On paper, Amy LaVere's life has a certain fairy-tale mystique: Thumping a rockabilly bass twice her size, the Louisiana native has conducted a musical journey that took her through Detroit and Nashville, finally landing in Memphis. Through a series of fortuitous circumstances, she's won plum acting roles opposite Joaquin Phoenix and Christina Ricci. And she found her prince, accomplished drummer/bassist Paul Taylor, already living under her own roof. He became her platonic roommate, she says, because she was living beyond her means. And before he became her boyfriend, Taylor produced her debut album, This World Is Not My Home.
Even in person, LaVere says gems like, "I'm an incredible dreamer. I always think there's a gold mine around every corner."
Take her relationship with Taylor: "I've definitely grown as a musician -- a lot of times, through sheer motivation -- just being around Paul," LaVere says. "He shames me without meaning to. Some days, he'll practice for hours. He's so in love with music. I don't have that discipline," she says wryly, "but I'm trying to pick it up from him."
Despite having already done some home recordings, LaVere says that Taylor took his production duty on the record quite seriously. When the duo entered Archer Records' downtown studio, she says, "The record took on this moody life of its own. The more rockin' tunes that I play in my live show weren't coming across on tape with the right energy, and we ended up recording a ton of stuff that didn't get put on the record." Eventually, she says, "the material on the album selected me."
True to its title -- and LaVere's comments -- the album has a delicate, almost ethereal feel, a sharp juxtaposition to the playful yet persuasive personality that dominates LaVere's live performances.
This World Is Not My Home includes five originals and five covers, rendered by LaVere, her stage band, the Tramps (drummer Paul Buchignani and guitarist Jason Freeman), and a bevy of special guests, including Jim Dickinson, Tommy Burroughs, Tony Thomas, Jimbo Mathus, and Forrest Parker.
"There's a real camaraderie between musicians in Memphis that I didn't find elsewhere," LaVere says. "Living in Nashville, I didn't find much loyalty, and it seemed difficult to get a band together."
By contrast, LaVere says she feels embraced in Memphis: "I got such a good feeling from [Archer Records owner] Ward Archer when he approached me about the album, and band mates like Paul Buchignani have helped me stay realistic and taught me to keep a level head."
LaVere has also had good fortune on the silver screen. This year, she played Wanda Jackson in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line ("I'm such a fan that it was an incredible honor to pretend that I was Wanda for a day," she coos), a part that led to another role in Craig Brewer's upcoming feature Black Snake Moan.
"I sure as hell wouldn't turn down another good part, but I'm not actively looking for one, because I'm so busy," LaVere says. "Ideally, I'd like to continue making great music. I'd also like to see the band grow. I feel like I've hit a plateau, and I really hope this record will help move me forward. I want to do bigger and better shows and have more fun all the time."