Asheville-based singer/songwriter returns to Muddy Creek
“I try not to waste people’s time,” said the singer/songwriter
. We were talking about her inclination to steer clear of songs that dwell on her own personal struggles, in part because she doesn’t think her problems are terribly interesting. But Platt’s attitude about not wasting time also might relate to how she thinks about the passage of the hours, days and years.
I spoke to Platt last week by phone from her home in Asheville. She returns to the Muddy Creek Music Hall in Winston-Salem with her band the Honeycutters on Jan. 5. Platt was (and essentially still is) the frontwoman of the band the Honeycutters, a group that has called their music Appalachian honky tonk, a term that hinted at the mix of country, folk and rock, the non-Nashville nature of their sound. In 2017, they released Amanda Anne Platt and the Honeycutters, putting Platt’s name at the front, since she is the primary songwriter, singer and founding member. The sound hasn’t changed much. (There’s less mandolin and more organ now.) Platt’s singing is the clear centerpiece, assisted by the ache of pedal steel and the nudge of the drums.
Platt, 33, has a knack for songs about people who’ve lived life in a sort of full-tilt stupor, wringing everything out of it, maybe letting the years fly by more or less unaware, only to find that they’re standing at the last stretch of a journey, trying to make sense of where they’ve been and what they’ve done.
“Life’s too short not to get to the point,” sings Platt on “Rare Thing,” off the most recent record. It’s one of several songs Platt has about taking stock of the simple power of enduring love, the ability of people to make each other happy, to comfort one another. “All the time I thought I was wasting, I was just learning how to look into your eyes and say ‘I want you,’” she sings on “What We’ve Got.”
But the love in her songs isn’t always of the abiding and rewarding kind. There are plenty of tunes about the ways that love makes us act like fools, putting up with lies, neglect and worse. And there are songs about people who tell themselves that they’re done with love, only to realize that life has other plans for them.
The ways that life can lead us down surprise alleyways is something that interests Platt. She found herself making music almost by accident. Platt, who grew up outside of New York City, just North of the Bronx, moved to North Carolina about a dozen years ago.
She grew up surrounded by her parents’ first-rate record collection, steeped in the Texas troubadour tradition and country classics as well as Broadway show tunes. In college, she pursued religious studies (the themes of which occasionally show up in her songs) but found herself uninspired by the external directives to read and write. Platt moved to Asheville to study with a luthier. She liked the way the work or instrument building focused her energies. “It’s really therapeutic to be in one place and work on one piece of wood,” she said.
As she started performing her songs out live, Platt eventually found that she was devoting more and more time to writing and singing.
“I didn’t occur to me that I was starting a music career,” Platt said. “It took me a while to acknowledge that I had actually made the leap into pursuing one.”
Platt’s said that songwriting is something she does and has done just as a way of making sense of life. She’s called it a coping mechanism. You get the feeling she’d be jotting down lines, tinkering with melodies and chord progressions.
“At this point, I have something like 200 songs that I haven’t recorded,” Platt said. That’s in addition to five albums’ worth of songs that she has recorded. (There’s a live album in the works, too.)
Those songs include stories of forlorn barmaids, single moms who move off the grid after the money gets tight, and lovers who are trying to decide how cautious or reckless to be with one another. There are ramblers, wanderers and road warriors.
At times Platt’s voice makes me think of singers such as Suzanne Vega and Laura Cantrell, vocalists who convey emotion without ever fully belting or cutting loose. There’s a reserve or restraint that’s part of the smolder. You might also find Don McLean or the Jayhawks coming to mind, both in the timbre of Platt’s voice and in her phrasing and storytelling scope.
Platt’s music walks the line between the boot-scooting, whiskey-swilling, festive vibe and the darker meditations on how life can pass us by. The ways that people behave, the way they treat each other, and the way they carry themselves all have a lot to do with their own reaction to the realization that their time alive is limited. Character and temperament are a reflection of how people make sense of mortality. That’s universal.
“I want to focus on what makes us all human and what brings us all together. And a lot of those experiences involve the passing of time,” Platt said.
John Adamian lives in Winston-Salem, and his writing has appeared in Wired, The Believer, Relix, Arthur, Modern Farmer, the Hartford Courant and numerous other publications.
See Amanda Anne Platt and the Honeycutters at Muddy Creek Music Hall, 5455 Bethania Rd., Winston-Salem, Saturday, Jan. 5, at 8 p.m. $12 to $17. muddycreekcafeandmusichall.com