Dirtie Blonde Biography
"It" is the release of Dirtie Blonde's debut album, due in the spring of 2006 on Jive Records. "It" is Amie's opportunity to reach people with her depiction of a young woman's challenge to be who she is amid vulnerability, insomnia and snakes in the grass. "It" is her chance to play for thousands of people with longtime friend and guitarist Jay Dmuchowski, guitarist Sean Kipe, bassist Dean Moore and drummer Tim Perez.
Despite the abject emotional state of songs like "Officially in Love" -- "Don't let me down/ I'm officially in love with you now/ I got everything to lose" -- and "Pride" -- "Say goodbye to me tonight/ Cause it's over this time/ He's like a bridge on fire/ And you … your own demise" -- the album is persistently upbeat. Amie paints her naked insecurity, loneliness and frustration with a palette of monster hooks and stacked harmonies. Even when confronting the basest of betrayers ("Karma Boy"), she can't seem to escape a catchy melody. "Walk Over Me," "Outta My Bed" and "Change the Water" are damn-near-perfect pop songs.
"When I was growing up, my favorite records were the ones that made me want to dance around my room in my underwear," Amie explains. "I wanted to make a record that combined the emotional, singer-songwriter stuff with the energy of a band that rocked out."
Amie's room was in Stamford, Conn., and though she hooked up with Sean, Dean and Tim in Los Angeles, this album was recorded in Midtown Manhattan and Amie cut her teeth playing at New York clubs like Arlene's Grocery after leaving the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music to write songs and tend bar. "I moved to New York when I was 17," she notes. "I grew up a half hour away and I always loved the city."
At the age of six, she began appearing in musical theater productions in her hometown. By then she was also becoming a classic rock aficionado, with particular emphasis on Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. She next fell under the sway of singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos, Ani DiFranco, Fiona Apple, Elliott Smith and, especially, Jeff Buckley, about whom she says, "He made me realize there was no reason for self-censorship in my songs."
Amie started writing songs in fourth grade. "My parents were really unhappy together, and I'd write about that," she confides. "I first I kept a diary, but then I started writing these songs for myself, angry, angsty, I-hate-mom/I-hate-dad kinds of things. I'd sing them into this little tape recorder." Amie was miserable in school. "I was failing. I simply didn't care. I always thought I was going to be famous – no one could tell me differently – so I couldn't see how school was relevant to my life," she continues. So, at 15, she enrolled in an arts-oriented boarding school near Boston, where she sang all day every day and taught herself to play guitar.
Before heading off to school, she'd started writing songs with Jay Dmuchowski. They'd met when Amie worked as a camp counselor with his sister. "We had a band that played gigs at Marty's, a trashy nightclub in Portchester," she informs. "Jay and I wrote so easily together. We had this amazing musical companionship and we became best friends. After I got out of school, Jay and I would gig around New York, just the two of us and our guitars."
"I spent a year in bed smoking pot and eating Taco Bell," Amie recalls right after leaving college. She settled into a groove of writing, gigging and making drinks at various Manhattan hot spots. She fended off bad deals and unwanted advances for so long that she started to wonder if she would ever connect with the audience she believed was out there for her.
Amie was "discovered" during a solo show when a scout working for producer Billy Mann came to see an act she was opening for and left more impressed by Amie than the headliner. Mann set her up at his studio and introduced her to production team MachoPsycho, aka Nikey Olovson and Robin Lynch, natives of Gothenburg, Sweden, perhaps best known for their work with Pink and Jessica Simpson.
Much of the album's immediacy can be attributed to the speed of its creation. "We recorded the whole thing in 12 days," Amie reports. "I'd be at the studio all day until I had to go to work, I'd tend bar all night, and then I'd be back at the studio first thing in the morning. I didn't really sleep, which is partly why my voice sounds so raspy. But I loved it. That's how I like to work; that's how I live. When I'm not doing a million things at once, I'm completely bored."
By the time the album was completed, Dirtie Blonde -- then just Amie and Jay -- had secured management and signed a deal with Jive. They were having a hard time finding bandmates in New York, however, and Amy admits their standards were very high. "We just weren't happy with the people we were playing with," she affirms. "I don't want to work with people who are in it for the gig; I want to work with people who love this music as much as we do. We were looking for players who'd want to contribute and grow with this band."
As it turned out, she found those players in L.A., where Dirtie Blonde's management company is based. "Sean and Dean and Tim are fantastic musicians, and they all sing," Amy enthuses. "They have great musical ideas. When Jay and I work on a song with them, it comes alive. And we had that instant family feeling with them. We hang out every day. We go hiking together. We go drinking together." And now they go touring together.
"With this band and this record, everything is exactly the way it should be," Amie declares. "The idea that you've got to bend over to make it [see "Bend Over"] is just wrong. You can be creative and write honest music and work with people you love without having to give up everything you believe in. You can sell records without selling your soul."
This positivity has served Amie well in the face of long odds. The lyrics to "What You Want" provide some insight into what's kept her going.