Amy Jack Releases Debut Album — Produced By Late Merle Haggard

Oklahoma native Amy Jack is a proficient singer, songwriter, and producer. After graduating from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in TV/Radio/Film, she worked as an account executive for iHeart Media and Cumulus. She learned the ins and outs of the music and radio industries, and to this day, Amy knows radio first hand. Raised by family music teachers, Amy sings with ease and conviction. “Music is the most powerful mover in the world,” she says.

What music did your family listen to in Oklahoma?

My father listened to Merle Haggard, and my mother taught music, so I grew up around her playing music during her piano and voice lessons. When my town got a radio station, I couldn’t believe it, I was so excited. My sister and I listened to country, pop, and rock.

How has the music from your youth influenced the songs you write?

Although my sister has perfect pitch, and my grandmother and mother were music teachers, I’m the only one of my siblings that is a singer or songwriter. While they haven’t struggled like I have, in the end it’s worth it to follow my passion. My mother was classically trained in music, so I grew up around that style. My mother and grandmother were also perfectionists, which is something that has been passed down to me and influenced my songwriting.

When you were studying at the University of Oklahoma, was it mostly ‘behind the scenes’ work?

I did some work in sports broadcasting, but knowing I would likely have to move around my whole life was not something I wanted to do. Something inside of me is still a journalist at heart; I love interviewing people and hearing their stories. I wasn’t going to be a singer, until I met Merle Haggard. He was incredible and such an inspiration — I think he wrote one song a day. There’s something so strong and special about him — I wanted to be just like him, and still aspire to live like Merle to this day.

How has your past work at iHeart and Cumulus influenced your artist career?

With Cumulus, I learned a lot about business and life. Working with Cumulus and iHeart influenced me as an artist because they’re smart, they’re tough, and they’re the backbone of this country. They influence me to be a strong independent business owner like they are.

You wrote “For the Love of the Game” for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. What inspired the write?

I was inspired to write this song by something my dad would say to me growing up. He told me he preferred horse racing over cars, because a car race depends on which car has the best parts, while a horse race depends on whether or not the horse has the heart. I love the sentiment that horses run for the love of the game.

Merle produced your album “Introducing Amy Jack”. What was it like when you first found out he would be the producer?

I felt intimidated at first to be working with one of the greatest country artists of all time, and because I knew his standards were so high. But, working with Merle was a wonderful experience. He once asked me, “If it’s not quality, why would you do it?” The last time I talked to him before he passed away, he told me he thought my songs were great. That is something I am forever proud of, and I’m grateful to have worked with such a legend in the genre.

Can you describe what it was like to record at the Hagg Studio in Redding?

Everyone I worked with at Hagg Studio, including Merle, were such gracious and classy people. Merle had eclectic designs and rare photos throughout the studio. The gentlemen I worked with were all men of integrity, simply the best of the best.

What was the most challenging aspect of bringing these songs to life in the studio with Merle?

In the studio with Merle, everyone was really encouraging and pleasant. Ace, the producer under Merle, and Joe Corey, Merle’s engineer, were both a dream to work with. When I recorded “Got Lonely Too Early,” I was trying to put as much expression and character in the song as Merle did on the original version. I wasn’t confident at first, but Merle and the team helped me find my sound for this cover.

How difficult was it to perform the cover of “Got Lonely Too Early” in front of Merle for the first time?

It was definitely intimidating at first, but Joe, Ace and Merle helped encourage me. They helped me feel more confident in performing my version of “Got Lonely Too Early.”

What was the best advice Merle gave you?

That’s easy — to be honest. I remember him saying, “If there was one thing my father hated, it was a liar.” Just like in Merle’s song, “Roots Of My Raising,” the line that says he “could borrow money at the bank simply on his word,” Merle taught me the value in being honest.

Which up-and-coming female artists are also carrying on Merle’s country legacy?

Well, Miranda Lambert carries on Merle’s legacy with her music, performances, and personality. She’s of course not an up-and-comer, she’s a superstar.

What song of Willie’s would you cover?

I would love to cover “Back To Earth,” which Merle did — it’s a beautiful song that Willie wrote.

“I work hard to play hard”. What do you like to do when you aren’t writing or performing?

When I’m not writing or performing, I like to go to the gym, travel, and see new things. I also love to spend time with relatives and friends.

Music Feature Writer on Medium

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