"Amber Norgaard: Tucson's Folk Rock Goddess" - Natural Awakenings Magazine - May 2015 - By Suzie Agrillo
Read Amber's interview and feature article here: http://www.naturaltucson.com/TUCS/May-2015/Amber-Norgaard-Tucsons-Folk-Rock-Goddess/
"Amber Norgaard Gets Grungy for Eagles" - Tubac Villager - December 2014 - Article by Judy Jennings
TAMMIE Award-winning musician Amber Norgaard almost seems to squirm as she describes her new single, “Together We Rise”, released on October 15th. Written for a soundtrack, the song is a rambunctious departure from the usual folk-rock style for which Norgaard is known and loved. “I knew I wanted to write an anthemic song for this,” she says, “but I was asked to make it grungy. This is hard-core rock.” Abandoning her usual self-described “adult contemporary” style, Norgaard detonates into six minutes of garage band grunge in “Together We Rise”, all in the name of community service.
Norgaard credits Doug “Hurricane” Floyd on electric guitar for the “murky, swampy” one-and-a-half minute intro riff. “What makes the song really cool,” Norgaard elaborates, “is the way it breaks down in the middle and goes back into the intro.” Also featured are long-time band member Jay Trapp on bass, Junior Medina on drums and Alvin Blaine on dobro.
The soundtrack is for a video about the construction of the Tucson Electric Power Eagle Flight Line at the Tucson Wildlife Center. Film director Marcus De Leon called for a long, haunting lead-in and “Together We Rise” delivers an explosive backdrop to a story about eagle poisoning. De Leon also requested lyrics that embody the community involvement in the project, an idea that greatly appealed to Norgaard.
“Lyrically, this song accomplishes all of my own mission,” Norgaard says emphatically. “All great change is done in community. ‘Together We Rise’ references a call from the sky. The sky represents the eagle’s call, but also a call to humanity to unite and create instead of propelling further destruction. We need each other to make things happen. When we get put in a bad situation people will always come together and work together. These things show us who we really are.”
In this case, “these things” refers to the poisoning of Eagles, sometimes from eating prey that’s been shot with lead bullets. Deliberate poisonings are a problem, as well. “Many people don’t realize that when they poison an animal, it goes up the food chain, killing other wildlife unintentionally. There are better ways to deal with a nuisance animal besides poison,” say Dan Moxley, Interim Director of the Tucson Wildlife Center, who quickly qualifies that with “Although, we don’t consider any animal a ‘nuisance’ animal around here. We like them all!” He happily adds that another successfully rehabilitated Golden Eagle was released from the new flight enclosure in February.
Tucson Electric Power donated and installed the poles and the cables that hold up the netting in the flight line. Pantano Christian Church teamed up with Tucson Water Gardeners to build a pool inside the enclosure to offer Pelicans blown off course during the monsoon season a temporary place to stay. Ultimately the Pelicans are driven to San Diego where they’re released.
Norgaard’s growing resume of “musical community service” includes another video for Tucson Wildlife Center featuring her song “Unexpected Grace” and a self-produced video about homeless veterans called “Hell Town”. Undeniably, though, it’s her video for Equine Voices Rescue And Sanctuary that highlights Norgaard herself as star of the show, or more accurately, co-star. In “Raise Me Up” she shares the stage-or in this case, corral-with a black horse who stands with his forehead pressed against hers as she plays, while other horses gallop around them and lightening splits the sky. In addition to the videos, Norgaard has written a fundraising song for the Donor Network of Arizona and a Hospice song for Carondelet. View Norgaard’s videos at www.AmberNorgaard.com.
Norgaard’s attitude is that music is just another form of healing. “I think I have a greater capacity to heal now that I’m using this (musical) gift,” says the former nurse. “I’ve had people call me and say ‘I was feeling suicidal and your album pulled me through’. It’s those kinds of things that make me feel like I’m still a nurse, and that’s what I want to do with my music. Now I play that role with organizations, writing about the good work they do in the world. It’s about bringing us all together, where we’re all connected and raising each other up.”
Catch a preview of songs from her upcoming album “Possibility”, scheduled for release next year, at Norgaard’s concert “Celebrating 10 Years Of Music” at the Sea Of Glass Theater on November 14th.
READ THE ARTICLE HERE (pages 23-24): https://issuu.com/tubacvillager/docs/vil_dec_2014_web/22
"Amber Chords of Light" - Tucson Green Times - September 2010 - By Jan Henrikson
I count your breath
The rise and fall
Space of nothing in between
I am a witness
To this amazing grace
As the flesh prepares for release
~ Long Way Home lyrics by Amber Norgaard from her album, “Long Way Home”
Singer / songwriter Amber Norgaard was dog-walking in three acres of desert that her drummer owns when she got the call.
