Southern Soul in Somerville: Amy Black

AmyBlackBy Sam Trevino
Photo by Tom Moore

Singer-songwriter Amy Black moved to Somerville for the scene. Born in Missouri and splitting her childhood between Alabama and Massachusetts, Black’s father was a minister, so she grew up travelling. Wherever she went, Black sang in church, which led to her eventually trying her hand at songwriting. As a southern transplant in New England, she would practice her Southern vowels at night in an effort to hold onto her roots. This longing is present in her music, a splendid blend of country, folk and a speckling of blues. Her new album, “This Is Home,” was released in February of this year

“Music is what brought me to Somerville,” Black says. She had been living with her husband in Groton, about an hour drive from Boston. She owned a house in the ‘burbs and worked for a software company in the city. “We just had a comfortable life out there,” she says. One night, however, while sitting at her kitchen table, Black decided to finally do something with her voice and her long-standing love of music. Not sure how to start, she went to a local open mic at the Stage Coach Inn in Groton.

“About 50 people came to my first show,” Black reflects. “I just sort of tapped my network of people I knew from church and all our friends. So I did another show, and 75 people came out, then another show and a hundred people came out. Finally, I wrote my own material, as opposed to only singing Americana covers, and put it in a set.”

This gain in confidence spurred Black to dive into songwriting headfirst, finally resulting in the launch of her first album, “One Time,” three years ago, and with it, a professional music career. Still working fulltime at her tech marketing job, she toured on weekends and continued to build up connections, a fan base and a musical community until her path finally brought her to Somerville.

“In 2008 I was getting nervous about having a mortgage,” Black tells me. “We didn’t need a house. Five years was great, but I was ready to get out. So we sold our house and moved to Lowell, and lived there for two years. During that time, I was playing more in the city, Club Passim and the Lizard Lounge, but I wanted to do more than I was. My little sister was living right in Davis Square, and she was moving to Columbia.”

So Black and her husband got an apartment in Davis, allowing her intimate access to the square’s vibrant music scene. “We love Davis, and Johnny D’s was right there. All the acts that I was getting to know and forming relationships with were all playing there, and I could just pop over at the drop of a hat.”

Black continued playing at Johnny D’s and growing within the local scene. “So over time I did a co-bill, and then I got to headline, and now I just performed for about 300 people for my CD release show. Over thepast two years this dream has definitely grown.”

Black has embraced Somerville and all of its funky glory, show-hopping and playing every chance she can get. “It’s been really great to be in Somerville, to be local and a part of the community here,” Black says. “It’s an awesome community, and there’s just this opportunity to help each other out and collaborate. For me, if I love an artist, if I love them as a person, I want to help them do the best they can do, and I hope they feel the same for me. Just promoting other artists is an important part of making a viable living in music. It takes supporting each other.”
Black finds one part of Somerville to be particularly lush with ties to the music scene.

“Everything [in Davis] is just so accessible and local to me. I know the guys at the post office around the corner, I’ve given them my music. I’m over at Diesel Café all the time, working. I bump into other musicians and booking agents. There’s that aspect of community, and all these venues steps