Amy Lavere is happy to be back in Memphis, the place she has called home for ten years. The bass-thumpin’ singer-songwriter just landed back in the Bluff City after two months of playing to sold-out crowds across the U.S. as part of Lucero’s Ramblin’ Roadshow & Memphis Revue and opening for breakout star Seasick Steve all over Europe.
The star of MTV’s $5 Cover loves touring, but she’s excited to be back at home in her cozy Cooper-Young neighborhood while she recharges her battery and gets ready to head back into the studio to record a new album in February. And how does the tiny, bright-eyed chanteuse like to spend her downtime? At her favorite restaurant, of course!
“The first thing I want to do when I get back to town is my favorite restaurant circuit, and Tsunami is always first on my list,” says Lavere.
Tsunami has been a midtown staple for over ten years and is known for owner/chef Ben Smith’s delicious Pacific Rim cuisine along with its use of local organic ingredients, not to mention the colorful cast of local regulars that populate bar. Just months after Tsunami opened in July 1998, it was voted Best New Restaurant by Memphis magazine. It has managed to maintain one of the top three spots in the categories of “Best Seafood” and “Most Creative Menu” in Memphis magazine’s readers’ poll every year since. The cuisine has become so popular that the restaurant has even warranted its own cookbook, the aptly named Tsunami Restaurant Cookbook.
Over drinks at the crowded bar on a Friday night, Lavere waxes philosophical about her time on the road and how good it feels to be back in Memphis. While she loves experiencing life on the road, meeting new people and eating in a new city every day, there’s always something comforting about being home. And whether she’s seeking a perfect glass of wine with friends or the perfect meal to mark a special milestone, Lavere does it at Tsunami.
“As a starving artist, Tsunami has always been my special occasion restaurant, I even had my first record release party here. The neighborhood is so rich with characters and I love the philosophy that Ben Smith has about food, he tries to use organic produce as exclusively as possible, and they even compost, and that’s not the most prudent thing to do.”
While Lavere’s music has gained a worldwide following, she is also known far and wide for her tours of Sun Studios where she has worked for five years. While she was in Europe on tour last month, she was floored by the number of people who approached her because they had taken her tour at Sun.
‘The magic that happens there absolutely resonates in the hearts of music lovers all over the world.”
Sun Studios, of course, is the legendary recording studio opened by rock pioneer Sam Phillips that kicked off the careers of music luminaries such as Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Charlie Feathers, Charlie Rich, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
These days it is one of Memphis’ most popular tourist attractions, hosting thousands of visitors every year and well known for its colorful tour guides, most being musicians themselves.
“There’s not a lot of turnover which says a lot about the way the business is run and the way they treat the owners treat the people that work for them,” says Lavere.
As our conversation about food, music, and Memphis comes to a close, Lavere shares with me what she might have done if a career as a musician had not been possible.
“If I hadn’t been a musician I would have been a nutritionist/architect/chef/wine connoisseur/tour guide.”
Other than architect, Lavere seems to have all the bases covered.