“Mama’s dying.” It was her Aunt. “Will you sing to her?”
Heading for the landline in the house, Norgaard’s energy quickened. “I was like, ‘How am I going to do this? This is probably the most important song that I might have to sing in my entire life.’”
Every month for a year, she’d traveled to Iowa, her home state, to visit her Grandma in hospice. Norgaard and her father would sit at her bedside and play music.
“I saw how that comforted her, especially when she was in pain. Her face would relax,” she says about the woman who’d always believed in her music. Long before she was voted the 2007 Up & Coming Artist of the Year at the Tucson Area Music Awards ( TAMMIES ). When her four albums, “Soul in Motion”, “Rising”, “Acoustic Dreams” and “Long Way Home” were mere glints in her mind’s eye.
Her Grandma had believed in her so much that when she was given only months to live, she gifted Norgaard money to buy the best keyboard she could find. “Then I will always be with you when you play music,” she’d said.
“I was like ‘Wow - thanks Grandma,’” recalls Norgaard. “Because so much magic came through her.”
More magic was to come that August day a year ago when Norgaard grabbed her guitar, steeled away her tears, and made the call, letting “Amazing Grace” flow to her family listening miles away.
“Grandma,” she said when she finished, “everybody’s here with you and I’m with you in spirit.”
Turns out her Grandma was truly with her in spirit. She passed away to the sound of Norgaard singing.
“My Aunt was like, ‘It’s a miracle’ ,” says Norgaard. Her sunny blond curls frame a radiant and thoughtful face. “It helped everybody. It wasn’t just my Grandma. It wasn’t just me. It was this gift. Wow - if I could share my song and we all are helped somehow by it - okay, I’ll do it.”
Though it may have been this nurse-turned-indie artist’s most intimate experience with the healing power of music, it wasn’t her first.
While a nursing student at Creighton University, she worked in a nursing home for patients living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
“I had a patient who was completely despondent,” says Norgaard. “It was to the point where we had to feed her. One day one of the nurse’s aides said, ‘Pull her over to the piano.’ I said, ‘She can’t even feed herself. She cant even move.’”
Nonetheless, Norgaard pulled her wheelchair up to the piano. Thirty minutes later, the woman started playing. Neurological studies have shown that “listening and playing music actually lights up most of the parts of the brain, so it’s definitely and activity that integrates us,” says Norgaard.
But Norgaard never needed studies to convince her. She “first recognized the power of music transcending language - and rhythm and beat bringing the community together” when she volunteered to work with a doctor and nurse team in a remote village in the Dominican Republic. It didn’t matter that she knew little Spanish.
She taught herself guitar and whenever she played, “Regardless of our differences, everybody was one right there in that [ music ].”
Norgaard eventually captured-in-song the stories of indigenous people she met in Bethel, which is in Alaska’s southwest bush region. What was this Iowa farm girl doing so far up there? For six years?
Working as a community health nurse. Writing lyrics about the Raven, whom Natives believe brought light to the world.
She experienced the Raven’s gifts herself.
“I’d be out in nature and this one time I felt like i was lost and I swear the ravens led me back,” says Norgaard.
Another song of hers, “The Time of Light”, emerged from the In-Between. “There’s a lot of in-between up there,” she says. “Down here we have four seasons. Up there in winter, the sun only comes a little bit above the horizon and goes down. We’re in this constant in-between.”
Her relationship with music was In-Between as well. Still a nurse, she hadn’t yet realized that she was being called toward full-time musicianship.
She understood more deeply, however, the force of music to replenish, nurture, and unify the body and spirit, collectively and individually. Music was a compassionate ally, an ice-breaker, a raiser of energy and awareness. Involved in public health education in the prison system, she opened and closed discussion with songs.
“It is very cultural in Alaska because they would open with drumming and chanting. It just made sense. It would get people into a higher level.”
She ran an HIV peer education program for kids, opening hearts with songs from the movies, “And the Band Played On” and “Philadelphia.”
“All these songs back then had to do with going beyond the judgement into what the real issue is,” says Norgaard. “Because up there, there was still a lot of judgement. People weren’t getting tested. And we had pockets of cluster outbreaks. You can’t treat it if you don’t know. If you’re scared of it. We had to change attitudes. I saw that music could transcend judgement and change peoples’ reactions and behaviors to issues like that.”
Then in 2001, her small town had a fundraiser for their art council. Finally, she summoned the courage to play a couple of her own songs.
“It was really well-received,” says Norgaard. “Then two things happened.”
