As many artists will tell you, having a space of their own in which to work is a crucial part of the creative process. For pianist and singer Amory Sivertson, it took three albums to finally have that space -- but having it made all the difference.
Sivertson, a 2011 Emerson graduate equipped with a voice that belies her youth, wrote her first two albums, 2008's La Di Da and 2010's How To Run Away, in Emerson practice rooms -- as she described them, 'boring rooms, crappy pianos, and on either side of you, you have people belting out music theater ballads' -- and while studying abroad and living in Emerson's castle in Kasteel Well, The Netherlands, respectively. But when it came time to write her newest album, Human, released in late December on Emerson's Wax on Felt, Sivertson nestled into the single dorm room she occupied as an Emerson RA.
'I had a place that was kind of my own little environment to sit down and let [my] ideas flesh themselves out,' she said. 'That changed everything because you don't have to have any outside noise or influence or anything. I can just sing whatever is coming out of my mouth....[and] this freedom really helped my stuff come into its own.'
Again, as many artists will tell you, the art you surround yourself with also influences your work. Just as Sivertson’s writing space has changed from album to album, so, too, has her musical inspiration, resulting in a different sound on each album.
“I’m definitely embarrassed that there’s an album of mine made in 2008 when I was a completely different person that’s on iTunes,” she said. “I would like to say that it’s a natural progression, [that] I was in a different place when I wrote [La Di Da], but I think for me, my tastes really have evolved.”
Sivertson cites a wide range of influences, from folk to musical theater, for her three albums.
“When I was in high school...I didn’t have a car, [so] I wasn’t driving around listening to music,” she said. “I’d say that the first album was a lot more theatrically inspired [because I was doing musical theater], but by the time you get to the second album, it’s everything from Anathallo to Sigur Ros.”
And by the time she started writing and recording for Human, Sivertson said, “I [had] an iPod that [was] very diverse and constantly on shuffle.
“[Human] came from the same sort of place [as How to Run Away]; I just wanted to do things a little differently in the recording process,” she said. “I wanted a little more emphasis on piano and vocals. It was less of an orchestrated party.”
There’s one more essential in the creative process: support. While Sivertson said she’s been writing -- “and when I say ‘writing,’ I mean stupid little songs,” she clarified -- since she was very young, she really got into it when she came to Emerson.
“I think Emerson kind of was a community that facilitated a lot more energy towards writing for me,” Sivertson said. “[At Emerson,] you feel successful when you’re thriving in your art or your particular field.” During one of her first weeks at school, Sivertson said she played an open mic, “and it went over really well. If I hadn’t had that kind of feedback from the very beginning, the urgency wouldn’t have been there as much for me.”
Now that she’s graduated, however, Sivertson is hoping to expand her following beyond her former campus by turning back to the same place she started. “I’m just going to try to do more open mic things, to try to get more of a Boston [fan] base that isn’t so Emerson-focused,” she said.
(She might accomplish that goal a bit quicker than expected if she beats out her competition and wins a bit of playing time at the GRAMMYs in a couple weeks.)
While Sivertson is working a bunch of different jobs -- “I think that I have successfully found things that will pay the bills, but they are also things that I'm genuinely interested in,” she said -- making and sharing her music is still the ultimate goal.
“If I didn’t have student loans...I would love to just hit the road,” Sivertson said. “I love just driving and playing and driving and playing and meeting new people and spreading the word that way.
“[I want to] get [my music] out there however I can,” she said, “then as soon as I can, I’d like to just go big or go home on it.”
Amory Sivertson’s Human CD release show takes place Monday, Jan. 23, at 8 p.m. at Club Passim (47 Palmer St., Harvard Square), when she opens for Ryan Montbleau. Tickets are $26 in advance and $28 at the door and include a free copy of the new album.
Photos by Cal Bingham
About Angela -- It's "Ang," if you please -- or, alternately, Bill, Penny Lane, or (begrudgingly) Angus to some. I've been with TNGG since the site started and am now the TNGG Boston editor for Boston.com. I graduated from Boston University's College of Communication in 2009 and am a huge fan of live music, hockey, and Thai food. I'm also a bit of a klutz, but that's only because my mind and body are always going in approximately a zillion separate directions. Twitter: @amstefano988
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