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Over the course of more than a dozen years and six studio albums, Amos Lee has continued to evolve, develop and challenge himself as a musician. With “Spirit,” he makes his biggest creative leap yet.
Most notably, for the first time, Lee acted as his own producer. While his last two albums bore the stamp of strong producers—Joey Burns of Calexico on 2011’s “Mission Bell” (which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, Amazon, iTunes charts, and spun off a hit single with "Windows are Rolled Down") and Jay Joyce (Little Big Town, Eric Church, Cage the Elephant) on 2013’s “Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song”—Lee finally felt ready to take over the helm.
“I’ve been wanting to produce my own record for a long time,” he says, explaining that he met with numerous candidates before concluding that he should make the move. "What I wanted to provide was a place for musicians to come and feel they were able to express themselves, and contribute in their own voice the way I was able to contribute in mine.”
Lee’s sense of ambition for “Spirit” largely derived from his own live performing experiences in recent years. "Working with folks like the LA Philharmonic and the Mobile, Alabama Community Gospel Choir opened my mind to the possibility of pushing the edges of arrangement away from solitary moments into more collaborative, community experiences," he says. ”These were transformative creative opportunities that I never dreamed I would have. To stand on stage and be equal parts participant and observer during these career-defining moments was such a thrill, and I credit the singers, arrangers, and conductors for being so open and generous to the songs."
Along with such monumental events as working with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra (a performance which yielded Lee's most recent release, “Live from Red Rocks),” being a band leader over the last decade has also helped Lee hone his craft as an arranger. "I have a great, great band—the most gentle, genuine, musically open-minded people," he says. "I push them some, but they always respond with creativity, and they inspire me to open things up musically. The versatility of my live band has been a gradual concept I've been working on since I started playing at the club The Tin Angel in Philly in 2002.
Not that it was easy learning the ropes as a producer. “It’s not always magic-making,” says Lee with a laugh. “There’s a lot of grinding it out, with people you maybe don’t have a lot of history with, but it was such a joyous experience, even in those harder creative times."
For Amos Lee, “Spirit” is the fulfillment of dreams and aspirations—musical, personal and professional—that he’s had for a long time. “All you can ask for as an artist is the chance to create what you hear and feel inside of yourself,” he says. “The performances by everyone gave me such a strong place to draw from, and being more connected to the arrangements made it easier and more fun to sing. For my first time producing, I could not have been luckier—I was able to get into the heart of every single moment of this record.”