While walking to her work, she ran into her landlord, “Thank you for sharing your music at that event, “ he said, pausing to look at her. “It’s who you are.”
“It was something I’d tried to put over here while leading my regular life, the life I knew how to do,” says Norgaard.
Synchronistically, Andrew Steele, a professional drummer from London who had worked with the Who and was in the band, The Herd, in the late 60s, heard her play. “He said, ‘Your songs. If you ever want to record them, I will help you.’”
A year and a half later, with the support of her partner and family, she moved through her fear and accepted his offer. He played drums on the tracks of her “Soul in Motion” album, which was released in July 2004. That same month, Steele was diagnosed with cancer. He ended up dying on her birthday.
“It was another one of those timing things,” says Norgaard. “It was a gift that he left me. To help me get on this music career.”
Today she lives in Tucson and tours nationally. Locally, you can find her everywhere from Nimbus Brewery to St. Philips Saturday Farmers Market to the Glass Onion Cafe.
Described as “the love child of Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant and Melissa Etheridge”, she births and sings songs about everything that moves her - be it the ravages of PTSD and homelessness in “Hell Town” veterans, or passion itself in “Overtaken”. ( I touch your face, I touch your face with all the feeling / I’ve got inside of me / And I’m overtaken / By the letting go ).
She plays solo and with her band - drummer Will Clipman, bassist Jay Trapp, electric guitarist Doug Floyd and, when he’s in town, cellist Michael G. Ronstadt.
And she refuses to subscribe to the Starving Artist stereotype for herself or others. “Always trust your gut,” she says.
“Is this my soul path? Is this where I want to put my energy?” are questions she asks herself when making choices.
Right now her soul path includes caring for “Long Way Home”, which was just born. With the help of Wholonomy Consulting, she is creating a business plan, and summoning intentionality to her career and the songs that arrive while she’s driving or cooking food for her dog who’s just had surgery.
Most of all, she listens - to her heart and the heartbeat of the larger world around her. “I was given that gift as a child, that gift of learning how to listen,” she says of growing up on the quiet of an Iowa farm with her brother.
And what does she hear? Listen to the In-Between of her songs.
Author: Jan Henrikson is a local freelance writer.
"Amber Norgaard CD Release Concert: June 5, 2010" - Tucson Lifestyle Magazine - June 2010
It’s been a long time coming, but Long Way Home, the new CD by singer/songwriter Amber Norgaard is finally out.
Norgaard’s last album was Rising, released in 2006. Four years later, Tucson’s own poet/peace warrior/healer has traveled a far distance and sings of love, loss and longing in a way that strums a universal chord.
Norgaard plays acoustic guitar, piano and keyboards on these 11 tracks, joined by guitarist Doug Flyod, Bass player Jay Trapp and drummer/percussionist Will Clipman. Duncan Stitt (who also co-produced) contributed keyboards and Craig Schumacher plays harmonica.
The title cut kicks off the album, setting up Norgaard’s theme of examining all the moments that make up a life. Throughout the CD there is pain (“Still In Here”), fear (“Riding Shotgun”), but most of all hope. As she sings on “Listen to the Wind”, I don’t know where I’m goin’ / I’ll tell you where I’ve been / Sometimes I break down / I learn to get up again.
The album ends on the perfect note, with the original wedding song “One Flame” subtly wrapping up the journey that began 44 minutes earlier.
The musicianship on the album is rock solid and nimble, and the mix puts Norgaard’s fluid, passionate voice up front, carrying the melody. She has always been a master of delivery, and her ability to meld styles from different genres (ranging from folk to country to rock) serves her well on this eclectic album.
Attendees at the release concert will hear the new songs live, with Floyd, Trapp, Clipman making up the core band and Michael Ronstadt joining on cello. And given the venue, you’ll not only be able to hear some great music, but enjoy a dinner menu that combines the best of Native American, Spanish and Mexican elements.
"Amber Norgaard: Long Way Home" - Tucson Weekly - June 3, 2010 - by Jim Lipson
On her fourth release, Amber Norgaard shows a depth and maturity—as both a songwriter and recording artist—only partially realized on previous CDs.
It would be easy to file this away as another independent female singer/songwriter project, especially considering the echoes of the Indigo Girls and Sarah McLachlan throughout. But these songs are strong, standing ably on their own as reflections of a relatively young life being well-lived.
The title cut offers glimpses into Norgaard's roots on the Iowa prairie, fusing present and past through a homecoming for a final goodbye. Here and on most of the rest of the album, the emotions are heartfelt, delivered with a quiet passion and authenticity. "One Flame" is a beautifully simple and poignant love song, while "Listen to the Wind," a playful bit of blues rock, and "Overtaken," closer to country than anything else, provide unexpected color and dimension.
