There's Always Pie
Steve Amick is a singer/songwriter from Ann Arbor, Michigan. He also happens to be a nationally-published novelist and short story writer. He has been, variously, a playwright, poet, college writing instructor, advertising copywriter, radio voice talent, illustrator and, briefly, a bagel dough wrangler. The fact that he's no slouch at slinging words together isn't an accident: his fiction has appeared in McSweeney's, The Southern Review, The New England Review, Playboy, Story, the anthology The Sound of Writing, and on National Public Radio. His first novel, The Lake, The River & The Other Lake (published by Pantheon Books, a division of Random House) was met with immediate critical acclaim. The LA Times said: 'The last writer to celebrate the charms of rural Michigan with equal panache was probably Ernest Hemingway.' (5/15/05) His early bands include The Angry Neighbors (upstate New York, early 80s), The Big Garage (Ann Arbor, mid-80s) and Steve Amick & His Own Worst Enemies (DC area, late 80s.) Always, he was writing his own quirky original songs, which were often compared to The Modern Lovers, Lou Reed, Gordon Gano and the like, and always, he was tempting to juggling his various artistic pursuits, namely, writing fiction. 'I guess I have to be doing all these things,' he says, referring to his interest in music as well as other aspects of the arts. (That's his own drawing of the town of Weneshkeen you see as the cover illustration of his debut novel.) 'They seem to sort of fuel each other, spur them on, keep the energy going...There's a fine line between Renaissance man and scatterbrain. And I think we all recognize which side of that line I'm tilting toward.' In 1999, as Steve Amick & His Own Worst Enemies, he released a 45 single, on actual vinyl. It received some encouraging college radio airplay on the East Coast. A music review in The Washington Post, called him 'a cheerful black humorist who is seriously askew.' With so many creative projects to juggle, Steve drifted away from performing for several years. But all the time, he continued to write songs and hone his craft. In recent years, his involvement in songwriting and performing has accelerated, sparked by a return to his hometown of Ann Arbor, a creative hotbed for maverick musicians. Many of these great artists generously encouraged him to dust off the guitar and once again join in the fun. In 2004, Steve began recording a CD of a dozen of his original songs, a quirky quilt of bittersweet love and angst, Michigan lakes and cherry pie. Steve cites influences like Jonathan Richman, Lou Reed, Tom Waits and even Brian Wilson, but is hard-pressed to define what this is. 'There's a narrative element to it, I think. Hopefully it's catchy and fun and weird, too, and makes you laugh, but there's also a story thread to it, if you listen closely. It's more like a musical monologue piece from the heart. Or a personal essay with trombone.' There's always pie... was co-produced and engineered by indie cult figure Jim Roll at Backseat Productions in Ypsilanti, Michigan. It was mixed with the help of the distinctive ear of Brian Lillie. 'These two are so instinctual at mixing,' Steve says. 'It almost borders on savantism. We call them 'the Rainmen.'' When not doing this, both Lillie and Roll also happen to be renowned musician/songwriters of no meager stature. (Jim's own album, Inhabiting the Ball, was featured on Fresh Air with Terri Gross and was voted the #5 Rock CD of 2002 by Amazon critics). Several friends appear on There's always pie..., including writer/musician Erik Esckilsen, Steve's wife Sharyl Burau, The Great Lakes Myth Society's Greg McIntosh and Timothy Monger, Rich Griffith, Al Di Blassio, Dave Keeney and others. And of course, Jim Roll and Brian Lillie, jumping in wherever needed. (Their fans may be surprised to hear Brian whistling and Jim banging on heating ducts.) Among other things on these twelve songs, Steve plays guitar, harmonica, various percussion, accordion, piano, trumpet, a popcorn tin lid and even a bag of Petoskey stones (the state stone of Michigan.) But mostly he plays the charming jester. Steve now lives in Michigan, figuring, Hey... Who wouldn't?