Spotlight: Amy Hef
Amy Hef is a Canadian recording artist who splits her time between L.A. and Calgary. She has been compared to artists like Pink, Tegan and Sara, and Roxette. Amy will bring her personal brand of party pop-rock to Infinity Ultra Lounge during the official after-party for the Pride In Business Pride Kickoff on August 28.
Pride In Business: First, congratulations on your nomination for the YYC Music Awards Pop Recording of the year.
Amy Hef: Thank you.
PIB: How does it feel to be up for that award?
AH: It's just great. I'm really proud of this song. I did it with my friend Alex Alexander — he's out of Sweden. And it's, it's a kind of pop with that eighties kind of feel to it. I'm really proud of that song, so I'm glad that it's getting recognized and hopefully it helps give another push to the song, too, so people can hear it.
PIB: Where would you say that you draw your inspiration from your music?
AH: I've been recording now for the last 12 years. Music is always changing and, the way I get inspired, it depends if I hear a new sound or if something happens in my life and if I'm into other music. I kind of have some song that can be more country even to some songs that are more electronic — Robyn kind of comes to mind. So, it depends on what's triggering my inspiration at the time, I guess. It's kind of an array of a bunch of different sounds and music all the time. Right now, it's a bit more electronic rock. It's what I'm more listening to these days and it works well in a club. I've been trying to get into more club shows, so that's kind of where my music's been laying.
PIB: Touching on country music there for a moment, how has it been carving out a career in music in a city like Calgary?
AH: I've been in L.A. mostly for the last 10 years but the last few years I've been spending more time in Calgary. I have to say that I didn't really start getting into more here until I got more into the gay scene. I really find that my gay fans and crowd really have accepted me and have really pushed me in my sounds and in my music. And, just for my work level, I get booked a lot more because of all the events and all this kind of stuff. I find that I've been met with really open arms by the gay community here and it really helps get my music out there and grow a fan base here in Calgary.
PIB: Have you always been open about your sexuality as a musician?
AH: Nope. It took me a while because of my upbringing and the fear of acceptance I think a lot of us go through. I never really officially came out I guess as a gay artist, but I think it's pretty darn obvious because of all the gay clubs I've been doing and the style of music. I think losing that fear and just being confident enough in myself just to be okay with saying "yeah, I'm in love with women."
PIB: I was reading on your website that you actually grew up as a bit of an introverted child. How did you come out of your shell?
AH: I was the youngest of five kids in a very loud family and I found that I just didn't need to really speak so much because everybody else was doing it for me. It wasn't until I was about 11 or 12 when I started playing music. I'm originally a drummer — everybody else played guitar in my family. So, I took up the drums and I got really good at it quite fast. Then I started playing guitar and I taught myself to sing around 15. I think that's when I really found my voice and it was through music that I built that confidence in myself and found something that I was good at. It kind of triggered a bunch of other things in my life to be confident: I lost a bunch of weight, I got good at sports. It just kind of opened doors for me to find myself.
PIB: How do you think performing within the LGBTQ+ community has influenced your career?
AH: It's definitely given me a stage, for sure. It's hard to survive sometimes as a performer. I write and record a lot, but I'm very confident in my live show, as well. I've been able to really explore that a lot more with live shows here. I was always kind of scared to do dance music, but then you go to any kind of club and its dance music. So, I really got inspired through going to gay clubs that I could do it myself. [The community has] given me a stage and the confidence I think just to truly go out there and crush it. If I have a show, I know I can always count on them to be there.
PIB: How important is it to the LGBTQ+ community to have visibility in the music industry?
AH: I think it's important in any career that there's examples that show it's not the end of the world for them. It's scary to take on any job if you reveal that part of yourself — just a fear I think all of us grew up with. To see someone that is like you and is able to still do what they love and be who they are and put it out there and still be accepted, I think it's very important for people to see that. And even the straight community, they see that we're not different. We just love who we love and everything else. You can still do the same things.
PIB: Would you have any advice for any hopeful musicians in the Calgary LGBTQ+ community?
AH: Don't do it. [laughing] Be a lawyer. If you want to do it and if you find you're passionate and you're good at it, I say: don't quit. Just don't stop. You're not doing any wrong unless you stop. So that's my only advice. Persistence.
PIB: You have a new single coming out on August 30th. Will we get a preview of that at Infinity Ultra Lounge?
AH: Yes, I'll definitely be playing it at the after party.
PIB: Anything else we can expect from the show?
AH: I just ordered a bunch of new merch for Pride, so I'll have t-shirts ready for anyone looking for a new wardrobe. I'll be pulling out my electric guitar, too, which I don't do very often. But I think for the after party I ought to be pulling out the electric guitar and making a fun electronic rock show.