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Amy Helm has grown as a singer and mother since the release of her rootsy solo debut "Didn't It Rain" written during a divorce and passing of her father, the Band's legendary drummer Levon Helm. Helm, who had been part of alt-country group Ollabelle and her father's Midnight Ramble Band, is recording a new album this summer.
"For me, I just want to push myself to do better than last time," Helm said. "That record was a story compiled from a particular time in my life. I've grown as a singer, as a mom, as a person. You look back at your life and realize what shifted. I'm excited to take these last few years of experience and put them into the next batch of songs."
Helm will be teaming up with original songwriter and producer Joe Henry on the album. Henry has produced three Grammy-award wining albums, including "Don't Give Up on Me" by Solomon Burke and written several songs for Madonna.
"I'm really excited about working with Joe Henry," Helm sad. "He is an incredible artist and has produced some extraordinary albums. We're still getting a roster of musicians. I'm super excited. We have an idea of what it's going to be."
Helm is on the road with Cindy Cashdollar, a pedal steel guitarist who has worked with the likes of Bob Dylan, Graham Parker and Beausoleil, and Moses Patrou, a R&B/Soul drummer from New York City. The tour includes stops on Saturday at the Kent Stage, Chicago, Minnesota and the Mountain Jam Festival in NY in June.
"I'm excited," Helm said. "It's a different group of musicians. Moses is an old friend. I've been wanting to play with him forever. The timing worked out to do this little run together. It's going to be great."
When Helm was five, her perspective was that her dad was the drummer in Richard Manuel's band and their hit song was "Stage Fright" because it was her favorite. It wasn't until she was a teenager listening to the Band's debut studio album "Big Pink" on her cassette tape that she became mesmerized with music and Manuel's singing.
"My childhood was as a colorful one," Helm said. "There's a lot of highs of rock 'n' roll and all the things that were shiny and fascinating about that and certainly the lows. I saw a lot of people struggling. It made me have a real deep respect and belief in people changing. I watched my dad come to so many changes, come into sobriety and I honor that and practice it myself. I got a lot of life lessons."
Raising two young sons while touring and recording, Helm said they're naturally inclined toward music.
"Deep down, you hope they love to do it," Helm said. "Nothing quite satisfies than playing music. My dad always said 'if you get bit by the bug, nothing else feels that good.' My five year old insists on being a scientist. I've got their back."
The biggest challenge is her own guilt when she leaves her kids for tour dates.
"It's a different balance when you're a mom," Helm said. "You can't jump in a van for two months. I'm in my 40's, but this solo album was a real beginning for me. It's making choices of when it's really worth it and being patient on how you're able to build your songbook and build your band and build your audience. You can't go on long stretches."