Amy Rigby has been the source of much musical joy for me since I discovered her, way too late, about a decade ago. “Knapsack,” “Dancing with Joey Ramone,” “Keep It to Yourself,” “Like Rasputin,” “Balls,” “The Summer of My Wasted Youth.” Any of these would be a career-defining achievement for a singer-songwriter, but she has dozens more.
Born in Pittsburgh, Amy spent much of her career in the New York music scene, and now resides in a hickish region of la belle France. I know it is hickish because I read Amy’s blog, where her brainy, cynical (and yet romantic) wit is in evidence in every entry.
She writes of the joys and frustrations of being a musical act of a certain age, of living in rural France, dealing with rude bureaucrats and check-out girls. In one entry she lends her unique perspective to some subtle distinctions of French life
It’s comprehending the difference between “péypère” – sort of semi-retired, laidback, easygoing (masculin) and “mémère” slovenly, letting-it-all-go, sluttish, bad-humored (feminin) and ideally, straddling the two because going in the one direction is boring and going too far in the other direction is depressing.
Of course, she is still a working musician, and much of the blog deals with touring … typically in unreliable vehicles, and always nowadays with her current love and musical partner, Stiff Records legend Wreckless Eric. In her latest entry, she tells of having to conduct a phone interview with Herald Scotland while broken down on the A1. Trucks whizzing by. “Cannae you talk now?”
Most musicians, confronted with the fact that their audience, loyal and discerning as it is, will never grow large enough to make them rich and famous, or even financially secure, decide at some point to call it a day. Amy’s blog is a beautiful account of the highs and lows of keeping at it into your fifties, of saying “fuck that. There is nothing else I’d rather be doing.”
I will now refrain from saying how great her blog is and just let the reader sample for his or her damn self:
Wish we could’ve hung around in Scotland – in between Glasgow or Edinburgh, two of my favorite cities. Instead we had to head on down to Hyde. The promoter called and said the pub had been broken into the night before. He jokingly said maybe that would bring more people out, so they could get a look at the crime scene. We should have known right there it was going to be a tough night. From the barbed wire and old tires around the junkyard entrance next door, to the dogshit scattered across the astro-turfed pub “garden”, to the load-in up a wet metal fire escape because the police were busy dusting the inside stairs for fingerprints, to the leftover scraps of astroturf covering the surface of the stage, to the panicky soundman, to the greasy yet sticky surface of everything in the place – it was hard not to feel depressed. You know you’re in trouble when you look to the resident heckler for affirmation.
But next night was wonderful, Kitchen Garden Cafe in Birmingham – like being in a weird aunt’s living room. Odd garden furniture, slate on the floor and a relaxed feeling. We’d played there once before and saw familiar faces this time. It felt like everyone was on our side. The only thing that had changed was that the copy of Tim Rice’s autobiography, a massive tome I’d used as a keyboard bench booster seat last time, was missing from the bookshelf. I had to make do with a hardback copy of Beach Music.
Now we’re in the Norfolk countryside, taking a rest until Brighton, London and Manchester – tomorrow, Friday and Saturday (and Winchester on Tuesday). I often feel like Bonnie and Clyde where they hole up at CW Moss’s dad’s place when we stop for a few days out on the road. A couple of steps ahead of the law, somewhere on the sliding scale between doomed and most wanted.