A portrait of Autumn Sky
Most 20-year-olds don’t play over 15 instruments or write three songs per week. Nor have they traveled and lived all over the United States. But Sacramento musician Autumn Sky didn’t grow up in a so-called "normal" household.
Having played hundreds of shows, the ambitious Sky is on the rise.
Sky (she uses her middle name instead of her last name, Hall) was born in Paradise, Calif. She and her family lived out of a Volkswagen Beetle near Puget Sound in Washington and spent time in Oregon and Wisconson before settling in Sacramento.
She also recalled living in a log cabin in Mendocino as part of a nudist colony.
"There is a whole [photo] album that my parents have and it’s all these babies and families just hanging around, only wearing tool belts," Sky said, with a hint of dry humor. "The sad thing is that people who live in nudist colonies are not the people you want to see nude."
Another thing that sets Sky’s family apart is that they are high on the autism spectrum. Her father has Asperger’s. She is the oldest of seven, with brothers and sisters who also have autism, Asperger’s and dyslexia, she said.
"All of those disorders are blessings. There’s so much of a stigma [but] I think it makes us all really cool," Sky said. "My autistic brothers are the sweetest people in the world."
It’s hard to imagine Sky’s colorful background when face-to-face with her. She wears girly dresses, reads poetry (e.e. cummings is her favorite poet) and once worked at Starbucks, she said.
Sky is currently on hiatus from jazz classes at American River College, works at Raley’s during the day and admits a guilty pleasure: listening to pop musician/actress Mandy Moore.
Her hobbies include painting and writing and illustrating her own children’s books. When she was younger, she had stage fright, and aspired to to be a journalist and author as a creative outlet.
Sky was introduced to music growing up around a grandmother who played piano and a mother who played both piano and violin and sang. She started taking piano lessons from her mother at age 6, then moved to violin at 11.
As a young teenager, Sky started doing open mic nights at her church, but she soon found her niche after moving on to the True Love Coffeehouse, as well as the Fox and Goose pub. "I used to do five open mics a week," Sky said, adding that she gained a sense of friendship among open mic performers.
"What else was I supposed to do?" she added. "Performing is so much fun for me, and it brings me so much joy to bring other people so much joy; it’s extremely therapeutic."
"[Sacramento's music scene] is vastly underrated; there’s so much potential," she said. "In L.A. I would be a folk singer among 500 others. It’s very good for me to be in a place like this. I feel like [people] really cherish the music that comes out of here."
She released an EP, Diminutive Petite in 2008, and a friend from church helped Sky finance and produce her first album All Which Isn’t Singing earlier this year. She made the album with most of the Sacramento band All on Seven backing her, creating an upbeat blend of pop, folk, and rock.
Sky is currently working on a follow-up album and is in talks with a label to have it released by next spring. "It has a ’60s sound mixed with Tim Burton and Sunshine Pop," she said. If all goes according to plan, she will also be touring the Northwest in the upcoming months, she said.
Sky will be playing at Club Retro, 6521 Hazel Ave., Orangevale, on Saturday at 8 p.m. One can also see her play during her 11 Sacramento-area shows scheduled in October.
She will soon make her journalist aspiration a reality by previewing some of her own shows, here, at The Sacramento Press.
Photographs credit Caitlin Bellah/Autumn Sky