Puremusic interview with Amy LaVere

In the mid-90s somewhere, I was looking for a way out of Germany, either San Diego or back to Nashville. In the 18 months that I'd been gone, brother Jon had partnered up with our brother-in-law Gary Falcon, who'd graduated from road manager to personal manager of Travis Tritt. Jon and Gary had opened up Falcon Goodman Mgt. on Music Row, and were working with a new Country star in the making, Michael Peterson. So, rather than going to San Diego, Jon easily talked me into going back to Nashville.

There was a girl working in the office at the time, and also as a personal assistant to Jon at the house, so I'd see her both places. She was cute, young and flighty; Amy Fant was her name. She'd come from Louisiana or Detroit, or both, had a new-age mom who was a healer. She had a musical yearning I couldn't put a finger on, exactly. She wanted to jam, but she didn't really play. She wanted to sing, but I didn't really know if she could, nor do I recall ever hearing her sing much.

I was kind of taking care of the place and writing songs, figuring out what I wanted to do, having spent the last year and a half playing as a duo with my brother Billy in Germany, before we drove each other crazy the way we always did, eventually. I remember there came a time that Amy was starting to hang out down on Lower Broadway, in downtown Nashville. That was way before it was much of a tourist attraction, before they cleaned it up. I was aware there was a rockabilly scene going on down there, but I wasn't really hip to it.

She fell in with a couple of young guys in the scene, and I have a vague memory of helping her move in with one of them, or maybe more. Nobody knew at the time that she was soon to elope with a guitarist and bass player named Gabe Kudela. None of us knew she'd started to pick up some upright bass pointers from Gabe and from Jason Brown, who played upright for Hank Williams III. She just up and split one weekend, and we found out she'd eloped. The guys at the management company were a little burned up about it, but I figured people can do whatever the hell they want to, as long as they're not really hurting somebody. Amy certainly had a gypsy spirit, so no one was really shocked or anything.

We thought she'd left town, but apparently she stayed around a while, learning the bass on the East side of town, before that section became fashionable. But eventually she and Gabe migrated to Memphis, and I heard about that through the grapevine. She'd even call me once in a while, sometimes years apart. I came to know that she and Gabe had a rockabilly act that was playing around Memphis; that really surprised me, since upright bass is a very challenging instrument to play well. Just physically speaking, it's big. A few years ago, I was asking a bass player friend from Memphis if he knew Gabe and Amy. He said sure, they played around town. "Is she good on the bass?" I asked. "Yeah, she's good, especially in certain keys, you know. Tell you what, the way she moves when she plays it, and slaps and spins that thing around? It looks good, really good."

I hadn't thought much about her in a little while, and I got something from a publicist friend on a musician named Amy LaVere. Memphis guru Jim Dickinson (pianist/producer nonpareil, and the father of Luther and Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars) was touting her as someone you'd definitely be hearing from, saying that she triple slapped the bass like Willie Dixon. He'd just played on her new record, which he said sounded like a cross between Hank Williams and Norah Jones. Heady stuff, for sure. I checked out the photos on the artist's website, they were glamorous. But I was puzzled by a note from my publicist friend, who said, "I think you know this person." But I'd checked out the photos and the site, and told her I didn't know this Amy LaVere. "But she used to work at Falcon Goodman Mgt." "Oh my God, this is Amy Fant!" I said. "When I knew her, she couldn't play a lick--now she's playing with Jim Dickinson?" And that was hardly all. On top of having a new record, she'd landed two movie roles. One as Wanda Jackson in the soon to break Walk The Line, and another as Christina Ricci's friend in the upcoming Black Snake Moan, also starring Samuel Jackson and Justin Timberlake. Unbelievable.

So, it was great to call Amy and catch up, and put her on the cover of this issue. I went to Memphis and caught a really beat gig where she was playing a Christmas party with Jason Freeman and Paul Buchignani. Unfortunately, the lighting was very bad, and so no useable video was achieved. But make no mistake, she was singing and playing her ass off. I did shoot Amy on our trolley ride, demonstrating her pitch as a tour guide at the legendary Sun Studios. You'll find that and a charming conversation with a rising star in the pages to follow.
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