To say that Amy Cunningham’s passionate love affair with music is life-long is in fact no exaggeration. “My mom says I was singing before I was talking” says the Vancouver Island-based singer/songwriter. My grandfather would play the guitar, and he says I started singing along in key when I was three years old. I don’t remember consciously deciding to be a musician, it was just always there.”
Born in Brampton, Ontario, Amy grew up in a family of musicians. Her grandfather is a skilled guitarist who sat in with such greats as Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis, and family gatherings always featured the clan playing guitars and singing. Amy began writing poetry and in journals at an early age, and started playing guitar at 14.
The muse followed her to Brock University in St. Catharine’s. There, she co-fronted a band that became very popular on campus and through the Niagara region. Initially known as Rob and Amy, the acoustic-based group mixed originals and covers, and opened for such notable artists as Jeremy Fisher and Craig Cardiff. “We were the house band at the university bar, and we’d regularly play for 300 people there,” says Amy. Such experience proved invaluable, and helps account for Cunningham’s impressive stagecraft.
Amy has had a fascinating musical journey since then, one that in July 2011, culminated in the release of a totally compelling debut album, To The Stars We’ll Return. Cunningham most commonly performs solo or with just one accompanist, but To The Stars We’ll Return is far from a sparse acoustic record. Armed with a cast of some of B.C.’s best instrumentalists, Amy and her co-producer Corwin Fox (Miss Emily Brown, Shane Koyczan) have carefully crafted a richly layered album utilizing a wide range of musical textures.
“The goal was to make a big album with a big message,” Amy explains. “It’s a record I can stand strong in and I’m still able to play these songs on acoustic guitar and just sing my heart out. I think that passion can stand in place of a full band, although touring with other musicians is definitely on the horizon”.
Amy Cunningham never does anything half-heartedly. Over the past year she logged serious road miles in support of To The Stars We’ll Return. Summer 2011 dates around Vancouver Island were followed with August dates from Vancouver to San Diego and back, a genuine cross-Canada tour in September, followed by fall dates in Ontario, Nashville TN. Then it was on to Japan for an artist residency and appearances at the Zihuatenejo International Guitar Festival. “Everything that matters fits in my van now,” says Amy, in true 21st century troubadour fashion.
Coming up with a simple definition of Amy Cunningham’s sound is quite an elusive feat. Amy cites folk as the primary ingredient, followed by soul and country, while To The Stars also confirms she has a knack for pop melodies. She cites James Taylor and Carole King as early inspirations and influences, while more contemporary favourites include Ray Lamontagne, Devon Sproule, and Amos Lee.
Keep an eye out for Amy’s most recent album ‘In Between’, recorded with Philbillie Milner at Okie Doke studios in San Francisco to be released December 7th, 2012. While you’ll still find a lot of heart and soul, her sound has matured and as she describes, ‘I feel like my songs are finally starting to come full circle. They feel complete and something just clicks. No matter how many times I perform them, I still love singing them all.’
Stay tuned for 2013 show dates, and visit our store to order your copy of ‘In Between’ and ‘To the Stars We’ll Return’.