Bits 'n' Pieces: Solo effort a fresh start for musician

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

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You can hear songs from Amber's new album on iTunes.

Battle Ground musician Amber Sweeney admits she's a little nervous about going it alone for the first time in seven years.

But the 30-year-old, who until recently played in the band Everly with actress Bethany Joy Lenz, is also ready for something new.

"With Everly, we had about five of our original songs featured on (The CW network show) 'One Tree Hill,' and that was wonderful," Sweeney said. "But my bandmate wanted to focus more on her acting, and I really wanted to focus on music."

When the group broke up in late 2012, Sweeney decided to head into the studio to work on her first solo album since 2006. The resulting five-song EP, "The Starting Line," was released on April 16.

"I called it 'The Starting Line' because, for me, it is," Sweeney said. "It's a starting point."

Songs on the recording cover a range of emotions for the songwriter. "Chasing Ghosts" is about overcoming addiction and emotional dependency. "Dance With Me" is a pop-tinged song about enjoying life. "Hit and Run" is a breakup song. "Finding Your Way" is about opening your heart. And "Leap" is a political song focused on fighting human trafficking.

"There's a freedom in going out on your own, but it's also kind of scary," Sweeney said. "There's a lot of interaction you usually have with your bandmates."

Still, she's had some great interactions with some of the local session musicians that appear on the EP, and with Gabe Harvison, the engineer and producer who she worked with, she said.

"It's nice to have a variety of people to work with," Sweeney said. "The musicians around here are fantastic."

Sweeney grew up in Los Angeles and played in several bands there before moving to Battle Ground in 2000, mostly because she had several friends in the area.

It's a very different scene here, but she said she wouldn't go back for the world.

"I fell in love with it here," Sweeney said. "I love the Northwest. Battle Ground, it's just a fun little city."

Her next performance will be a fundraiser for Chelatchie Prairie Railroad from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday at Moulton Falls Winery, 31101 N.E. Railroad Ave., Yacolt.

She has several other performances in the works for May, including an album release party that will be at 6 p.m. May 26 at Dublin Down, 813 Main St. in Vancouver.

"I'm just trying to plug away and get heard and go for it," Sweeney said.

For more information, check out her website.

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.