Singer-Songwriter Amy Petty Glad to Be Home in Michigan, Back Where She Belongs

Thursday, August 1, 2019, 7:30 am
By: 
Christopher A. Wardell

Amy Petty takes the stage at 7 p.m. Friday as part of this week's Summer Concert Series at the Ann Street Plaza.

If you’ve not heard Amy Petty’s music, you’re not alone.

She certainly understands and wants you to know it’s OK, and she will not hold it against you. After all, the Michigan native and musician spent a few years out of state, and has just begun reacquainting herself with new listeners.

With her smoky, sultry vocals that go from a deep baritone one second to the high-pitched vibrato of, say, Joni Mitchell the next second, Petty’s range is certainly there. Along with a guitar, Petty makes music that’s both troubling and uplifting, as any great artist will do.

Petty will perform as part of the East Lansing Summer Concert Series at 7 p.m. Friday at the Ann Street Plaza, on the corner of Albert Street and M.A.C. Avenue.

Petty grew up in Royal Oak and is a classically trained singer who spent the bulk of her time on the East Coast touring and performing in New England. It was during this time she got her start as a singer-songwriter, and recorded for a St. Louis-based label where she released two albums.

She decided it was time to be closer to her family when she was expecting her first child.

“When my husband and I moved back to Michigan, my intention was to continue performing and recording and getting to know the Michigan music scene,” Petty said. “Then, I found out my daughter was on the way. It was a good time to take a break, reflect, reset. She’s four years old now, and I'm chomping at the bit to make some music. So now is the time to re-emerge. I live in Saginaw, but consider myself a regional artist.”

Classical music shaped her early career

With a degree in classical voice from Oakland University, Petty spent most of her 20s concentrating on opera. She admits she loves opera, but other influences soon crept into her music including classic rock and artists from the (now defunct) Lilith Fair, which centered around women in popular music.

“I definitely enjoy singing classically and I love music in that style, but I felt like I wasn't using all of the tools in my toolbox,” Petty said. “I loved the idea of writing songs, creating music and making something new the way I wanted to do it. Classical music is definitely a major influence in my sound, along with ’70s rock (thanks to her father), ’80s music (Cyndi Lauper and Whitney Houston and U2 in particular) and all the Lilith Fair ladies.”

Petty went on to add, “When I was 19, my friend went away for the summer and lent me her car and her guitar. That was when I really started to discover that guitar made sense to me and was so versatile. My friends bought me a guitar for my 21st birthday and I've been playing ever since.”

With two albums recorded under a label, Petty found herself in challenging and unfamiliar waters recording as an independent artist. Her next album, “The Darkness of Birds,” her first in nine years, was funded through a Kickstarter project, which she admits was scary and all-consuming. She found the process to be a bit overwhelming, but she’s looking forward to the music that will come out of it.

“I've been taking inventory of my life a lot lately in an effort to ensure I’m not wasting my time,” Petty said. “I'm not missing anything important while my daughter is still little, and I'm not burning myself out. I’ve been making a list of everything I do, everything I’m responsible for, everything that makes up the things I do in my life.”

“Examining my life in that way has helped me realize that, besides cuddling with my daughter, creating music in the recording studio is my very favorite thing to do in the whole world,” Petty added. “If I could organize my life to do only that, I absolutely would.”

For her show at the East Lansing Summer Concert Series, Petty will be backed by some veterans of the local music scene including Donny Brown (The Verve Pipe) on drums, Andy Reed (The Legal Matters, The Verve Pipe) on bass and Mike Robertson (Mike Robertson and the Broken Hearted Saviors) on guitar.

“They are fantastic musicians and awesome people, and I love that I get to work with them,” Petty said. “I will also be playing several solo acoustic songs.”

Petty hopes her music translates well to a larger audience, and reveals no venue or stage is too big or too small for her.

“The venue doesn’t matter much to me,” Petty said. “I’ve played everything over the years. House concerts, major performance halls, festivals, beach stages, farmers markets. In the end, I just sing my heart and guts out. I really love summer concert series. They always have such a cool energy. I’ve heard great things about the series in East Lansing and I can’t wait to be there!”

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