Folk-Soul Singer Amos Lee in Concert

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Amos Lee and guitarist Nate Skiles perform live from NPR's New York bureau studios. hide caption

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Amos Lee

Amos Lee and guitarist Nate Skiles perform live from NPR's New York bureau studios.

Songs from 'Supply And Demand'

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Amos Lee talks about life on the road, and performs songs from his latest CD Supply and Demand. In the year since his debut, the 29-year-old has carved out a sound all his own. He performs live and takes calls from the NPR bureaus in New York.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Right now, the music of Amos Lee. When the singer, songwriter, and guitarist first appeared on the music scene in 2005, he was dubbed the male Nora Jones. But in the year since debut, the 29-year-old has carved out a sound all his own.

His most recent CD, titled Supply and Demand was released earlier this month on Blue Note records. He's currently headlining his own nationwide tour. Amos Lee is in our New York bureaus today, along with guitarist Nate Skiles. Thanks both for taking the time to be with us.

Mr. AMOS LEE (Musician): Hey, thanks for having us.

CONAN: And if you have questions for Amos Lee about his music, his career, or the new CD, give us a call: 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. The e-mail address is talk@npr.org. And why don't we begin with a tune? What are you going to play for us?

Mr. LEE: We're going to play you Supply and Demand.

(Soundbite of song, “Supply and Demand”)

Mr. LEE: (Singing) Something's got to give with the way I'm living. Seems I'm getting down every day. The more I strive, the less I'm alive and it seems I'm getting further away. Oh, well, all my superstitions and my crazy suspicions of the people that I care about. I've been doing more screaming than I've been doing dreaming and I think it's time I figured it out.

Yeah baby, I need a plan, oh to understand, yeah, that life ain't always only supply and demand.

Well, I've been going jogging in the park after dark, dragging ‘round with me my ball and chain. It took Southern skies to make me realize that I'm causing myself this pain. But a woman that I'm loving, yup, I'm pushing and shoving, getting further along by the day. And I can't understand how (unintelligible) man ever let it end up this way.

Baby, I need a plan, oh to understand, yeah, that life ain't only supply and demand.

When the road gets dark and lonesome dear, you can find me here. Honey, you don't know where I am.

You need a friend. Yeah, uh-huh. Life ain't easy. In fact, I know it's easy when you are the big man in town, shaking religions and making decisions. You never get to slow on down.

Well, your wife and your baby, you tell them, yeah, well maybe I'll meet ya'll at a weekend resort. But your eye's on the prize and you can't realize that your little girl's life's so short. Brother you need a plan, oh, to understand, yeah, that life ain't only supply and demand.

Yeah, sister you need a place now to understand that life ain't only supply and demand. Better figure it out now. You know, you ain't coming back down here. You better figure it out now. You know, you ain't coming back down.

CONAN: Amos Lee on guitar and vocals, backed by Nate Skiles here in our bureau in New York City. That's the title track from the new CD, Supply and Demand.

And Amos Lee, I wonder, your first CD got a lot of critical praise and sold nearly half a million copies. What kind of pressure does that put on you for the second one?

Mr. LEE: A lot. I mean, I can't believe all the pressure I'm under right now.

CONAN: Hm.

Mr. LEE: Just sitting here in NPR studios, I'm going nuts. You know how it is here.

CONAN: Oh, yeah. Just dripping with pressure.

Mr. LEE: Dripping with pressure, man.

CONAN: Yeah. At the same time, you opened for a lot of great acts: Bob Dylan, Nora Jones among others. Now you're carrying the freight as the headliner.

Mr. LEE: Yeah. Well, you know, it's what I've been wanting for a long time. So it's great to get out in all these towns. We just got back from a trip down south, went to Asheville, North Carolina, Atlanta, and had great crowds.

So it's really a beautiful thing to be able to go throughout the country and play music and have people there just with you.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. And it's a little different if you're the opening act. Well, they probably paid to see Mr. Dylan.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEE: Maybe.

CONAN: Yeah. Maybe.

Mr. LEE: I mean, ain't nobody paying a hundred bucks to see me yet, so.

CONAN: Not yet.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Let's get a caller on the line. And by the way, if you'd like to join our conversation with Amos Lee - 800-989-8255, or you can zap us an e-mail: talk@npr.org.

Cecilia, Cecilia calling from Utica, New York.

CECILIA (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

Mr. LEE: Hi, Cecilia.

CECILIA: And I would pay $100 to see Amos Lee.

Mr. LEE: All right. Well, come to the show then.

CECILIA: I love Amos Lee.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEE: We're playing in New York City tomorrow night. Why don't you come on down?

CECILIA: Oh, really?

Mr. LEE: You can get - I think you can get 10 tickets for 100 bucks.

