“If you followed my music back to the original source, you would move from the piano to my fingers to my heart to my eyes to my mind. All of my work is a blend of reflections, weaving my personal experiences with the interpretation of what I see and feel as a neurologic music therapist.”
Angie Kopshy is discussing her most recent album, Breathing, which will be released at Sellwood Public House in Portland, Oregon on November 17, 2012. Listening to this nine-track album is like riding a neuron through Angie’s brain. The album exudes a roller coaster of emotions ranging from love to sorrow to fear-based paralysis to triumph.
“When I was born, my parents spread out my tiny, long fingers and determined that I would be a pianist. I had my first piano by the time I was four and was in lessons shortly thereafter. Although I started writing my own work right away, I didn’t take my songs seriously until I completed my Master’s. That’s a long time to hide a dream in the closet!”
At 30, Angie found herself back in Portland studying music therapy. She started performing at open mics and began recording her first album at Falcon Recording Studio. “I had no idea what I was doing, but released ‘My Troubled World’ in 2008. It was a great experience, but a lot of the feedback I received included words like: sad, hauntingly beautiful, heartbreaking, tragic. And although I am adamant about staying true to my heart and writing about hard subjects like drug abuse, kidnapping, OCD and prostitution, I want my songs to be palatable. I want people to tap their toes as they take in my stories of heartbreak. I walked away from that CD release feeling particularly inspired to collaborate with more of the amazing musicians here in Portland.”
When Angie had enough work for another album, she knocked on the door of Hip Stew Studios. “Although I was really excited about my new work, my songs felt like Tori Amos and Claude Debussy making love on an old grand piano. I needed to break out of my genre and the guys at Hip Stew made it happen.”
A year later, the producers were pushing Angie to recreate Stoneface Honey - a band that had nearly dissolved. “My best friend, Erin Hade, was the violinist, back-up vocalist and primary source of musical support for Stoneface Honey. Even our name came from a comment that someone made about the warmth hidden behind her beautifully stoic face. When she moved away, I went into mourning and couldn’t find anyone held a candle to her for a long time.”
But Stoneface Honey finally came back to life when Angie’s beloved friend from high school moved back to Portland. “Amy and I used to sing together in high school. She came up with harmonies for my juvenile compositions. I absolutely love her!”
“I’m really excited to share this new album. The producers at Hip Stew Studios have been incredibly generous with their creativity and brilliance. Playing with Stoneface Honey makes me ridiculously happy.”
Most of my songs are based off of images and impressions of real people. Sometimes the image in my head is a man with whom I’m directly intertwined, and sometimes the content is more obscure - inspired by something in the paper or in the news. But my songs almost always turn into a blend of emotions and characters. As more metaphors crawl into the songs I’m writing, the more impressionistic my original images become. Sometimes it feels like I’ve taken single strands of different emotions and images and braided them together into something even more powerful and affirming in my head. For me, the most powerful aspect of singing my own songs is that I always have images in my head and stories behind the words enabling me to exude more emotion than I ever knew as a classical performer or even someone playing cover songs. And I know my music isn’t for everyone, and that’s ok, but for me, sitting down at the piano and deciding which song I’m going to play feels like walking up to a jukebox and sifting through all the songs until you find the one that perfectly matches your mood in that moment. My album is all over the map - a direct reflection of me and my life.
Stifled is actually a remake from my last album, so I wrote the song about six years ago. A lot of my songs fade away as new material arises, but this song kept coming back. And although the song was inspired by a really old relationship, the content still feels relevant a lot of the time. So I asked Hip Stew Studios to put some sort of twist on it and I love what they did.
Run was the first song I wrote for this new album. I was still wrapping up details with My Troubled World and hadn’t even released the CD yet. I felt a little guilty about directing my energy towards something not connect to the CD release project, but finally indulged one night and this song just poured out of me. I used to work as a case manager at a domestic violence shelter in Boise. This song was inspired by the love/hate relationship one of my clients had with herself, drugs and other people in her life. Together, we had this ultimate the until she was ready to receive help and face her demons, she’d live her life on auto-repeat - the same story over and over with new characters. People could try to save her and offer her a red carpet; an easy way out of her situation. But she needed to climb the mountain, fall down over and over and learn the hard way so that she could truly appreciate the transformation from the inside out. Since 2008 when this song was written, I’ve repeatedly found myself resonating with the story behind this song - at a drug and alcohol treatment center in which I worked and in Vegas, when I spent the night in jail with 21 beautiful, brilliant women who seemed to dance on this double edged sword: baubles and trinkets on one end and creepy, broken men on the other.
