Amythyst Kiah Encapsulates American Music - 27 East


Magazines / 2200555

Amythyst Kiah Encapsulates American Music

icon 3 Photos
Amythyst Kiah. Todd Roeth photo

Amythyst Kiah. Todd Roeth photo

Amythyst Kiah. Todd Roeth photo

Amythyst Kiah. Todd Roeth photo

Amythyst Kiah. Todd Roeth photo

Amythyst Kiah. Todd Roeth photo

​Emily Weitz on Sep 14, 2023

Amythyst Kiah doesn’t fit in a box, and neither does American music. In fact, this guitar toting, rock ’n’ roll playing Americana soulful singer encapsulates the varied influences of American music like none other. And when she takes the stage at the Old Whalers’ Church to headline the Sag Harbor American Music Festival, she brings with her the influences of American history and a grounded, singular sound that gives voice to what America is today.

Even though Kiah grew up in a house where an eclectic blend of music was playing on vinyl, CDs, and tapes, she didn’t fully appreciate the roots of American music and how they were connected until she started to study it in college.

“I heard Dolly Parton, Carlos Santana, all kinds of jazz,” she said. “The first CDs I bought were Michael Jackson, Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey.”

She was drawn to big, strong vocals, and when you hear her powerhouse voice, you’ll know why.

“I always looked for that big pop vocal sound, which goes back to the Pentecostal Church. That charismatic, emotive, melodic way of performing,” she said.

Along with the vocals, Kiah always sought out a strong rhythm underneath, and by the time she picked up the guitar at 13, she was tuning in to alternative sounds like Green Day and Blink-182, both known for their rhythm section. But still she would not be limited by a genre. As her guitar-playing skills developed, she started to think about singing and songwriting.

“I started listening to Tori Amos,” she said, “and she inspired me to write songs. The dexterity, the way she was able to carry herself with her piano and voice was so inspiring.”

It wasn’t a means to an end, but the process of songwriting itself that lulled Kiah into countless hours in her bedroom, creating.

“I wasn’t thinking about performing,” she said. “I just loved music, and it was also a good way to give myself therapy. I had social anxiety, and music was a way to channel that anxiety into something beautiful.”

By the time she got to college, Kiah was drawing on all these influences to fuse together her unique sound.

“I was digging into alternative and studying old-time music,” she recalled, “and I started to realize the origins of all this music, all these European and West African influences came together to create country and bluegrass and rock ’n’ roll.”

She noticed the social context of the musical origins and how these different cultures somehow were able to mingle musically, even if that wasn’t the case in society.

“In order for country music to even happen, there had to be white people and Black people playing together,” she said. “Despite what was socially acceptable, people were finding a sense of humanity within each other. Music has the power to surpass social norms.”

She finds the same thing happening in mainstream country music today — even though audiences are predominantly white, there are deep influences from other genres.

“There may be a white artist on stage,” she said, “but you’ll hear a hip-hop beat underneath. Not everyone sees it, but there are enough who see the veil pulled back. This music is forever going to be fused with these cultural roots and it surpasses any rules that anyone tries to place on it.”

Even though the music industry and marketing forces tend to like categories and genres, Kiah has stood her ground. She creates the music she feels compelled to create, and she lets the machine come to her instead of being sucked into the machine. She attributes much of that confidence to her father.

“Everything I’ve learned about how to forge forward and stick to my values is my dad,” she said. “He’s always reminded me to know my worth. To not allow anyone to change me or try to mold me into something I’m not comfortable with. Learning to grow is one thing. But let’s do this because it’s popular? No.”

This conviction has led her right where she is, a rising star in the realms of alternative and Americana, which are not as high profile as pop or hip-hop.

“But you find people who love what you do and find success with that. I’m not chasing follows or likes or even money.”

When Amythyst Kiah brings her divine voice and her tight band to the Old Whalers’ Church, there will be a sense of coming home. Not that she is a churchgoer, but because she believes that the roots of the American voice reside in the church.

“For me, performing in a church is like going back to where it started,” she said. “I could consider it a bit of a spiritual experience from the standpoint of my reverence and love for the power of the human voice and the fact that it was in those spaces that the evolution of the human singing voice in American music began.”

Amythyst Kiah will headline the Sag Harbor American Music Festival on Friday, September 29, at the Old Whalers’ Church in Sag Harbor. For tickets, go to

You May Also Like:

East Quogue Knife Maker Is Passionate About Hobby He Found Late in Life

Nicholas Di Benedetto is standing at a belt sander in his workshop garage in East ... 17 Apr 2024 by Tom Gogola

Reclaiming Wood, and Their Original Business, Biondo and Disbrow Revive Antique Lumber Co.

For nearly 20 years, Jason Biondo has been building custom homes in Montauk and beyond ... by Cailin Riley

A Mission To Spread a Love of Jazz Throughout the Community

For the past few years, Claes Brondal, John Landes and Joel Chriss have been united ... by Cailin Riley

Sisters Embrace Native Plantings for East End Gardens

Anna deMauro thinks of her office as an art studio. It is a place of ... 16 Apr 2024 by Michelle Trauring

Travels With Hannah: You Can Go Home Again

Legacy. It’s a word I keep hearing over and over again during my four-day stay ... by Hannah Selinger

Create a Butterfly Garden To Counter Habitat Loss

The eastern monarch butterflies seen on the East End of Long Island in spring and ... by Brendan J. O'Reilly

Springs Photographer Captures Rare, Glittering Warriors

Spring is the best time of year because the hummingbirds come back to their feeders, ... by Kelly Ann Smith

Pop Art and Filipino Fusion Make Their Way to Mattituck at Pookaberry Cafe

Peter Marco and his wife, Jeanette, transplanted to the North Fork five years ago looking ... by Julianne Mosher

A Conversation With LTV Studios Executive Director Michael Clark

LTV Studios is celebrating 40 years of broadcasting out of its Wainscott studios, connecting public ... by Elizabeth Vespe

Travels With Hannah: Twin Farms – A Resort Filled With Private Discoveries

To explain the kind of service one receives at Twin Farms, the Relais & Châteaux ... 26 Nov 2023 by Hannah Selinger