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Amy Helm inside an antique bus looking up out the glass window by Amy Helm and The Helm Family Midnight Ramble in Woodstock NY

We Are Upstate NY With Renowned Musician & Club Owner Amy Helm

By Sal Cataldi | February 13, 2023

If there was such a concept as Woodstock royalty, Amy Helm could be first in line to claim a title.

Of course, her famous father, The Band’s legendary down-to-earth drummer and vocalist Levon Helm, would scoff at such a term. As likely would her mother, singer-songwriter Libby Titus, and the ever-humble Amy herself.  But with a bloodline like this, is it any wonder that she has emerged as one of the true powerhouse singer-songwriters on the Americana and roots music scenes?

Amy inside the airstream leaning against a table with windows behind her or the back of the bus byAmy Helm and The Helm Family Midnight Ramble in Woodstock NY

Photos by Ebru Yildiz

Also not to be underestimated, is the role she has played in keeping Woodstock a lively locus for live performance and recording.

Beginning in the early 2000s, Amy was the partner with her father in creating the legendary Midnight Ramble at his barn home + studio. These casual concerts in the tradition of the traveling medicine shows of the Deep South quickly became all-star spectaculars, ones that continue as a monthly event under a new banner, The Helm Family Midnight Ramble.  In addition, Levon’s famous barn will feature a host of weekly shows in 2023 featuring favorites like Railroad Earth, Drive-By Trucker, Glen Hansard and Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band.

In 2018, Amy helped inaugurate the Dirt Farmer Festival, an annual concert that brings the spirit and intimacy of the Midnight Ramble to a grand outdoor venue, Arrowood Farms in Accord.  Today, she continues to oversee the recording studio at The Barn. Since its creation in 1975, Levon Helm Studios has hosted sessions by dozens of luminaries, from Bob Weir, Natalie Merchant, Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle to Norah Jones, Mavis Staples, Mumford & Sons, Jackson Brown and, of course, Amy Helm herself.

Helm was born in Woodstock in 1970, the year after the famous festival.  She would ultimately leave Woodstock to live in various places –  Los Angeles, the Upper West and Lower East Sides of Manhattan –before returning in 2006 to raise a family.

Helm’s first solo album, 2015’s Didn’t It Rain, was recorded in Woodstock in the company of old friends and Midnight Ramble alumni including Larry Campbell, Teresa Williams, Brian Mitchell, Marco Benevento and others. For her second solo disc, 2018’s This Too Shall Light, she decamped for Los Angeles to work with Joe Henry, covering songs by artists as varied as Odetta, Rod Stewart and Blossom Dearie.  This album was a true showcase for her infinite vocal variety, what Amy calls “a spreading of my singing wings.”

The album cover of Any Helm floating in water with flowers and her title, "What The Flood Leaves Behind" from Amy Helm and The Helm Family Midnight Ramble in Woodstock NY

Photos by Ebru Yildiz

For 2021’s What The Flood Leaves Behind, she was back in Woodstock recording at The Barn with producer Josh Kaufman, the musical polyglot whose credits include Taylor Swift’s Folklore, The National’s Sleep Well Beast and his own Grammy-nominated Bonny Light Horseman.  Helm was co-writer of seven of the 10 songs on the album including “Cotton and The Cane.” Written with Mary Gauthier, the song draws direct inspiration and conjures up vignettes from what she calls her “unconventional childhood.”  Another standout whose lyrics gave the album its title is “Verse 23.” Written for Helm by M.C. Taylor from Hiss Golden Messenger, it’s a vivid song about coming to terms with what Amy told one reviewer is “the good and the bad and everything in between.”  In March, Amy is returning to Levon Helm Studios with Kaufman to record her fourth solo disc slated for release in Fall 2023.

There’s another focus in Amy’s life which may be stronger than art – her role as a parent. Shortly after her return to Woodstock, she and then husband, musician Jay Collins, had two sons, Lee and Hughie, in 2008 and 2011 respectively.  She finds Woodstock not only the perfect place to raise her sons but motherhood “an experience that really helps me reflect on my own past, something that adds a dimension to my songwriting and performances.”

What was it like growing up in Woodstock in a family of musical luminaries right after the legendary festival?  And, more importantly, what does the future hold for Amy?  Keep reading below to find out…

Amy on the top of the stairs in a silver dress Amy Helm and The Helm Family Midnight Ramble in Woodstock NY

Photos by Ebru Yildiz

INSIDE+OUT: We usually begin by asking when or why people came to the Hudson Valley, but you’re homegrown! You’ve lived in other places growing up – from the Upper West Side to Los Angeles. Tell us about all that and when you decided to again make Woodstock home for your growing family.

AMY HELM: My mom was born in Woodstock in 1946, and my dad moved here in 1967. Woodstock has been my home base throughout all my journeys and I returned here as a full-time resident in 2006. As a single mom, it truly takes a village and I couldn’t imagine a better place to be raising my boys.

With two legendary musician parents, Levon Helm and Libby Titus, it seems you were destined for this life. When did you realize that you wanted to be a musician and how did you get your start?

I always sang and played piano from as young as I can remember. I started singing in bands in high school when I was 14 and it’s only grown from there!

