MUSIC - Levon Helm's girl makes Scottish debut

AMY HELM was born into musical royalty.

Loading Comments
n Amy Helm plays two shows at this year's Celtic Connections
n Amy Helm plays two shows at this year's Celtic Connections

The daughter of Levon Helm, the drummer with The Band, and singer-songwriter Libby Titus, it would seem inevitable she'd end up in music.

But the singer admits she wasn't sure if it was her true calling.

"I definitely went through different phases with my music and considered not pursuing it at times," says Amy, who'll make her first-ever Scottish appearances with two shows at this year's Celtic Connections festival.

"My dad always insisted I come back to it, he was funny about that and he did not want to see me walk away from it. He knew how much I loved it and wanted to cultivate it. Like any parent, he pushed me to pursue what I loved, which was music."

Amy worked closely with her father, who passed away last year from cancer. She co-produced his 2007 solo record, Dirt Farmer, and appeared with his regular band at the Midnight Rambles, a long-running series of public shows that took place at Levon Helm's home in Woodstock, in upstate New York.

One of Amy's two gigs this coming weekend will attempt to capture the vibe of those shows, with Sunday seeing the Roaming Roots Revue at the Royal Concert Hall. Amy will be joined on stage by Beth Orton, Lau and Scottish singer Rachel Sermanni to perform their own tracks and songs from Levon's back catalogue.

For Amy, the success of the Rambles was always due to the spirit between the acts.

"Every Ramble was always a master class," he recalls.

"Just sitting on the stage, taking in what my dad was doing, and absorbing all of that passion and integrity with the music was amazing.

My dad was a great inspiration because he didn't want everyone to be checking him out, but listening to everyone alongside him and thinking how good they were doing. I saw that time and time again, he made people feel confident about themselves."

Amy has plenty of reasons to feel confident in her own work, too. She formed the folk band Ollabelle several years ago, who have released four albums. While they're now on a temporary hiatus, she's working on her debut solo record, which should be released this spring.

There'll be plenty of material from that played at Amy's solo gig tomorrow at the O2 ABC. The album is a project Amy's been focused on for years.

"I'd record a couple of songs when I came off the road, and I'm very excited about finishing it," she says.

"My friend Byron Issacs [also in Ollabelle] produced the record, and he made some choices that pushed the record into different places sonically than I would have thought of.

"It has much more of a rock n' roll edge and a more modern edge than the Ollabelle records have, so that was fun to approach the songs with that kind of musical landscape to it."

Away from music, Amy's a busy woman. She's regularly been involved in a New York charity called Musicians On Call, which sees bands and singers perform in hospitals. She's also a mum to two young boys, and admits juggling family life with touring can prove tough.

"Touring a lot as a mother can be difficult," she admits.

"You're trying to make sure you're back home with the kids and give them the time they need as well as being out there playing gigs. It's taken some adjustment for me time wise, but I'm still hoping to do as much work as I can over the years."

Although this is Amy's first trip to Scotland, she has already heard great things about the Celtic Connections festival.

"I'm really looking forward to it and I'm hoping to play with some incredible musicians," she says.

"My friends who have played in Scotland have always said the crowds have been great and they've had fantastic experiences. I know that I'll be playing with singer/songwriter Roddy Hart, who's put together a backing band for me, and Beth Orton's an amazing talent."

And her solo set will also feature a fitting tribute to her late father as well.

"I feel a strong pull to incorporating the songs that he taught me," she adds.

"It's a nice way to feel connected to him, and also to carry on the tradition of making music that he'd instilled in me and so many others."

l Amy Helm, O2 ABC, tomorrow, £16, 7.30pm and the Roaming Roots Revue, Royal Concert Hall, Sunday, £16-£19, 7.30pm

Arts and Entertainment

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on Evening Times on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.


Have you got a story?

Contact the news desk on 0141 302 6520 or email
Michelle McManus

Michelle McManus

Sussed in the City

why I wanted to be She-Ra Princess of Power or Morten Harket from A-Ha




Janice Bell

Janice Bell

You couldn’t make up half the stuff that happens to PA Janice Bell- some of the jams she gets herself into are worth a story or two.

Games news:

Putting the world to rights

Gail's Gab

The ridiculous state funeral awarded to the bones of Richard the third.

Cat’s Eyes on Glasgow

Cat’s Eyes on Glasgow

Cat Cubie’s job is to find and share with you the fabulous things the city has to offer, from gigs to gastro.