CECILIA: If I could come down I would be there in a minute.

Mr. LEE: All right, darling.

CECILIA: Okay. I actually found him - I feel like I discovered Amos Lee because my son didn't know who he was, and he's all into music. And I was searching on the Internet for some other things by Nora Jones when I stumbled across the song you did with Nora Jones. Colors, I think?

Mr. LEE: Mm-hmm.

CECILIA: And so then I searched for you and found a whole bunch of stuff because I had never heard of you before. So are you - is this just your second album that you're coming out with now?

Mr. LEE: Yeah. This is the second studio album we've released, called Supply and Demand.

CECILIA: Okay. I'll have to look for that.

Mr. LEE: Well, thanks.

CECILIA: But I do love all of your stuff.

Mr. LEE: All right, Cecilia. We'll come and see you up there in Utica some time.

CECILIA: Oh, that would be great. But you don't want to come here. There's nothing going on.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEE: That's even better. Then we'll definitely get people come out.

CECILIA: That's for sure. Come to the Stanley, Stanley Theater.

Mr. LEE: All right. You got it, doll.

CECILIA: Thank you.

CONAN: Thanks for the call, Cecilia.

CECILIA: All righty.

CONAN: Bye bye.

CECILIA: Bye.

CONAN: Let's get Suzanne on the line. Suzanne is with us from Royal Oak in Michigan.

SUZANNE (Caller): Hello.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEE: Hey. What's happening?

SUZANNE: Amos, I just wanted to first say that I really do love your music.

Mr. LEE: Thank you.

SUZANNE: I've been listening to it for quite a while. And it's always in my CD player. But I had a question that's, kind of, I guess, sort of pertinent to the program that we're on, TALK OF THE NATION.

And I noticed that a lot of singer/songwriters seem to be going this direction of really using their music as sort of a place to take a stand on issues that are going on.

And I'm wondering if you see your position as a musician as that, or do you see your music as more of a refuge from just the craziness that's going on?

Mr. LEE: Well, I'm not sure if I think it's one way or the other. I mean, for me, I just write songs about what I'm feeling at the time or what I'm seeing around me.

So, I mean, I think that for some reason or another, music - especially in the past 40 years - has become something that has been sort of more commercially available to have political messages in it. But before that, the folk music that was being made was all just for the people.

So that's pretty much the stance I take. I'm just trying to make music for people, regardless of whether it's a refuge or - whatever they can find within the music is what I'm trying to give them.

SUZANNE: Okay. Cool.

CONAN: Thanks for the call, Suzanne.

SUZANNE: All right.

CONAN: Bye bye. I'm listening to your voice and I'm trying to hear the cheese steak in Amos Lee. You're from Philadelphia.

Mr. LEE: Yes, sir.

CONAN: And it doesn't sound like it.

Mr. LEE: Well, you know, the cheese steak missed me. I didn't - it flew right by the side of my face, but it almost nailed me. But, you know, it depends. I mean, I can get a Philly accent real quick if you really want me to, but, you know.

CONAN: There it is. There it is.

Mr. LEE: It only comes out at certain times. If I'm around my family a lot at Thanksgiving time, it comes out a bit. But I've been fortunate to be traveling a lot. And I lived in South Carolina for five years, too, so it's - everywhere rubs off on me where I go. So I try to keep a - keep an open mind to any accent that I can possibly have.

CONAN: Let's talk with David, David with us from Rock Hills in South Carolina.

Mr. LEE: All right.

DAVID (Caller): Hi, there.

Mr. LEE: Hey.

DAVID: Yeah. Okay. I was busy listening to the conversation. I didn't know you lived in South Carolina for a while.

Mr. LEE: Yup. Five years.

CONAN: And we can hear the honeysuckle thickening as he goes along. But go ahead.

DAVID: Yeah. It's hard to get away from down here. But yeah, I just wanted to call you and congratulate him on his success. I'm a singer/songwriter, and I play in bars. My 17-year-old daughter turned me on to his music almost a year ago.

And I get a lot of requests to cover some of his songs that I do down here. And, you know, just a terrific job. I love the music.

Mr. LEE: Thanks, man. I'm really glad that you and your daughter could bond on something like that. That's really beautiful.

DAVID: Yeah.

CONAN: And as I understand it, Amos, you have some familiarity with bars.

Mr. LEE: Yes. Just a bit, though. I've only been in about a thousand of them this year. So trying to figure it out.

CONAN: Not just working as a singer/songwriter, though. You used to tend bar for a living.

Mr. LEE: Yeah, yeah. I tended bar in Philly for two years at a club The Tin Angel. And I ran across a bunch of like folk music people and singer/songwriters and stuff like that. And it was a real great introduction for me to get in with some of those people.