I read that you studied jazz before dedicating yourself to what’s now called Americana or roots music. What have been some of your musical experiences and interests that people might be surprised to hear about?

I used to be a professional whistler! My house is filled with different songs that my kids are learning during their studies at Rock Academy in Woodstock. Shout out to Jason Bowman and the Rock Academy Program for all their work to bring music into our children’s lives as an artistic, educational and emotional outlet. I’m hearing everything from Elton John to Eddie Palmieri, to death metal and beyond. I was surprised to discover that I like Slipknot!

Amy leaning against the shelf of the inside of the antique bus and staring out he window by Amy Helm and The Helm Family Midnight Ramble in Woodstock NY

Photos by Ebru Yildiz

Tell us a little about your first band, Ollabelle, and how that emerged out of the tragedy of 9/11 and your time living in the Lower East Side.

The bartender at a bar called 9C (on the corner of 9th and Avenue C) asked a couple of the members if they wanted to start a night of music called Sunday School for Sinners. There was a deep need for songs about faith and getting through. We found ourselves at a very particular time in history when singing the hymns that we had heard growing up was received with rapt attention from all kinds of folks and walks of life. That was the beginning of what became Ollabelle.

You were an integral part of the creation and growth of the Midnight Ramble concerts, from their early days as casual rent parties to more formal showcases today. How is the mission changing and/or staying the same and what do you see for the future for the Ramble?

The most recent incarnation of The Helm Family Midnight Ramble crosses generational and musical lines, featuring an ever-evolving family of musicians. My North Star has been to honor my father’s penultimate vision for both Levon Helm Studios and the Midnight Ramble – to create a community for musicians to share their art and hone their craft.  I intend for the Midnight Ramble to continue to honor that calling!

How have the recent evolutions in the music business, from streaming to virtual performances, changed the business for you? What are the positives, and the negatives?

Most artists have had to clamor for pennies since the inception of the music industry. Streaming and social media platforms are, unfortunately, furthering that paradigm in many ways.   The sale of an ‘album’ is almost obsolete, except for live gigs and your merch table money.  “Streaming” cements an outdated and unfortunate blueprint of the artist being paid last and having the smallest voice in the financial structure of any deal. I hope and believe, that in time, this will lead to an artistic revolution. There’s really no other direction it could go.  Artists can get hustled for decades (and maybe even centuries, ha!) but eventually, people get tired of it and crave freedom and find a way to it.

Amy in the back corner of the bus at a table looking into the lens byAmy Helm and The Helm Family Midnight Ramble in Woodstock NY

Photos by Ebru Yildiz

How has Woodstock and the Hudson Valley changed since you were a kid in the 1970s?  What are the positives and negatives of the change in recent years, especially since the influx begat by COVID-19?

With upwards of 40,000 new residents in Ulster County, since the pandemic began, there have been many changes. The very positive aspect of this is wonderful new families and friends to meet and connect with – new friendships, new businesses and new collaborations. On the other hand, it’s also created a socio-economic imbalance. I believe it’s paramount that all residents, old and new, focus on creating economic and social stability so that artists and working families can still afford to live here.

What are you working on now that you’re most excited about?

My new album! Excited to be recording another album with the wonderful Josh Kaufman (who is a new Kingston resident!) here at Levon Helm Studios. I’m also very excited and proud to be both producing and performing in The Helm Family Midnight Rambles here at Levon Helm Studios. More to come on both of those projects very soon!

What impact does your business have on your community?

Music unites and inspires people. It creates a loving, open community right from the downbeat. I am proud to be able to share this space at “The Barn” for art in our community, built by musicians for musicians and music lovers alike.

What local businesses do you rely on to be successful?

There is an intricate dance around putting on a show. Each performance creates and supports an ecosystem in the community – from the hotels and restaurants that feed and house our audience and our musicians, to the teachers who staff the after-care programs at our children’s schools so staff and volunteers can make each and every show happen. A few of our current partners at Levon Helm Studios include Dixon (artist catering), Overlook Bakery (artist desserts), and Hotel Dylan (artist and audience lodging).

What is missing in the area that you wish we had?

Woodstock needs a diner! A regular, family-friendly diner that doesn’t break the bank.

Tell us something about yourself that people might be surprised to know.

I refuse to dress up on Halloween and my kids continue to be disappointed year after year.

What is your greatest fear?

It’s a tie between heights and unemployment, ha!

What is your greatest extravagance?

High end sweaters for my tiny dog, Rascal – the ruler of my heart.

Who are your heroes in real life?

My kids and their friends.

Which living person do you most admire?

People who are teaching kindness by example.

What is your favorite non-musical activity?

Every part of mom life!


Contributing writer Sal Cataldi is a musician, writer and publicist living in the Hudson Valley.

Photos by Ebru Yildiz

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Connect with Amy on her Website | Facebook | Instagram

Levon Helm Studios Website | Facebook | Instagram


  • We just spent the weekend in Woodstock and attended the Ramble Band concert on 3/4/23. The show was fantastic and we enjoyed it immensely and introduced our friends to the experience that we have had there before. Thanks so much for keeping the show going. I saw your dad in the Band multiple times and enjoyed their music very much.

    March 7, 2023

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