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Local musician wants to spread her tunes far and wide

Tony Casey • Updated Oct 4, 2015 at 1:10 AM

Amythyst Kiah is getting the hang of what it takes to be a self-sufficient musician in this day and age.

Working solo and with a band, she boasts a savvy ability to navigate social media platforms and contact lists, lining up shows in the Tri-Cities area, the Southeast and even across the pond.

As a 2012 graduate of East Tennessee State University’s Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies program, Kiah’s coming up at the right time, especially in Johnson City, where the music scene continues to blossom as each of the Tri-Cities expand their downtowns.

Kiah categorizes herself as a southern gothic, alternative country, blues singer and songwriter, having lived in Johnson City for about 10 years. She cites her influences to be as far and wide as the places she’s traveled, with old time music and R&B vocal flavors to join her love for contemporary artists that put as much stock in vocal integrity as she does.

Kiah mixes in a combination of covers and original songs. Among her favorite covers are blues-rock versions of Dolly Parton’s classic “Jolene” and Moby’s synthetic soul “Trouble So Hard.”

She has a solo album, “Dig,” which has been referred to as sparse and raw and based on her experiences with themes as loss, betrayal and murder.

Breweries, local events and festivals provide many performing opportunities for Kiah. Often she performs with her local band, which is collectively called “Amythyst Kiah and Her Chest of Glass.”

They’re planning a Southeast regional tour, which might includes stops in Florida, Georgia and across Tennessee. Kiah said the connections she’s made since graduation and beginning her career have made it easier for her to land gigs with the band, as well as solo performances. In most shows with the band she will also take the stage alone to perform a few songs between sets with the band.

Recently having traveled overseas to play a few solo shows in Scotland, Kiah greatly enjoyed the experience, getting to take it all in. It all came together when she was presented with an opportunity worded like this: “what can we do to get you to come play our festival in Scotland?”

“Pay for everything,” she responded. And they did.

“That was pretty fantastic,” she said, though she pointed at her airport hopping to get to the festival, which sent her from the Tri-Cities to Atlanta, to Glasgow for a quick sleep, then a flight to Shetland to play. “I felt like I was in the air the whole time.”

That doesn’t mean she’s not ready for more. Kiah said she’s been reaching out to her sources, lining up gigs and tapping her fellow artists for shows she’s trying to hit. 

For upcoming gigs, Kiah will be playing two shows in the heart of Johnson City on Oct. 9, with a 5:30 p.m. performance in Founders Park and then at 8:30 p.m. in the Willow Tree Coffeehouse and Music Room — a stage graces often — in an event called the Jezeball, a three-day live music extravaganza she helped organize.

“It’s going to be a lot of really awesome music from all different styles,” Kiah said.

Kiah says places like the Willow Tree, and owner Teri Dosher, have been progressive about music and bringing in bands and other “outside the box” performances, including vaudeville acts.

“It’s cool to have these forward-thinking people to come in and allow other forms of art to be expressed,” she said. “It’s a really good time right now for creatives.”

In the past, venues had been playing just hard rock and bluegrass, and though the Johnson City-based musician loves those sounds, she likes the opportunities to be opened for others as well.

More information about her can be found on her Reverbnation page, as well as her YouTube channel and BandCamp site.

Email Tony Casey at [email protected]. Follow Tony Casey on Twitter @TonyCaseyJCP. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tonycaseyjournalist.

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