Amos Heart Is Making Pacific Northwest Storytelling Music

The singer-songwriter takes on his more expansive sound on his upcoming new record.

Amos Heart (Samantha Klopp)

2. Amos Heart

Sounds like: Burrowing into the shoulder of your college boyfriend’s well-worn favorite hoodie

Amos Heart is a homegrown talent. The singer-songwriter grew up in St. Johns, spent his middle school days busking Beatles covers outside of Powell’s Books, graduated from Grant High School, and has a song called “Belmont.” The whole deal.

“I was definitely raised by the Pacific Northwest, by the rain and the stormy clouds and all that,” he says, walking around the Sabin neighborhood on a spring afternoon. Heart, a couple weeks shy of 24, had just come from a recording session for his forthcoming album, From the Perspective of a Loved One, at Echohill Studio. A walk-and-talk press interview and then Heart was hopping on a bus to his job serving at Gino’s in Sellwood.

“Right now, life feels hectic and crazy because every ‘free day’ is music-oriented,” Heart says. “It’s just go, go, go and trying to survive financially and have a house and impress a girl along the way.”

The girl is fellow Best New Bands contender Kendall Lujan, who sings on the new album, along with AC Sapphire. Many of Heart’s bandmates from 2023 Best New Bands finalist Jonny’s Day Out also appear on the new record.

Amos Heart is a stage name (his birth name is Avery Ocean Morrigan-Haines) lifted from the character he played in a high school production of the musical Chicago. The character is the “total dipshit” husband of lead Roxie Hart, but Heart liked the sound of the name, so he tweaked the spelling and claimed it as his own.

Heart fell in love with performing before songwriting. At a School of Rock concert when he was 9, Heart took the stage as a skinny little blond kid in a bowler hat. During the last chorus of Tom Waits’ “Goin’ Out West,” Heart ripped his shirt off and threw it on the floor. He watches the video when he needs a little inspiration.

“I was a crazy little fucker back then,” he says. “I circle back to it when I think, ‘Should I be performing?’ And then I see my child self ripping off his shirt.”

His songs today are less shirt-rippers and more tender and personal; Heart’s primary influence is Leonard Cohen. He is very much a singer-songwriter but bristles at the overused category, especially in Portland; he prefers indie rock instead, or will even go with “storytelling music.”

In the studio, Heart is experimenting with a bigger sound than he had in his 2021 album, The House on the Hill. Instrumentation on the new album includes guitar, piano, cello, violin, clarinet, trumpet, saxophone, drums and some unconventional percussion, too. Heart bangs on pots and pans on the opening song “Gathering of the Dandelions,” and careful listeners will hear the rap of pencils and the clang of typewriter keys on other tracks.

Heart has ADHD but is no longer medicated for the condition after “abusing the hell out of Adderall” as a teen and not sleeping or eating enough. He appreciates that his producer at Echohill, Edwin Paroissien, encourages him to let his busy musical mind travel wherever it needs to go (such as upstairs to grab a set of pots and pans). It’s like harnessing the ADHD as a superpower, Heart says.

“He’s ridiculously gifted, ridiculously kind, ridiculously smart,” Paroissien says of Heart. “He’s got a lot going on in his mind in terms of vision. He sort of knows what he’s looking for, and we start building things up in a very nonlinear process.”

Detours, of course, can lead to the best surprises. Heart had spent four to five hours on a song called “Flower Bed” when his buddies from Jonny’s Day Out (many of whom he’s been in bands with since seventh grade) came in with some different ideas. The song made “a 180-degree turn for the better,” Paroissien recalls. Heart remained impressively open to the pivot—not precious or rigid about the song he had spent half a day on.

Going solo after being in a band is a classic music industry challenge that, so far, Heart and his crew have weathered well.

“I think I’m one of the luckiest people in the world because I have these incredible musical friends that are so supportive of everything I do,” he says. “We’re kind of letting friendship lead the way, in the least corny way possible.”

See Amos play live at our Best New Bands Showcase on 4/10 at Mississippi Studios. Buy your tickets here.

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