Depending on what you’d count and how you’d count, Amy Oelsner, best known as Amy O has contributed to and recorded somewhere between two and nine albums, which would paradoxically make her an old pro and a relatively new artist. But let’s begin with some background: Growing up in Fayetteville, AR Oelsner taught herself guitar and began writing songs, eventually recording a series of lo-fi albums while moving around the country for school and for work. Each album, whether solo or with a band was released independently and with little regard for sales, promotion or radio airplay, and according to the Bloomington, IN-based singer/songwriter, at the time, the endeavor was more about the entire experience, including learning the thrill and discipline involved in creating. “Songwriting,” as Oelsner explains “became a way for me to process things and make sense of my life. I got hooked on it emotionally.”
After stints residing in Ohio, Massachusetts and Brooklyn, Oelsner relocated to Bloomington to work at Rhino’s Youth Center, which offers creative-leaning after-school programs to teenagers — and in many ways it’s a school, art gallery, music venue, a community theater, a community center and a whole host of other things. Oelsner took a job leading the Zine Writing Program, a program which encourages local teens to share their stories, to engage with the public in creative ways, to define and address the issues that affect their lives on a very granular level. Interestingly, the Bloomington, IN-based singer/songwriter’s professional life influences her creative life, as the deluxe edition of her forthcoming album Elastic will be released by her own zine Yoko, Oh Yes, which will feature interviews from a number of women musicians and artists — including The Roches’ Terre Roche, Frankie Cosmos’ Greta Kline, Free Cake for Every Creature’s Katie Bennett and others discussing songwriting and technique, early experiences, gear, the recording business, money, inspiration and advice. Certainly for any aspiring female artist, hearing from those who have been where you have been, have made mistakes and learned from them and have achieved success and renown will be a transformative and inspiring experience.
As far as the actual album, which is slated for an August 4, 2017 release, Oelsner performs with a backing band of friends and collaborators including Madeline Robinson (bass, vocals), Justin Vollmar (drums), Damion Schiralli (guitar) and Aaron Denton (keys, vocals) and from the album’s first single “Lavender Night,” possesses an infectious exuberance, the easygoing self-assuredness and craft of old pros and razor sharp hook — a hook that’s paired with zigzagging guitar work and a propulsive, chugging rhythm section. While sonically drawing from Sleater-Kinney, The Roches and others, the track as she explains “came to me quickly and without fuss. I wrote it after a little scare I had at the doctor with a mysterious lump. It’s about the constant (and often invisible) line of fragility that we walk upon in life, leaning how to follow trails of light throughout difficult circumstances, and resisting the black hole-like vacuum of negative thought patterns.” And as a result, the song has the urgency of one who has recognizes that they’ve dodged a bullet — and that good turn of luck could quickly end.