Raising a family, working multiple jobs and making music isn’t an easy lifestyle—some days it has Amee Chapman feeling worn down. But expressing that struggle in her music helps her pull everything back to center. On the title track of her new album, Grace is Hell to Keep, which she recorded with her band, The Velvet Tumbleweeds, Chapman conveys some of those feelings through a slow ballad about a musician who tries to present a positive, manicured appearance, but actually feels torn to pieces. “It tells the story of how you can push through something and try to be polished all the time, but it’s just not possible,” she says.
The song is about how hard it is to make it as a musician, and Chapman says it reflects her own experiences. “I’m pretty lighthearted around people,” she says, “but when I’m singing, that’s really when my true self comes out.” Chapman and her life partner, Nichole Robbins, who co-writes her lyrics, have lived together in some exotic circumstances—aboard a boat in Moss Landing, immersed in the music culture of Austin, Texas, and on a 200-acre goat ranch in Northern California. Their songs tell stories about those places and their relationship. “They’re kind of like snapshots in time of Nichole’s and my life, our outlook, and how we felt about each other,” she says. She describes her brand of Americana/folk as “Sagebrush Soul.” “Everyone can call it Americana or country, but I think I just wanted to define my love for country music, soul and pop and all of it,” she says. Chapman grew up listening to the music of Willie Nelson, The Beatles, Motown and Aretha Franklin, and on Grace is Hell to Keep, a lot of those sounds come together, she says. “It’s a take on a rustic soul record—sort of what you get when you meld Americana with soul.”
INFO: 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1. Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. $12/adv, $15/door. 427-2227.