The career of singer/songwriter Amy Stroup has been, in her words, “snowballing” during the last few years. With several solo albums and a throwback duet album, she’s proved her mettle by opening for friend and collaborator Katie Herzig on tour, which stops at the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix on Saturday. Stroup recently talked with The State Press during a phone interview about the difference between “TUNNEL” and other projects, her music featured on television and most importantly her affinity for cassette tapes.
The State Press: You’re the opening act for Katie Herzig for her tour. Is this the first time you’ve been on the road promoting yourself alone?
Amy Stroup: Yeah, it’s been about three years since I’ve done an extensive tour. I did a West Coast run this summer, but other than that, I’ve just played mostly one-off shows. In-between touring, I recorded a new record called “TUNNEL” with my solo stuff when we were off the road. Katie is a good friend from the Ten Out of Tenn tour and some of my solo stuff. So, she asked me to open for her new album.
SP: How different is touring with your “TUNNEL” material from the more up-tempo Sugar & The Hi Lows (a band she plays in with Trent Dabbs) material?
AS: It’s pretty different. Sugar & The Hi Lows is sparked by Motown and other throwback records, and we wanted the right songs to put in that feeling or you can dance to it. While, with this record, it’s definitely more introspective and melodic.
SP: You head back to the group once you’re done opening for her. How jarring will that be?
AS: Yeah, I love it. I love doing both. Ingrid Michaelson is a good friend, and she asked us to tour with her again after the end of the last tour we did with her. Trent and I sing on her record, so it was a natural thing. But, I’m really looking forward to singing the new songs from “TUNNEL” because I don’t get to do that a lot. I’m taking pretty much a full band sound. I’ll have drummer, a piano (and) guitar player, and I’ll be playing guitar.
SP: How easy was the songwriting process on this album, since it’s somewhat of a departure for you?
AS: It definitely came pretty naturally. At the end of the day, you got Sugar & The Hi Lows, my solo stuff and the songs I write for other people, so I just love chasing good songs, and that’s what I did with this record. I played with some of my favorite people and intentionally wrote with collaborators.
SP: What do you prefer: Playing locally in Nashville or taking your music on the road?
AS: I like both. When you take your music to other cities, every city is different, it has their own personality. I like finding unexpected places. I remember we played a show in Minneapolis, Minn., and had no idea the amount of fans that were there. I have a lot of good friends in Southern California, and I love getting out there and playing a West Coast show. (pause) How is Phoenix? I’ve never been there before.
SP: It’s an interesting place to be. It definitely has a bustling music scene. We have a lot of good venues for artists, like the Crescent Ballroom, or the Marquee Theatre in Tempe. We have a record label that puts out their music on cassette. There’s a unique identity here overall.
You got on the top album chart on iTunes in February. How’d you manage that success?
AS: I actually have no idea. I feel like the last couple of years have been really snowballing, rolling the snowball and collecting fans, one show at a time. I co-funded a company called Milkglass Creative, and we try to have a unique approach to releasing our records. We’re traditionally a visual company, so we do a lot of graphic design and branding for other artists. We release a lot of visual and online and video content and are responsive to fans. I really do care that the songs are out there and people hear them. You hear stories about how songs have impacted people and we try to put it in a really easy way where everyone can hear it.
SP: Your music gets featured on shows a lot. Do you remember the first time it happened?
AS: I definitely do. The first one on television was “Hold Onto Hope Love.” It was on an ABC show called “Brothers & Sisters” in a firework scene, where the couple was eating dinner on a building. We knew it was gonna air, so a couple of friends had a party, and we all watched it and rewinded it. … (Laughs) It doesn’t get old having songs on shows and trailers. I love seeing songs being used to tell other people’s stories.
AS: (laughs) It was kinda just nostalgia. A lot (of) people like vinyl, but I grew up making mix tapes. There’s no rules to the music business, so I thought it’d be cool to make a tape for those who still have tape players in their cars or who still have a Walkman lying around. Also, the new record has some ’80s undertones, so what is better to listen to an ’80s record than on tape?
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