Amy Sky says giving is good for the soul

Click here to print this page
Friday October 1, 2010

Richard Ouzounian

The Toronto Star

For singer-songwriter Amy Sky, giving her time and talents to help support groups like the United Way isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity.

“Being of service is good for the soul. It’s something we all ought to do. Every song I write has a personal as well as a universal theme, so I try to combine the two in my life as well.”

Married to singer/actor Marc Jordan (currently on screen in Score! The Hockey Musical) with two children, Sky admits that she can’t offer herself up to every organization that comes along, but she finds time for the United Way because “in community organizations like that, every person makes a difference.”

She also always helps out if she gets a call from CAMH (the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) and for the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario because “the state of mental wellness is the window through which you see the world.”

For Sky, the journey towards charitable use of her time for these organizations began in a very personal way.

“I suffered badly from postpartum depression, but I thought it was a very personal and private thing. I never knew anybody else who ever talked about it, so I didn’t either. I just suffered in silence and thought I was a horribly flawed person.

“Then I was hired by the MDAO as a singer for a function they were doing. They didn’t really know me and they had no idea of any of the problems I had been through. But suddenly people were coming up to me and saying things like ‘Hi, I’m bipolar,’ ‘I’m an alcoholic’, ‘I’m seriously depressive.’ ”

Sky is on the phone from her home and she has to pause for a minute before she can continue.

“This was a very big moment for me. I didn’t think anyone was that honest about their mental problems and it gave me the courage to open up.

“I went to the head of the organization and said ‘I’m a survivor of a mood disorder and I’m ready to talk about it.’ ”

But they wanted to do more than just listen. They asked Sky if she would be a spokesperson for the organization and talk to the press about her personal journey.

“At first I hesitated, but then I realized I must have been sent there that night for a reason. Mental health issues exist for one in five people in this country and anything we can do to remove the stigma is a big help.

“If people get a disease below the neck,” quips Sky, “they’re ready to talk about it, share and help. But the real frontier is above the neck. It’s 2010 and there shouldn’t still be people sneaking into the back door of their therapists because they’re ashamed.”

So Sky came forward
and didn’t just offer to sing or serve at charitable fundraisers, but put her
face and her condition out there for the world to see.

“Well, why not?” she reasons. “I write songs to shed light on life, why not on every facet of life?
Why not deal with one of the biggest things that ever happened to me?

“I realized that not everybody has that buffer of success that I do, that buffer of confidence I’ve developed. I could help a lot of people.”

One of the added bonuses is that Sky’s biggest hit song to date has been “I Will Take Care of You”. It’s the heartbreaking story of a child who remembers being cared for as an infant by her mother, but now has to face the fact that the roles are reversed as her mother eases towards death.

“To this day, people want to talk to me about that song,” admits Sky. “It meant something very deep to them and it enables them to open up to me in return.

“On an unconscious level, I always must have known music was therapy. I just think how fantastic it is to be able to have a positive effect on people’s lives like that.”

While Sky’s children were growing up, she made a deliberate decision not to perform professionally or tour on the road so that she could devote more time to them.

“The release of my next album will coincide with my youngest son’s high school graduation. They’ve made it perfectly clear they don’t need me watching over them anymore,” she laughs.

But she kept on writing songs during these years (“That’s what I do. If I have a feeling, good or bad, I have to express it in a song.”) and ultimately, her hiatus helped her career instead of harming it, because she got involved with many other artists who wanted to record her songs or have her produce their albums.

“That’s how I met Olivia Newton-John,” she says of the Australian pop superstar who is now one of her closest personal friends.

“We began working together on an album and that’s when I learned she was a breast cancer survivor and one of the most positive, generous people I have ever known. She’s very empathetic to everyone in distress she meets and always makes time to help a cause that needs her.”

Asked if she finds that most adults, especially from the “Boomer” years, are turning increasingly towards spirituality, she heartily agrees.

“I think that with every decade you go through, there’s a different process going on in your mind and at a certain point in your life, you look inward, take stock of what you have and think about how you can share your knowledge, your experience and what the world has given you with those less fortunate.”

There’s a pause as Sky puts her thoughts together.

“You know, I spent many years in the United States before coming back to Canada and there’s a totally different feeling about community service here. We have a strong sense of social responsibility. Our government created it.

“I always think of the Luminous Veil they built over the Bloor Viaduct to stop people from throwing themselves off it to commit suicide. It’s so symbolic of Canadian society . . . stretching out invisible arms to catch us before we fall.”