CONAN: When you started out, though, performing in bars, I assume like David you got requests to do other people's material.

Mr. LEE: I still get requests to do other people's material constantly.

CONAN: And do you do it?

Mr. LEE: No.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: That's when you're a headliner.

Mr. LEE: Yeah, exactly.

CONAN: David, thanks very much for the call.

DAVID: Okay. Thanks a lot. Got any shows scheduled for South Carolina any time?

Mr. LEE: You know, we just were down - we were just down south. We did Asheville, North Carolina, which isn't too close to you. We did Atlanta was the closest. But we're going to try to get down there and do the Handlebar in Greenville.

DAVID: Okay. That'd be great. We'll be looking…

Mr. LEE: So, see you then, David.

DAVID: Okay. Thanks a lot.

CONAN: So long.

Mr. LEE: Thanks, man. Appreciate you.

DAVID: Bye.

CONAN: Here's an e-mail from John in Madison, Wisconsin. Can you talk about the influence of John Prine on your song writing?

Mr. LEE: Well, John was the first person I ever really listened to seriously as a musician because I had had his - his records were sitting around the house a lot when I was younger. My stepfather played him a bunch.

But I don't know. When I heard him, I just felt it was like sort of a coming home for me. I felt a lot closer to myself listening to his songs. And I still feel that way.

And I've had the opportunity to open up for him a few times. And it's a really great thing to be able to meet somebody that you really love their music and to meet them as a person and to just feel very thankful to be around them. It's really cool.

CONAN: We're talking today with Amos Lee. His new CD is called Supply and Demand. He and Nate Skiles are in our bureau in New York. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And how about another tune?

Mr. LEE: I would love that.

CONAN: Why don't you go ahead?

Mr. LEE: Going to do a song called Skipping Stone for you.

(Soundbite of song, “Skipping Stone”)

Mr. LEE: (Singing) I don't know if I can do this alone. Oh, after all our sweet love has flown. I've been a-running, I've been skipping like a stone. And I don't know if I, I can do this alone.

When I met her she was standing by a door. I ain't never seen a light like that before. And now she's left me, oh, for something more, sure. And I don't know if I, I can do this anymore.

Lovers will come. Lovers will go. It's a rare seed, whoa, from which true love might grow. And if you see her, won't you please say hello, because I don't know if I can do this alone.

CONAN: Amos Lee's CD Supply and Demand is available in stores now. He's currently touring nationwide. You can hear a couple of tunes from his new CD and see his concert schedule at our Web site, npr.org/TALK.

And, of course, we'd like to thank accompanist Nate Skiles who was also there in the studio in New York.

Let's see if we can get one more caller in. This is Nancy, Nancy with us on the phone from Long Island.

NANCY (Caller): Yes, indeed. In fact, I just wanted to say I would definitely pay to see you over anybody else, Amos Lee.

Mr. LEE: Oh, thanks.

NANCY: But my call is about my daughter who's just had her 17th birthday. But last year - she plays blues guitar. And after hearing about Katrina, she decided to have a Jazz and Blues Festival at her high school. And she brought the house down by singing and playing her guitar to Colors.

Mr. LEE: Oh.

NANCY: And I just wanted you to know that they raised $5,000 that night. The house was built by Habitat for Humanity for a woman in Beaumont, Texas. Last summer, she was - my daughter was invited to go down to Beaumont for the key ceremony.

So I just wanted you to know that Matilda Viaz(ph) down in Beaumont, Texas thanks you for your song, Colors, because it helped her get a house.

Mr. LEE: All right. Well, that's more than it said for me, because I don't have one.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NANCY: Ah, we absolutely love your music. Keep it up. And I can't wait to get the CD.

Mr. LEE: Cool. And I'm glad you all are doing so much good. Thank you very much for calling. I appreciate it.

NANCY: And by the way, I'm originally from South Carolina. I didn't pick up on that accent at all.

Mr. LEE: All right.

(Soundbite of Laughter)

NANCY: All right. Thank you so much for your music. I love you.

Mr. LEE: Thank you.

CONAN: Thanks for the phone call, Nancy. And again, Amos Lee, thanks very much for being with us today.

Mr. LEE: Likewise. Thank you very much for having us.

CONAN: Good luck with the gig tomorrow night in New York.

Mr. LEE: Thanks.

CONAN: Amos Lee and Nate Skiles with us from our bureau in New York. We'd also like to thank NPR New York bureau engineer Manoli Weatherall(ph) for making all that happen.

This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. LEE: (Singing) …home. I'm like the rock of Gibraltar. I always seem to falter in the words get in the way. Oh, I know I'm going to crumble and I'm trying to stay humble but I never think before I sing.

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Album
Supply And Demand
Artist
Amos Lee
Label
Blue Note Records (USA)
Released
2006

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