Although guitarist Doug Floyd and drummer Will Clipman have played on previous recordings, the addition of bassist Jay Trapp and Michael Ronstadt on the cello allows the group to shine as much as the songs. Ronstadt's work is particularly affecting on "Pointless," while Floyd deftly mixes power chords and tasty licks throughout—often within the same tune. And Clipman, rarely seen in a rock format these days, brings lots of creative, percussive energy to the mix.
November 2009 / Tucson Lifestyle Magazine
One of Tucson’s great musical trailblazers – singer/songwriter Amber Norgaard – continues her explorations by playing new material during her recent gigs. Long known for her thoughtfulness in tackling important social issues, as well as her craftsmanship, wit and charisma, Norgaard is following her well-received 2006 release Rising with a new CD, to be titled Long Way Home.
Joining her on this undertaking will be Grammy and Native American Music Award winner Will Clipman, TAMMIE recipient Doug “Hurricane” Floyd, Tucson Musician Museum inductee Jay Trapp and classical cellist Michael Gilbert Ronstadt.
Long Way Home is definitely a labor of love (the title track was written for her grandmother, who recently passed away), and in order to fund the recording process without going perilously into debt, Norgaard is turning to her fans for support. This novel approach helps to ensure not only the artistic integrity of the project, it strengthens the direct connection between the artist and the audience because the fans know that they’ve helped to get the CD made and released.
Anyone who has seen Norgaard in concert knows that she gives 110 percent to the audience and always leaves them smiling; for the uninitiated, her performance and the fun and funky Glass Onion Café will be a good introduction to her music. For more information about her concert schedule and Long Way Home, check www.ambernorgaard.com.
"Amber Norgaard's Friday, October 9th Performance at the Old Town Center for the Arts" - Sedona Talk Radio - October 9, 2009 - by Haizen Paige
Never heard of Amber, except "amber waves of grain" from America the Beautiful? Neither had I, until I was lucky enough to hear her live tonight. Lately I've been eager for as many live performances as possible and nothing takes the place of those sound-vibes bouncing off your skin, mind and heart, no matter how great your sound system at home.
After a glowing introduction by William Eaton, saying that he once heard Mary Chapin Carpenter early in her career at a music festival and sensed that she was a rising star-he has the same feeling about Amber. He could be right.
This young lady has wonderful gifts on her side, starting with her outstanding writing ability...and we're in the age of some great female singer/song-writers, such as Carpenter herself, and more recently-and deservedly hotter than a pistol-Taylor Swift. But rather than compare Amber to anyone, being less country and more eclectic in her tastes, she has great emotional range from ballads to kick-ass rock 'n' roll and can drive a band with her voice, keyboard or guitar.
Being an adventurous spirit and having a background in farming, nursing, volunteer work, and working with the indigenous people of Alaska-she's conscious of the healing power of music. This propels her into original songs that cover such issues as, politics aside, the human story of immigrants dying while trying to cross the border, and what it must be like to be old and thinking "I'm still in here!" This last one could become the anthem of the geriatric population which is growing daily, as she gives voice to those who may not be able to put their feelings into words. Healing and music blended together add a conscious dimension of depth to her performances, and drawn from her own life experiences, it's hard to imagine that she would ever run out of ideas to write about.
Her vocal quality ranges from soft and wispy to powerful with a projected edge. Even as vibrant as she is now, I believe there's a great deal more she can get out of her voice, so she can project at a softer as well as louder level, adding a consistency that makes sure her voice stands out from the rest.
I enjoyed her easy relaxed rapport with the audience, and she really cuts loose later in the show. I get the feeling she's on a mission of music-one that will drive her into taking it to the next level, so she can experience how truly good she can be.
I hope she continues what she's doing, especially if she ends up challenging herself by going to Nashville to hone her writing skills, vocal abilities, and further liberate her true beauty of spirit. She could make William Eaton a prophet all over again.
October 2009 - From Daniel Stief - Creator of Sedona Talk Radio
I was moved from the first few notes of Amber's music. It touched my heart with sincerity and purpose. You can get a sense of the incredible person Amber is, by the description of her songs. Her melodies are exceptional and her words and lyrics and deliver powerful messages. She explained that the inspiration for one song came from being concerned about the homeless. She shared a statistic that 30% of all homeless people are veterans. As her popularity grows who knows what power this message could bring to the world. I later shred with her a favorite lyric of mine, which is "Music Speaks Louder than Words". May her song be an outcry to help all the unfortunate homeless people in our country and around the world.
