ALIVE AND AWAKE is Amy Sky first CD of all-new material since 2001. It’s a gorgeous and inspiring collection of 16 new songs. The CD is part of a project that also includes a newsletter, website and performances both sung and spoken, all connected to Amy’s remarkable life and career, and her work as an advocate and activist for mental health.
ALIVE AND AWAKE is a beautiful and cohesive collection of songs, chosen to reflect Amy’s belief that “art can be tremendously healing,” And although her songs have always reflected an artist whose lyrics have come from a deep place of observing the human condition, the focus for this CD coalesced around her work as a mental health advocate; in particular, the area of mood disorders and self-care.
Believing “that secrets only have power when they are secret,” in 2006 Amy went public with her own struggles with depression and postpartum psychosis, a severe form of postpartum depression. That same year, she agreed to become one of the faces of the Transforming Lives Public Awareness campaign sponsored by the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, a decision that would prove to be transformative and pivotal for her.
As part of the campaign, giant posters of Amy were installed in bus shelters around Toronto. As Amy was absorbing the impact that her public revelation was having on her own life, a story came to her from a friend that would help cement her feelings about where she wanted to go with her career as a songwriter and performer. The friend told Amy about a woman who had been suffering from postpartum depression. As a result, her husband walked out, ending the marriage. The woman had reached such a point of despair that she had decided to take her own life. That dark day she saw Amy’s poster, and instead of harming herself, she reached out to the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto and found the help she needed.
That story crystallized things for Amy. “I realized that I had a choice. I’ve been blessed with a burden. If I can choose between doing music that just gets applause, or music that saves lives, for me there’s no contest.”
From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like a natural evolution for this therapist’s daughter. Friends and colleagues can tell you that even before her own struggles with mood disorders, Amy was a nonjudgmental and deeply compassionate friend, with a canny insight into their issues. Millions of people struggle with mental health issues, but the stigma prevents them from talking about it, or from seeking help. But no one who knows her was surprised that Amy had the courage to go public and speak openly about her own story.
The campaign had an unexpected effect. Since speaking out about her experience with mood disorders, Amy had developed parallel careers: She was suddenly not just a successful singer and a go-to songwriter/arranger/producer and actor, but now people were seeking her out to speak on issues of mental health.
For years, Amy had been writing and performing material that always seemed to dig deeper than most of the standard pop fare. Songs like “I Will Take Care of You,” or her musical interpretation of Dr. Maya Angelou’s powerful poem “Phenomenal Woman,” leapt off her CDs and became hits. People would tell her that when these songs came on the radio, they would have to stop doing what they were doing. Amy was staggered by the number of people who approached her to say that they had to pull their cars off the road, because the songs touched them so deeply that they would weep when they heard them. And so while she was building a fan base through the usual channels of radio and video airplay on multiple formats — pop, rock, country – she was also building a loyal fan base of people who would write letters or come to shows and tell her how her music inspired them, or pulled them through a difficult time and uplifted them.