Karma is a song I wrote after spending the night in jail. The song was written in anger - rage, really, for a man who appeared to be amazing but turned out to be so arrogant and audacious that he didn’t even flinch when he broke the rules. He always felt like he was the exception - like when he was pulled over for speeding, he’d pull the doctor card and say he was on his way to the hospital to save a patient. He spent his life acting like a villain but presenting himself as a hero. And I think ultimately, most of the rage is at myself - that I allowed myself to be lured into his world for so long. Playing this song soothes my soul and provides me with the comfort of concepts like reciprocity and karma.
Breathing On My Own is still one of my favorite songs to play. This song was written during a really lonely time in my life. My best friend and musical partner, the original Stoneface Honey, was moving across the country. I’d just completed my internship and was starting my private practice and felt really isolated from my music therapy community, and I was dating this man who just wasn’t that into me, but I couldn’t leave him. The night before I wrote this song, I saw Yael Naim in concert at The Aladdin. It was her first show in the U.S. and her energy was fantastic. She really inspired me to use my voice as more of an instrument rather than just for lyrics. So as I sat there next to Not That Into Me Man, I had all these bittersweet emotions running through my head and already had a song bubbling on the surface, echoing in my ears every time Yael stopped singing. On top of that, I was secretly in love with Citizen Cope’s ‘Son’s Gonna Rise’ and would listen to it over and over every morning. So when this song finally poured out of me, I felt like I was surrounded by enough inspiration and strength to help me finally move forward with my life.
I feel like Moan kind of speaks for itself. Portland was in the middle of a snowstorm when I wrote this song and I was housesitting - all alone with a beautiful piano in a room with windows that framed the falling snow in such a beautifully picturesque fashion that I could hardly leave the piano bench for days. I missed my man and might have been secretly fantasizing that I was some sort of gorgeous pole dancer. I’m just saying.
Love Me was another song inspired by Bad Karma Doctor Man, but just before I sat down at the piano to write, I read two different articles in the paper about men kidnapping little girls. So on top of this overwhelming disgust I felt for this man who thought he would eventually win my heart by force, this whole concept of Stockholm Syndrome was running through my head - this crazy notion that if you make someone need you badly enough, then naturally love would follow. So I ended up writing this song from the kidnapper’s perspective and it disturbs me just enough that I always want to explain myself before I sing this song. But sometimes I don’t and get all distracted wondering if I scare the people in the audience just a little bit.
Wait, the one song in the entire album that I play on the guitar, was written during my internship. I helped to facilitate a weekly psychoanalytic music therapy group and the plight of one man’s struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder haunted me for quite a while. True to form, this song also blended my perception of an ex-boyfriend’s paralysis in life, making the song even more personal and heartbreaking for me. When I play this song, I have such strong visuals in my head that I frequently lose the beat. I love what Hip Stew Studios added to this song with the slide guitar and percussion, but oh the struggle we had with my tempo! We had to record the bridge over and over and they were literally conducting from the other side of the glass. It was hilariously humbling.
How Long? is my attempt at a happy song. It was written during the early stage of my relationship with Just Not That Into Me Man. This song makes me want to ride a cruiser bike and whistle while pondering how soon is too soon to tell someone you love them. When I was 21, my younger brother was killed in a car accident. And it was horrible, of course, but my sister wrote this amazing poem - like the only poem she ever shared with the world - about telling people you love them. So I feel like I went through an almost reckless phase where I would just let myself fall in love with people because life is short and you gotta love while you can because you never know when their life will end or your life will end or the world will end or something! This song is my attempt to untangle all those run-on sentences about love that whirl through my head on a daily basis.
Never Be is a sad song dedicated to a couple men who undoubtedly have some of the same run-on sentences whirling through their heads. I’ve dated a lot of amazing men in my life who wanted to give me all their love, but I just couldn’t reciprocate, which made me very sad because I like to project and assume that if hearing something like, “You’re an amazing person but I just don’t feel the same way,” would hurt my feelings, it will, of course, hurt the feelings of anyone else in that situation. This lack of logic has frequently resulted in me keeping my feelings inside and staying in relationships much longer than I wanted. So I know this is crappy and cowardly, but I wrote this song and posted a really poor quality video on youtube and sent the link to three different men who might have happened to think that Never Be was written especially for them. The truth is, this song was written for all of them, but more importantly, for me. Every time I sing this song, I am reminded, humbled and inspired by the power and courageousness of honesty - with others and with myself. And I’m sure it will take many more songs before I can fully embrace the idea of saying something hurtful, yet necessary, to someone’s face.