Musician spotlight: Amythyst Kiah

Hannah Swayze • Sep 10, 2018 at 10:33 AM

A well-known name in Johnson City, Amyhthyst Kiah, is scheduled to take the stage during TriPride in downtown Johnson City this weekend. Catch her on September 15 in Founders Park directly after the parade at 1:30 p.m.

Q: How would you describe your music?

A: Southern Gothic Folk; music that invokes foreboding, melancholy, and tragic humor through various music stylings of the southeastern United States.

Q: When did you start playing music? How did you get into it?

A: My parents purchased my first guitar for me when I was 13. I taught myself to play by watching videos via CD-ROM, VHS, and DVD lessons. My inspiration for wanting to play was years of watching MTV music videos and listening to music that was always playing on my mom and dad’s home stereo.

Q: It seems like you’ve been touring a lot lately. How has that been?

A: I have the opportunity to see various local cultures of the cities I’m playing in. Sometimes I can only stay a day, sometimes two, but I always make it a point to get out and get a feel for where I am. I pick a local coffeeshop and a local restaurant usually and that satisfies me if I’ve only got one day. Traveling to the Northeast U.S., Canada, and Europe has really opened my mind to different perspectives and ways of looking at the world that I would have never imagined, and I only wish to continue to expand my touring to more places. Touring is a business venture, but also a very personal and creative journey, and to be able to share my music to so many people who are deeply moved by it is truly a gift that is priceless and irreplaceable. 

Q: How does it feel to play the first TriPride Festival in the Tri-Cities?

A: I’m happy to be part of a celebration of being able to live my truth. I know there are people that don’t understand the need for LGBT Pride, and to that I say this; when you have had to get used to walking in certain public spaces with looks of contempt for most of your life, like I have, or in worse cases, by physically harmed or even killed and you can have an entire day where you are treated with at worst decency and at best love, I really don’t see a harm in that. I have been fortunate in that I’ve never had to endure physical or verbal abuse and grew up in a supportive family, and I realize there are people out there who need Pride even more than I do. It means a lot to take part in something that is right where I live, especially when the considering the social conservatism in the smaller towns surrounding Johnson City.

Q: Who are some artists who inspire you?

A: Short List: Tori Amos, Radiohead, Nina Simone, Rhiannon Giddens, Big Mama Thornton, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Loreena McKennitt, Gretchen Peters.

Q: What’s something not a lot of people know about you?

A: I was born with twelve fingers. I had an extra finger on the side of each of my pinky fingers, but they were removed shortly after my birth.

Q: What’s next for you and your music

A: I worked on two projects earlier this year that will be out next year; my new solo acoustic record, co-produced and recorded by Dirk Powell at his studio in Lafayette, LA, which has a pending title at the moment. I’m currently shopping labels, and taking my time before making a decision on where to go with it. The second project is a Smithsonian Folkways release titled Songs of Our Native Daughters, produced by Rhiannon Giddens and Dirk Powell. It’s a collaborative project with Rhiannon, Alli Russell (Birds of Chicago), and Layla McCalla (Carolina Chocolate Drops). Both will be released next year and there will be touring involved with both records. 2019 is gonna be a very big year!

Q: Where can people follow you? 

Amythystkiah.com, Amythyst Kiah on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Music can be found at BandCamp, iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify.

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