Texas-born, Florida-based, singer-songwriter Season Ammons has been making music in front of an audience since the once shy child found found her voice in a middle school choir. When she was just 17 she moved to Nashville to pursue her dreams. She had some brushes with quick success, such as being advanced as a finalist for the USA Network show Nashville Star in 2004. Ultimately she wasn’t chosen, yet she refused to give up doing what she loves and kept building a following.
In a phone interview she told me that when she finally released her first studio recorded CD, tellingly titled “I’m Alive,” she intended to make a statement. The self-produced disc what her way of asserting that she was in the music business to stay. I wanted to announce that I’m here, I’m doing this full time, and I wanted to show people what I could do.” As an independent artist responsible for every aspect of the project from the songs and sound to the packaging and marketing, there was a lot to do and a lot on the line, and she had to learn fast. She wanted everything whether it was the cover photography or the instrumentation, to support the message she was trying to convey.
She says wanted it to be accessible and straightforward. “I didn’t want people to have to think too much about who Season Ammons was as an artist.” She simply wanted them to hear her lyrics, her voice, and her melodies.
The 5-song disc was well received. Not only has Season been able to continue making music full time, but she went on to make a second CD, Wildfire, that showed a different side.
I wanted to move it up a notch, and to show the grittiness of my live shows. In the studio you’re in a controlled environment and you don’t have to work so much. You let the microphone do the work for you, so you’re able to do some things that you’re not able to do life. ‘Cause my life shows are very gritty, in-your-face, and raw. That’s the fun part of doing things live! But I kind of wanted to capture a little bit of that with Wildfire. I wanted people to see a darker, moodier, swampier, more textural variation of my music.
Released just last year, the album was well-received, garnering her nominations for best female vocalist in both Texas and Florida. The video for the title for the title track (below) also took home regional awards for best video. Could they succeed on a national scale?
Probably, but Season isn’t rushing things. She’s found a core of musicians who play with her regularly, and she concentrates her perfuming schedule around the Florida Panhandle where she lives. That’s not to say she doesn’t seek out and take advantage of opportunities when they come her way. Case in point, she’s planning to record a third CD with the Season Ammon’s Band in the Fall for release in the Spring of 2015, and plans to follow that with a summer tour in Europe.
I met Season in New Orleans while she was traveling with her harmonica player, Alen Rayfield, doing a little advance work for the band. They stopped in to play an open mic night at Igor’s Buddha Belly Bar-Grill. They make a dynamic duo. There’s something about a harmonica that takes a song from the coffeehouse to the barrelhouse. Some may find it incongruous to use the term virtuoso in conjunction with the harmonica, but they haven’t heard Rayfield. Not only can the man play remarkably well, but his performance style perfectly complements Season’s. After their performance that night I was sure I’d stumbled on the next up and coming Alternative Country act. I was intrigued when I learned they were there on behalf of a larger band, and really surprised to hear the more polished sound on the CDs, particularly on I’m Alive.
Season delights in this kind of versatility in her music. “My writing ability is all over the place, soulful, bluesy, country…” she told me. She doesn’t want to be tied down or pidgin-holed in any one style or genre.
“the song is a base that can be guided into different styles through the instrumentation and arrangement. You add in different elements and the song becomes and new entity…
As an independent artist, that’s my job, to try different things. I can do what I want.“
Though raised in Texas, Season grew up listening to Motown, the blues and oldies, and says they were probably her biggest influences. Still, she did grow up in Texas, and the Texas songwriting tradition, did find it’s way into her music. When I asked her if she was a “Texas singer-songwriter” she owned the label, but added
While Texas is so big, and embodies a lot of different music. Some people hear Texas and think only of red dirt country. And I embody some of that. I have Texas roadhouse blues ingrained in my music. I also lived in Nashville for three years and learned a lot about the technical side of writing a really good country song.”
She went on to describe her music as
“a mixture of Texas roadhouse meets really good well written songs with bluesy, soulful undertones.”
It’s an assessment I’d agree with. As she was growing up she was drawn to great songwriters like the Beatles and artists like Phil Collins, Stevie Wonder, and Billy Joel, even at an age when she was to young to understand why. “Their melodies just pulled at my heart,” she says. Later it was also bands like Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
But none were role models for her. Though she considers it a good technical exercise to not only try writing songs in various styles and genres, but to also write songs emulating the styles of other artists, there was never an artist she tried to emulate in her career,
just because I was always odd and I always wanted to do my own thing. I didn’t want to sound like somebody else, because I wanted to make my own sound.
Season is such an engaging performer, it may be hard to believe that she was once shy. It took an extracurricular music activity at school to bring her out of her shell.
I always grew up kind of singing to myself and singing along to the radio, but I was extremely shy. My mom would sometimes hear me, and ask what I was singing? But I would just bottle up and not say anything. It wasn’t until I got into middle school and I had to take an elective, that I decided to take choir. And getting into choir help me find my voice. For once I wasn’t alone. Singing with a group of people helped me get over my shyness. I was moved by music and melodies when I was a kid. I didn’t understand why, but I was so drawn to it.
My teacher pulled me aside one time after class and said, “I can hear you above everybody else. You’ve got a great voice. I’d like to give you a solo.” Of course I was horrified because that meant I’d have to sing by myself. But it eventually led to me singing more.
On the other hand, she indicates she’s “always been a writer,” keeping a diary and writing poems from a young age. Eventually she put singing and writing together.
When the lightbulb finally went off and I realized that all songs are, are poems set to music, it all made sense to me. I thought oh I’ve been writing songs in my head all this time, and not even realizing it.”
The gift of an old Classical guitar from a neighbor when she was 15 or 16 allowed her to start writing them on an instrument.
I sat in my room kind of fiddling around with it and putting these poems I had to music…. I moved out when I was 17, and went to Nashville when I was 19. There I learned a little more about the method to the madness. I had this natural ability to write, but you have to harness it in and hone your skills. I really think that my songwriting started exploding living and breathing it all in while in Nashville, and learning there’s a method to the madness. It’s like math, once you figure out the equation, you kind of know how to do it.
The hard work of managing her own career is starting to pay off, especially now that members of the Season Ammons Band members and even fans are helping out. There’s a lot to think about: promotion, marketing, bookings, etc. It’s a lot of work. Yet she sometimes wonders if, after managing every aspect of her career herself for so long, “it would be hard to surrender control.” In the end she doesn’t mind the work, because it allows her to do what she loves. She’s not out to be the next Madonna, she told me. Making music is her passion, and by being able to do that professionally she is “already living the dream.”