Amy Helm has been making music for nearly 20 years, first as a member of gospel-influenced folk group Olabelle, then as part of her father Levon's band.
Yet it wasn't until now that she chose to release an album under her own name. The album, "Didn't It Rain," incorporates many of the same soul, blues and other roots music influences that her father famously explored as a member of The Band. It also contains some of the last music her father recorded before he died in 2012. amNewYork spoke with Helm.
How is it different fronting your own band versus performing in your father's band or Olabelle?
When you're stepping up with a band to sing lead on something, it's a very different muscle you're using, both as a performer and in your intention. The way you're approaching a lyric or telling a story is naturally different. You'll get a different vibe from someone singing a duet or someone leading a song or someone singing a harmony-based song.
What was it like to listen to your dad's final recordings?
It's fantastic. It's so great. I'm so excited we got it down on tape. Everything he plays makes me smile. I just feel grateful we got to do that.
What was it like growing up around Levon and your stepfather, Donald Fagen, of Steely Dan?
Certainly both my dad and Donald played a lot of music for me. They gave me albums and kept giving me different people to listen to and check out. ... If you have parents who love music and have great taste, they'll turn you on to great stuff.
It seems like with Olabelle you wanted to stay away from being too closely identified with your family. Then you later came to embrace your lineage.
Olabelle was a real true collective. ... I was finding my sea legs. I wanted to keep the focus on the group and the collective dynamic. Playing side by side with dad and [his] Ramble Band shifted and diffused a lot of that. My dad, he became a very serious teacher of mine and I was taking that class with the 12 other musicians in that band. It didn't feel like I was standing in the shadow of something. It felt like I was standing next to one of my musical teachers.
You often perform with people from your dad's generation like Dr. John and Mavis Staples. Do you feel like you were born too latel
I'll quote my dear friend and guitar player Dan Littleton. He was talking about Mavis Staples. He said, "She invented the idea of who you wanted to be." I agree with him. We're getting to play with people who paved the whole road of who we wanted to be. I haven't thought I was born too late. Something about that strikes me as funny. No, I think I'm right on time.
If you go: Amy Helm and Dr. John & the Nite Trippers are at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park on Saturday at 3 p.m., enter park at 69th St. and Fifth Avenue, 212-360-2756, FREE