Beth Amsel returns to Carbondale
Aspen, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE ” Folk singer/songwriter Beth Amsel still holds Carbondale close to her heart.
She graduated from Carbondale’s Colorado Rocky Mountain School in 1989 when the town was still mostly ranchland.
Amsel was a “teenager wandering in cow fields” who remembers laying down the fields to find solitude. “It wasn’t hard to get away from people then,” she said.
A city girl from New York, Amsel needed the cows and the fields. She was 13 and fled the “black eyelined, hair-sprayed depths of suburban Long Island” for the Colorado Rockies, where she became acquainted with potato peelers, wheels of barbed wire and her own voice.
And she has many Roaring Fork Valley locals to thank for that, she admits.
“I feel like I owe everything that I do to so many people in the valley. I travel all over the country, and it is the place I look forward to coming back to,” Amsel said by phone from her home in Nederland, Colo.
She makes her annual return to Carbondale on Saturday to play a solo gig at Steve’s Guitars. Doors open at 8 p.m. for the 8:30 p.m. performance. Admission is $10.
Among her influences back in the late ’80s were then-CRMS theater teachers Sue Lavin and Jan Garrett and still-current faculty member A.O. Forbes.
“That’s the amazing thing about being a teenager. At that age you think anything is possible and when you cross paths with people who actually say, ‘Yeah, you can do anything,’ it’s amazing,” Amsel said. “It was a supportive group of adults, especially since I was very, very lost when I left New York. I didn’t know what my life was going to look like.”
She studied theater at CRMS and took classes in singing and acting during the summer, as well. But it was Lavin who “broke open the talents I was slowly discovering,” Amsel said.
The amazing thing is she’s still in touch with Lavin and is honored that Lavin has continued to support her performing arts endeavors.
“She had so much confidence in me when I was a teenager, I fall back on that,” she said.
Forbes, another of Amsel’s mentors, will be the opening act Saturday and they’ll play some tunes together ” Amsel during his 35-minute set, and he during her show.
An important influence when Amsel was young, Forbes introduced her to the world of singer/songwriter musicianship. Although he’s not a musician who typically performs publicly, Amsel said she likes to “drag him out and make him play” when she makes her annual trip to Carbondale.
Despite her discovery of music at CRMS, she didn’t pursue it for quite a while, returning to New York for one year to study theater arts. But she said she didn’t have a thick enough skin for that business.
“I was too young and also realized I missed Colorado terribly. I was so not meant to live on the East Coast,” she said. Amsel moved back to Colorado and veered off the arts path to study Soviet history and the Russian language at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Still, ever since she was a child, she envisioned herself as a writer with lots of dogs. While she now only has one dog, Stella, she has made a name for herself in the songwriting industry.
She has three full-length albums to date, has collaborated on and contributed to other successful projects, and is working on the next set of songs to be recorded in late 2008/early 2009 on her independent label, Good Egg Music.
“Beth has done what many singer/songwriters are incapable of ” put out consistently solid albums with smart lyrics, catchy melodies and beautiful production,” says Kyndmusic.com.
“I’ll be damned if I’ve heard a better singer/songwriter project this year,” wrote Rob Weir of the Valley Advocate.
When she was 20, Amsel accepted as collateral the guitar of a friend whom she’d bailed out of jail. The friend was to pay back the $100 bail but never did, so she ended up owning a guitar, though she didn’t know how to play it. It was two years later that she cracked the case and “met her muse.”
“I’ve spent my whole life writing in journals. I wrote horrible poetry when I was a teenager,” she laughed. “But it wasn’t until I inadvertently received that guitar that I started writing songs.”
Amsel penned, composed and recorded her first song, “Daylight,” (on her first album “A Thousand Miles”) and knew at that moment how she would spend her life.
” ‘Daylight’ opened a new door for me immediately, and I knew exactly what I’d be doing from that day forth.”
There was something more to it for critics and listeners, too. The album was ultimately nominated for a Boston Music Award for Best Debut Folk/Acoustic Album.
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RFTA has a bit of a paradox on its hands. The public bus agency doesn’t anticipate it will haul as many passengers this winter but it needs more buses and drivers than ever. Only 15 people are allowed per bus, so that saps resources.