Amy Correia – No more carnival rides
Sometimes being confronted with a limited number of resources when making an album can be a good thing. Amy Correia is a case in point. Unlike her 2000 full-length debut Carnival Love, which was made with an extravagant budget and took more than a year to record, Lakeville (released October 5 on Nettwerk America) is a beautifully Spartan affair that — by necessity — was completed in a little more than a week.
“Sometimes I think when you have too many options you can get somewhat bogged down in your choices,” says Correia, who’s based in Brooklyn. “At times they can seem limitless. If you have a lot of money and producers and musicians, you can go on forever.
“I wasn’t on a label when I made this album. It was all made on my own dime, and really on ‘spec,’ so there was a limited amount of time. The other part of it was, as I toured with Carnival Love, people often would say, ‘God, you sound so much better live!’ So that became central to this record, to go in and try to capture what I do as a live performer.”
Born and raised in Lakeville, Massachusetts (approximately 50 miles south of Boston), Correia was drawn initially to the theater, and in fact wrote a well-received play while still in high school. At 17, she left home for New York, where she attended Barnard College as an English major and began taking acting classes.
During an appearance in a locally staged play, she felt an awkwardness that fed doubts about her talents as an actress. Her uncertainty was compounded by a back injury that sent her home for several months of convalescence. While recuperating, she began playing guitar and writing songs.
“It was just kind of in that moment that I decided I was going to do this,” she says. “I didn’t know what else to do. This was what gave me pleasure, and I guess when you’re that age — 19 or 20 — you just feel you can do it.”
Eventually Correia signed to Virgin Records, for whom she recorded an EP. Her stint with the label was short-lived, but she landed on Capitol and began recording Carnival Love, which turned out to be a grueling experience. By that time she had moved to Los Angeles, where she remained for four years before returning to New York in late 2001. She went back to L.A. to record Lakeville, but she looks back on the time she lived there as difficult.
“As a struggling musician, when I got signed, I think I had a fantasy that I would move out to Los Angeles and have a different life,” Correia says. “The song ‘California’ on this album really speaks to that. You think things will be different, but as anyone who moves to a new town discovers, it’s exactly the same. All the things you thought you would leave behind, mostly personal things, come with you.”
As is the case with most of Lakeville, “California” is wrapped in a subdued, candlelit vibe. To capture the intimacy of a live performance, producer Mark Howard assembled a small group of musician friends (among them Daryl Johnson, Josh Grange and Scott Amendola) to supplement Correia’s work on vocals, guitar, piano and baritone ukulele.
Where Carnival Love was rife with big choruses and soaring pop melodies, the new album leans toward acoustic-based songs colored by splashes of jazz, blues, and even cabaret. High points include the torchy, Billie Holiday-esque “On Second Thought” and “Devil And I”, which taps into the scarier side of Delta blues.
Integral to the album’s distinctive mood was the place it was recorded — the ballroom of the Paramour Mansion, previously used for Lucinda Williams’ World Without Tears and Vic Chesnutt’s Silver Lake. “The room did affect my [vocal] performances,” Correia acknowledges. “It was originally built for opera singers, for the people who lived there to have singers come and perform there. My cello player, Gerri Sutyak, who’s played Carnegie Hall, said the room was second only to Carnegie Hall in terms of its acoustics. There’s something about the acoustics that was very helpful in terms of everyone’s intonation, including me, as a singer.”
Correia says the mood was further enhanced by the decision to record in a “performance setting.” She and the accompanying musicians sat in the room together rather than working in isolation booths.
Though the album title is a nod to Correia’s birthplace, she says Lakeville refers less to the specificity of her old hometown than it does to origins of a deeper kind. “It really doesn’t refer to the locality — this place, Lakeville, which is a beautiful town with lakes and woods, and which is where I lived until I was 17,” she says. “It’s more about my roots, and what I’m about. I’m not sure how to put that into words. What I keep wanting to return to, I think, is some kind of quiet center that isn’t going to be destroyed by the larger forces.”