BY BOB KRASNER
“Writing about your life is great!” says singer, songwriter and now author Amy Rigby. “Everyone should do it.”
Which is not to say that the task was easy.
Rigby, who once called the East Village her home, recently released her memoir “Girl to City” , a chronicle of her journey from Pittsburgh to New York City and beyond, a voyage that included bands , tours, marriage, temp jobs, divorce, a solo career and single motherhood.
It’s an extremely well done and enjoyable read, written with heart and humor. It’s the result of a long process that Rigby benefitted from in ways that she did not foresee.
She began the project in the early 2000s, just making notes. The story starts in Pittsburgh, where she grew up, and ends the year she finally left New York.
“I’ve finally admitted that it’s been twenty years since I left New York,” she says. “The book was closure.”
Now living in upstate New York with her husband, the musician Wreckless Eric, she “read a lot of “memoir how-to books ” in preparation for the task and subsequently found that the act of writing about her life made her re-examine a few things.
Although her much acclaimed songs have frequently dealt with personal subject matter, creating the book was different.
“Writing is a way of thinking about things – it’s a way of getting to something that you wouldn’t get to otherwise, ” she explains.
Writing about her dad gave her a new perspective on him and recounting her mom’s life changing car crash “brought out feelings that were pushed aside when it happened,” she admits.
“Writing about people made me appreciate them more. There were incidents when I thought that someone else was the villain,” she muses, “but I came to realize my part in it.”
Another by product of the process was a song simply titled “Bob“, about an ex boyfriend who figures prominently in her story. Wreckless Eric encouraged her to continue doing gigs and recordings while working on the book, but stayed out of the way otherwise.
Which was fine with Rigby, who did not want to talk to anyone about it while she was writing.
“I thought it would knock me off course,” she said. “There is a fear of getting it wrong,” she admits, ” but that gets in your way. ”
“Besides,” she adds, ” everyone else is welcome to write their own version.”
Younger sibling Michael McMahon, a musician who followed Rigby to New York City, played with her in the band Last Roundup and worked with her at Tier 3 ( the short lived but legendary downtown club) proclaims that this book proves that, “Amy has always been one of the cool kids. And I don’t say that just because I’m her brother!”
He goes on to mention that “Amy has told an entirely personal story of her experience. I don’t think that she was attempting to capture the era for anyone but herself.”
Rigby backs that up, but found that her tale struck a chord with many people: “I didn’t expect so many people to relate to the book. People see themselves in the story.”
The author, who still works in a bookshop upstate, relates that “it took a couple of years to not find a publisher.” After all the rejections, she made the decision to publish it herself.
Glowing reviews followed as Rigby promoted it with numerous bookstore appearances. However, that began as a nerve wracking experience, alternating between reading her stories of her life out loud and performing songs that related to the text.
“I literally thought I’d have a nervous breakdown!” she admits. “I was driving to the first one when I realized that I’d forgotten my guitar!”
Fortunately, the 25 or so appearances that followed got easier as she went along.
So, after creating albums with Last Round Up and the Shams, seven solo albums, three collaborations with Wreckless Eric and many, many performances, Rigby is sure of one fact: “Writing this book is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
Info, music and video at Amyrigby.com