Since the release of his self-titled debut album in 2005, Amos Lee has been an acclaimed. folk/rock singer/songwriter who has built a large following. He is known for his soulful, powerful vocals, his insightful, heartfelt songs and his strong live performances. He has now released eight albums, mostly on Dualtone and Blue Note Records.
Last week (on February 11), Lee released his latest album, Dreamland (on Dualtone Records), which is his first release in four years. The album marks a solid return for Lee; it contains 11 songs including the first single “Worry No More,” which has already become a Top 10 hit on Billboard’s Adult Alternative Airplay (AAA) chart.
“Worry No More” is an excellent song that has a hopeful, uplifting lyric theme. Boosted by a hooky melody in the chorus, and expressive lead & harmony vocals, this song provides a fine introduction into Lee’s new album. In addition, Dreamland contains other song highlights such as “Hold You,” “In The Clearing,” “See The Light,” “Seeing Ghosts” and the title cut.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Lee signed his first label deal with Blue Note Records. He released his debut album, Amos Lee, and he struck up a collaboration and friendship with Norah Jones, who was also signed to Blue Note. Jones invited Lee to be her opening act on her 2004 tour, and she played on his debut album.
Since then, Lee has released the albums Supply and Demand (2006), Last Days at the Lodge (2008), Mission Bell (2011), Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song (2013), Spirit (2016), My New Moon (2018) and Dreamland (2022). Impressively, Lee’s album Mission Bell debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart.
Besides his current single “Worry No More,” Lee has had other Top 10 hits on the Billboard AAA chart, including “Shout Out Loud,” “What’s Been Going On” and “Windows Are Rolled Down.”
Lee is about to launch his first concert tour since the pandemic started. He begins the tour on April 8 in Portland, Maine, and he’ll play shows in many cities including New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, Austin and Minneapolis.
Here’s the video of Amos Lee’s single, “Worry No More.”
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Amos Lee. He discusses the making of his new album Dreamland, his single “Worry No More,” and his songwriting. He also tells how he’s looking forward to playing live on tour again.
DK: It’s been four years since you released your last album, My New Moon. Can you talk about the past four years for you, especially with the pandemic?
Amos Lee: I started working on the songs for Dreamland in 2019, and we recorded the bulk of it in 2020. Much of it was done before the pandemic, but a lot of the themes that are in the record, like isolation and hope, are as relevant now and they were when I wrote the record. During the pandemic, I wrote probably two whole new records which I’m going to start recording now. So the journey has been been pretty winding the past couple years, as it has been for all of us. I don’t really know anyone who’s had an easy time adapting to it the last two years. I think it’s changed everyone, and it’s certainly changed me.
DK: What ways has it changed you?
Lee: I got to slow down for the first time in 15 years. 2020 was pretty tough because my mom got diagnosed with cancer, then she got Covid, then she had to go through chemo and surgery, and I was with her through that whole thing. I lost two of my favorite songwriters—John Prine and Bill Withers—within two weeks of each other. And on top there was isolation and darkness in general. There were some beacons of light, and there were some beautiful stuff that happened, too. So it wasn’t all bad, but man, it was a tough year. It was very challenging.
DK: Your new album, Dreamland, was produced by Christian “Leggy” Langdon. How did you connect with him?
Lee: I was in L.A. and I got a recommendation to check out what he was doing, so I went to his place in Pasadena. He’s got a studio in his house—he’s really self-contained and super creative. This is my eighth album, and I’ve worked in a lot of different ways. For this album, it was more like two dudes in a room with a lot of ideas and instruments, and we kind of envisioned everything together. So making this record started in 2019 and then we finished it n 2020. It was and is a good relationship.
Here’s the lyric video of Amos Lee’s song, “Hold You.”
DK: Do you live in L.A. now?
Lee: I sort of bounce around…I live in a lot of places. I spent the pandemic in the woods there in New Jersey. But I also spent time in L.A. and Philly.
DK: For your new album, did you write most of the songs by yourself, or did you work with co-writers?
Lee: I wrote most of these tunes by myself. I co-wrote a couple of them, and probably the most collaborative experience on the record was writing “Invisible Oceans” with Ethan Gruska and his wife, Bianca. This was a song that they had started together, and Ethan, who’s a good pal of mine, was like, “I have this tune I started and we want to see what happens to it if you get your hands on it.” So I wrote a verse and a little bridge, and some instrumental stuff, and he loved it and I loved it. And I thought it was cool, because his wife is a nurse, and I love that a nurse has a songwriting credit on my album, especially after this past year.
DK: I like your single “Worry No More,” which is doing very well. What inspired you to write this song?
Lee: I don’t know what your experience is with anxiety and depression, but when it gets very bad, you kind of lock yourself away. It can get to the point, and this is something that’s happened to a lot of people over the past year, sort of voluntarily but also involuntarily. It kind of gets the best of you, and you can get past it, and it is not like the idea of anxiety and depression being the end. It’s something that the song rails against.
I wanted to share my experience…which is I’ve had a lifetime of dealing with this stuff. I mean, my depression started when I was really young, like a child. And it’s been up and down, and it’s been its own journey. I think anyone who struggles with anxiety or depression disorders understands that a lot of times it can be a lifelong, chronic thing, and it doesn’t necessarily go away. You don’t fix it and solve it and it’s gone. You just keep your eye on it…trying to be your best self and trying to maintain and manage some of these crestfallen moments that you have, and not allow them to spiral into total and utter darkness. And for me, music is the open door. I think a huge part of dealing with anxiety and depression is trying to find that door for yourself. What’s your way out? Is it art or music? Is it connecting with people? Is it a rehabilitative program? Is it getting sober or going to the gym? It’s something different for everyone.
Here’s the lyric video of Amos Lee’s song, “See The Light.”
For me, the door has always been music. During the last couple years, I was kind of thinking like…is this the end? It feels endless in those moments. And the song is like a mantra to remember that that is not the end.
DK: Besides “Worry No More,” I like your new song “Hold You,” which has a great melody. Can you talk about this song?
Lee: “Hold You” is really about nurturing and love. It could be self-love…it could be loving somebody else. It could be a combination of both of those things. But it’s understanding and connecting to the idea of nurturing, and to be loving, and to try to open yourself up to really giving of yourself. The idea of holding someone…just let me hold you. It can be a hug, but it’s really more about that feeling of acceptance and togetherness, that in our very fast-paced, disconnected world that we’re creating, can really be the most important reminder of our humanity. It’s just to be held and to be nurtured and to be connected with. So the essence of that song is to remind ourselves that it’s okay to accept, and it’s okay to give…that relationship is good.
DK: You’ve now released eight albums. For new music fans who might not be familiar your earlier albums, which ones do you recommend they check out?
Lee: I’d start with the first one (Amos Lee), the self-titled record. It’s the beginning. And I think the one people relate to a lot is Mission Bell, so I’d also recommend that.
DK: I read that you’ll be launching a new concert tour in April. Can you talk about this new tour?
Lee: It’ll be fun—it’ll be cathartic to get back and play for people. I’m hoping that it’s cool, and that it happens. Getting to play music for people is a reminder that we can share space together that’s just feeds your heart. You know, it feeds me to play music for people. And I love the people I play with, and it’s something that I cherish. But also, I have a hard time remembering it, to be honest. The last two years have kind of strangely shattered my memory a bit, and how it felt to be comfortable in a room with a bunch of people and just vibing. And I think that the tour will be a great reminder, and I have lots of love to share with the people who come to the shows. So I’m really looking forward to that.