Sometimes it pays to be unattached. About a year ago, after Philadelphia-based folk tunesmith Amos Lee played a Mickey Hart benefit concert at the Fillmore, he pounced at the opportunity to crash in a friend’s spare room in Diamond Heights for a while.
The singer, who plays the Fillmore again next week, wound up residing in San Francisco for six eye-opening weeks.
“I have an apartment in Philly, but I don’t really have any other obligations there,” says the 6-foot-2 singer, who became a fixture at Noe Valley pubs and coffeehouses. “I’m not married, don’t have any kids, so I just hung out in S.F. last winter.”
Lee’s stay in The City led him to pen “Learned A Lot,” a reflective ballad on “Mission Bell,” his new album for Blue Note.
“My friend had a dog, so when he’d work during the day, I’d just take the dog out for long walks,” he says. “I went to Muir Woods, Muir Beach, and I’d take the dog a lot to that area by the Golden Gate Bridge and let him run around on the beach. And the hills there are so intense, when we’d get to some of them the dog would just sit down, like ‘I can’t do this right now!’”
Career-wise, Lee was already on a zenlike path. He played basketball in high school, but didn’t pursue it professionally. “I could make a bunch of baskets in a row, but it never really translated to the court,” he says.
In college, the English major wrote short stories but was inspired by the tight, tale-spinning compositions of John Prine, Joni Mitchell and Bill Withers.
Soon, he settled into a job teaching elementary school. But Norah Jones happened to hear his demo at the Blue Note offices, and promptly enlisted him to open her entire tour. The label signing Lee was a foregone conclusion.
But before he flew to Tucson last summer to track his fourth recording — with Calexico members and guests such as Sam Beam, Willie Nelson and Lucinda Williams — Lee walked dogs across San Francisco and considered his charmed life.
He learned that self-reliance is important. He adds, “And while people understand pain as an anchor and life as the ocean, sometimes you just need to continue on.”
There was only one problem with his San Francisco visit. He says, “It was tough to leave — I canceled my flight three different times! But I had to go. I was starting another tour and duty called. ...”
IF YOU GO
Where: The Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Contact: (415) 346-6000; www.livenation.com