I’m out the door / What’s lost can’t always be found / There ain’t nothin’ left in this racist town” she sings over music heavily inspired by the very region she is leaving behind. The dichotomy in the songs is bittersweet for Martin, who says “Virginia has given me so much, and it will always hold a piece of my heart. But in the back of my head, I could imagine a sense of freedom that I had never experienced. A place where I could hold my partner’s hand down the street, or send my kid to a school that didn’t deny their identity”
Throughout her upcoming album, Martin documents her decision to begin living life by her own design in various ways. On “Looking for the Lord”, she dives into the chaos of a past vice, singing “So you pour a drink / Shoot it on down / You’re lookin’ for the Lord / Where the devil’s found”. On “It’s All Right”, she reckons with the inevitability of her divorce and the beauty of letting go when you both know the time has come.
After leaving it all behind, Martin came right back to the Shenandoah Valley for the making of her upcoming album, with Grammy-winning producer and musician Chance McCoy, formerly of Old Crow Medicine Show. The two of them spent a week in West Virginia recording eight hours a day in McCoy’s home studio. “It was very organic, there was no pressure. It just legitimately felt like two musicians on the same wavelength making something they could both feel proud of”, Martin says of the experience. Also featured on the album is harmonica player Austin Shifflett of the Many Nights Ahead band.
On her upcoming album, Martin displays compassionate confidence, born from years of developing not only a musical voice but a certain outlook on life. “I feel like every song is saying something – it’s a message”, she says, “And within that, there is a message that I’ve found my stride as an artist and as a person. I am sitting in the pocket of myself. I’m finding out what it is to love, and to be true to myself”