Photo: Anna Hedges
Roots Musician Amythyst Kiah: From An Awkward Hobbyist To A GRAMMY-Nominated Professional
In a brand-new editorial series, the Recording Academy has asked its Membership to reflect on their career journeys, the current state of the music industry and what we can do to collectively and positively move forward in the current social climate. Below, GRAMMY-nominated roots singer/songwriter Amythyst Kiah shares her open letter with GRAMMY.com readers.
I have been a professional musician for 10 years. Over that time, I have had to reframe my relationship with music. What was once a personal escape within the confines of my bedroom now connects me to people all over the world.
As a child, I was riddled with anxiety and uncertainty, but when I would listen to music, I would feel a vastness—a spiritual transcendence that I could not explain. I was at peace. As I got older, I realized that I was, in fact, meditating before I even knew what that was. My suburban family home was full of music; my dad was an audiophile and my mother was happy to indulge him. Because of them, I grew a powerful connection to music and was able to turn to it for comfort when my anxiety was too much.
One of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave me (besides life, of course) was my late 80’s Fender acoustic guitar. I was 13 when the social anxiety really started to set in, and playing guitar and writing were the only ways I felt comfortable expressing myself.
In my early 20’s, I learned the history of culture and roots music and started performing old-time string band music at East Tennessee State University. It was during this time that I learned that I was able to affect people with music in the same way that it affected me. With that realization came a responsibility that I wasn't ready for, but I jumped in anyway. I am grateful to my father (my mother has long since passed away) for being there for me as I struggled to tackle my anxieties and fears and transform into a performer.
I am also grateful for the Bluegrass, Old-Time, Country Music program and my professors who believed in what I was doing and gave me the skills needed to become the performer that I am today.
I used to think that I couldn’t have that feeling of peace that I felt as a child while also feeling a sense of community with others. However, after much emotional work on my part as an adult, I learned that there is a way to maintain that sense of peace and inspiration and still be of the world. Being part of a community, working together to forge relationships and help each other create and grow are crucial for us to flourish as individuals.
This is what I aim to do within the Recording Academy. Now that I am (literally) a card-carrying member as of this month, I can only say that the nervous, awkward girl from before would never have imagined this. Musically, I tend to live in a bubble and have not kept up with the current state of music until recently. I am quite green within the music industry and am excited for this incredible opportunity to learn from others.
I look forward to contributing to this community and the fans who love and support our work!