As Amber switched from guitar to keyboards my appreciation increased. The keyboards added a whole new dimension to her songs and music. I found myself mesmerized by her music and voice. Her vocals were filled with passion and joy. It is obvious how much she cares about her music and our world.
At the end of every song, something wonderful happened. We in the audience did not rush to applaud. We waited as the last sweet note could no longer be heard ... then we applauded.
Amber is defintely a major star who will be rapidly growing in popularity. How could she not! Especially with the band she plays with.
Her band, all incredible musicians, included: Will Clipman, Mary Redhouse and Doug "Hurricane" Floyd. What a dream it would be to perform with this level of musical talent. Amber is one lucky woman! ....... Daniel
"Connecting All the Dots" - DISCOVER! - September 26, 2009 - by Emily Sweet Landegent
Mixing healing with her hits.
Amber Norgaard, 35, grew up on a farm near Spencer.
“I feel fortunate as a child I got to grow up amidst nature,” she said, “because it gives me respect for the process of life and how we’re all connected.”
As a young adult, Norgaard attended Creighton University in Omaha, where she majored in nursing.
She went on to work as a nurse at a migrant clinic in Oregon and later in Alaska, where she stayed for six years.
It was there, while working with native Alaskans, that she made an important decision.
“I knew it was time for me to make a change with my life,” Norgaard said. “I really couldn’t see myself working as a nurse in the Lower ’48. I thought, if there’s anything that I would do with my life that I might possibly regret not doing when I was older, it would be the music thing.”
That “music thing” had been part of Norgaard’s life for a long time.
Throughout her youth and college, she had experimented with music.
Now, it was time to change paths.
She moved to Tucson, AZ and, in 2004, launched her music career. Local music lovers can catch her show 4-6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3 at Little Swan Lake Winery in rural Estherville.
Though she switched careers, her work as a nurse had a big influence on her music.
Through her work with different cultures, including Hispanic and Yup’ik Eskimo, Norgaard learned music was a way to connect people that transcended barriers of culture and language. Music – beat, rhythm and melody – was a language everyone understood.
“I just thought it was a pretty profound way to connect with people,” Norgaard said. “I decided to give music a shot because I also feel it is like a healing art – just like nursing is, but in a different manner.”
Musically, her influences include everything from Bob Dylan to AC/DC, Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Carole King, Billy Joel, Dar Williams, Melissa Etheridge and the Indigo Girls.
“It’s a mosh pit of everything I’ve heard since I came to this world,” Norgaard said.
As for her own material, the singer/songwriter’s work focuses on the human condition.
“I have songs about some of the best things about life – like love,” Norgaard said. “And also about some of the hard things about life – like loss.”
At times, Norgaard touches on social commentary, tackling current issues like global warming with her title track on “Rising” (2006).
Written about the phoenix, the song explores humanity’s need – as well as the Earth’s – for rebirth and resurrection.
With two albums and one EP under her belt, Norgaard releases her third album in April 2010.
Entitled “Long Way Home,” the album continues her folk rock style, but signals yet another change for guitarist and pianist.
“This album, I feel like I’m finally connecting all the dots,” Norgaard said. “ I feel like I’ve finally grown up with respect to music. I know now what I’m doing.”
Made possible through donations from fans, the new album shows Norgaard’s renewed outlook on songwriting—one that is structured, with a maturity on par to her material. With elements of her own spirituality, it makes for an album that is entirely her, entirely now.
“I’m really excited because I feel like it’s going to be a connection of all the parts that I am,” Norgaard said.
"The Future of Folk" - Arizona Daily Star - June 26, 2009 - by Cathalena E. Burch
Where she’s from: Originally Iowa but she lived for six years in Alaska, where she was a nurse. She moved to Tucson in 2004.
How she got here: “When I was in Alaska I started doing original music and I started playing up there. I knew that before I got older I wanted to try the music thing. I came to some medical conferences in the Southwest and I really liked Tucson. I’m from a farm and Tucson just seemed like a small community yet a big city where I could make a go of it.”
Day job: She has none. She does music full time.
How she defines folk music: “Here’s the thing about my music: It seems to cross genres. It goes from folk to rock and country. It’s definitely singer/songwriter style. The songs tell stories, some of them portray feelings.”
Her musical inspiration: “I grew up listening to so many different artists, and I think that’s why it is so cross-genre. Patty Griffin is my all-time favorite for singer-songwriter. But I listen to everything.”
What’s on her iPod: “This is terrible but I don’t really listen to an iPod.”
Social networking: “I don’t Twitter, but I do Facebook and MySpace.”