That Amy Blaschke’s dreamy, airy, singular purr is perhaps the most affecting instrument in the mix is a testament to the sheer vitality of her recordings.
On her sixth studio album Breaking the Blues, Seattle-born singer/songwriter Amy Blaschke brings her exquisitely nuanced sensibilities to a more expansive sound than she’s ever explored before. With her graceful sense of melody, Blaschke’s intricate and guitar-heavy take on folk-rock captures the subtlest of feelings, including—on the title track—the inherent push-and-pull between beauty and pain. “If you’re of a melancholy disposition, it takes a lifetime to figure out how to use that energy constructively and not turn it against yourself,” says Blaschke of the quietly triumphant “Breaking the Blues.” “Music’s such an incredible way to keep from getting downhearted, and to have somewhere meaningful to put that melancholy.”
The follow-up to her 2015 album Opaline, Breaking the Blues finds Blaschke again teaming up with producer Brian Whelan (a singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist known for his work with Dwight Yoakam and The Broken West) and engineer Mark Rains (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Waylon Jennings), as well as a host of local musicians who helped build the album’s more lavish arrangements. The result is a powerful yet warmly intimate selection of songs, including the album-opening lead single “Under My Skin” (a soulfully charged track recently featured on ABC’s Nashville), the harmony-laced and sublimely revelatory “Peace Keeping,” and the wistful but glorious “Across the Sky” (written in memory of Blaschke’s father and inspired by “that feeling of wanting to keep in contact with someone you’ve lost, and how that kind of pulls you into the greater mystery of what’s out there”).
Growing up in Washington, Blaschke learned to play guitar at 14 and began landing shows in local venues by the time she was 16. Inspired by the lo-fi and literate alt-rock of artists like Liz Phair, Elliott Smith, and Mary Lou Lord—along with a cassette copy of Joni Mitchell’s Blue, passed down by her mom—Blaschke steadily developed her voice as a songwriter, and in 1999 released her debut album Red Letter. And while prolific creativity has guided Blaschke’s path as a songwriter through the years, the making of Breaking the Blues marked an especially intense moment in her life as an artist. “The year I wrote this new material was one of my hardest ever, as far as my physical wellbeing,” says Blaschke, who struggles with Lyme disease. “I had to step away from a lot of things and be much less active, but at the same time my creativity felt really vibrant. Music was like a sanctuary, and it ended up being the fastest I’ve ever written a new body of work.”
As on her previous albums, Blaschke brought that body of work to life with a blend of solo songwriting and close collaboration. “I always write by myself,” she says. “I have a music room, kind of like my own little lady cave, and the songs tend to start there sometime late at night.” Noting that she thrives on the infinite possibilities in using melody to channel emotion, Blaschke says she’s also endlessly in thrall to the magic of creative chemistry. “Listening to a mix of something I’ve just recorded with all these great musicians fills me with so much joy—it’s pretty much unparalleled,” she says. “You make a song by yourself, and even though you can tell it has vitality, there’s nothing like sharing it with other people and seeing it crystallized into something new that you never could have anticipated. I’ll always be fascinated by that.”