Amy Jo - a biography
Amy Jo is an enigma. A Morecambe Bay resident who sounds like a Nashville-era Taylor Swift, and a singer whose capabilities and lyrical sophistication belie her 24 years, Amy Jo writes songs straight from the heart. A veteran and winner of countless talent contests as a teen, Amy Jo cites Gabrielle, Tori Kelly, Duffy and, the aforementioned, Taylor Swift as influences, but it’s her unique take on life’s own adventures that mark her out from the pack: songs like Coming Close – “Almost went to a Hollywood party/And nearly met Elton John/Thought by now that I’d have moved out/But I still haven’t done” about the joys/pitfalls of not quite getting there, and Shoulder Pads – “This shouldn’t work but you’re the right kind of wrong/Two different worlds so I’ll play along” – about the attraction of opposites, have such an instant, classic feel, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’ve been knocking around the house for years. Either that, or you’ll think Amy Jo’s somehow wired herself into an illegal songwriting machine.
Born on the brink of a new millennium, Amy Jo wasn’t quite brought up as an only child – she has two step-brothers from her mother’s previous marriage, although they are seven years apart, and moved out before she became a teenager – but had such a nurturing relationship with her mother and father that a move from teenage prodigy to fully-formed singer-songwriter was executed with the ease of an acrobat. Indeed, her parents encouraged Amy Jo’s musical activities to such an extent that writing alone in her bedroom turned into talent contests, and then support slots with artists like Scouting for Girls, Stooshe and Rick Astley, and further stage appearances, performing alongside Fratellis and Alexander O’Neil, The Vamps, Professor Green and Pixie Lott. Having said all that, Amy Jo was very much the driving force of her own destiny. “I remember saving up a £1000 to record some demos so I could send them to important people in the music industry,” she remembers now. “And then, when I recorded the songs and I had the CD in my hand, I remember being really excited. And then I thought, I don’t know who to send it to!”
Amy Jo’s first musical memories hark back to listening to Maria Carey’s Daydream album “non-stop” in her mother’s car, but it was Welsh neo-soul, chanteuse, Duffy, that proved to be the catalyst for her nascent song-writing career. “Warwick Avenue was the second song I ever sang live,’ she says now. “I entered a local talent contest with the song and I ended up winning the online vote.” Correspondingly, it was Duffy’s debut album, Rockferry, that solidified her “love for female songwriters, soulful tones and honest lyrics,” before Jess Glyn’s I Cry When I Laugh kept Amy Jo “believing in her dreams” and Tori Kelly’s Unbreakable Smile became a tangible pop/R ‘n’ B influence. And then there’s the undeniable impact of pop-country iconoclast, Taylor Swift. “I was blown away by how songs written thousands of miles away in a different country,” ponders Amy Jo, “could feel like they were written for me.”
Amy Jo first picked up a guitar at the age of twelve, when her best friend taught her four chords. That night she wrote her very first song, and subsequently spent the bulk of her teenage years, having piano and guitar lessons after school, refining her expertise until she was an accomplished musician. Naturally, herein lies the rub: our intrepid heroine has written sans participation for so long now – hey, her teenage years are but a distant memory! – that it seems churlish to mention that Amy Jo has recently been co-writing with John Beck (Corinne Bailey Rae, Tamsin Archer), Tim Hutton (Ian Brown, Prodigy), and Grant Black (Van Morrison, Craig David, Run DMC, Sarah Brightman, Olly Murs). Ever more recently, producers Julian Hinton (Trevor Horn, Robbie Williams, Rumer) and Simon Bloor (Seal, Birdy, Will Heard) have taken her delightful musings to the next level, and the results are due to be released on her Songs From The Bay EP later this year.
Coming Close, the opening salvo on Songs From The Bay, is a magnificently-dextrous lyrical beast – ‘Coming close is the hardest part/Never knew a silver medal could break your heart’ – and the only co-write here (with Grant Black), and elsewhere, you’ll find references to 2019 American romantic teen drama, After, on the R ‘n’ B-tinged, Shoulder Pads – ‘You’re the Hardin to my Tessa’ - and wistful Valentine Day ruminations on February 14th – ‘Thank you to all me exes, for all the cards and presents/But this year I’m glad it’s only me’ - a brilliantly- evoked realisation of what it’s like to be alone on the most romantic day of the year. Best of all, though, is Bad Day, a country-folk rocker that focusses in on a day when Amy Jo ventured outdoors “looking not so great” and ended up bumping into just about everyone she knew. ‘If only you’d seen me last Friday night/Red lipstick and a dress that fits just right’, she gently hollers – if anyone can gently holler, it’s Amy Jo – and one is reminded of the little things in life, the casual observations and quiet reflections that make up our days. Even the bad ones.
Amy Jo releases her Songs from the Bay EP later this year.
© Jane Savidge, September 2022.