Amanda Brown on Love, Life, and Books!
Who knew the lovely voice we heard singing Wednesday night at Village Underground in Manhattan’s West Village would turn out to be a song-writing, back-up singing, duet world-touring superstar? Certainly, not us. As usual, Kiara and I, on a whim, decide to show up somewhere and talk to strangers….lucky it landed us with an interview with the Amanda Brown!
She’s been on The Voice.
She sang back up for Alicia Keys.
She’s touring with Michael Bolton.
Oh, and she dates a guy in a band.
Meet Amanda Brown:
Where are you from?
I’m from here (New York). I’m from the Bronx.
Did you know you always wanted to be a singer?
No, I’ve been singing for most of my life but I didn’t really want to be a singer. For a long time I was going to school, studied business, to make my parents happy. I went to this performing arts high school in New York, LaGuardia High School for Music and Art. I went there but then toward the end I decided to go to college and study something else. I ended up going to Howard University, but after my first year I was like “I hate D.C.” (laughs). It was a very different vibe. So after my first year there, I just decided to come back to New York, so I transferred schools. And I also didn’t want to pay $25,000 for fucking school.
I was like “Why am I spending-”.It was the first time I’d spent that much money on ANYTHING.
Kiara: (And if it doesn’t align with what you want to do, it’s really like why am I doing this?)
Right! I can go on and on about education in America and why we have to pay so much money to try and figure out what it is that we want to do and then- anyway…that’s a whole different conversation.
So I came back to New York and went to a city college. I went to Baruch College, which is like 3,000 a semester, which is not as bad. I studied business, marketing and international business for a while; for like 2 and change. Then I was like, “I…don’t..wanna do this. I really want to do music.” So I ended up singing here and there and then I ended up auditioning for Alicia Keys to be a background singer. I was her background singer for about 3 years.
I got to see what life on the road is like. She did a world tour and so I got to travel. As a result of that I got to sing with a bunch of other people. I sang background for Adele, Justin Timberlake too. Then after that, maybe late 2010, I decided I wanted to start writing my own music and I had never really done that. I had always written poetry in my journals, but I had never really said “I’m a songwriter.” So I started attempting to write songs. I’d write with a bunch of other people and work with other producers that I met.
Then in 2012, a friend told me I should audition for The Voice. So that year I got on The Voice. It was a really good experience. Since then I’ve been songwriting with my songwriting partner for about 2 years writing music and just started recording my first record, I want to say like 6 months ago. Hopefully it’ll be done by the end of the year.
Who would you compare your style to?
I’m like a Sheryl Crowe, Grace Potter meets Tina Turner.
So how did you become part of the band that you’re with now?
After my stint singing background for a bunch of people, then trying to figure what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do the whole songwriting thing, a friend of mine saw me singing at a Ashford and Simpson tribute and told me “you need to come down to Village Underground. They have a live band there and they’re looking for a singer and you would be perfect!” She had been singing with the band for years, since the late 90s and was making her way out, she said “you’ll be perfect!”
I came down and I was super nervous, because I had heard of the Village Underground and then totally fucked up my audition song. I was singing a Rihanna song or something. But the owner called me and he was like “well, just come down and do one or two nights and we’ll see how it works out.” Now the band is sort of like my family, so whenever I’m in town I’ll come and sing.
I always wondered how bands got together, were there ads or did you have to know someone? You were really around the right people it seems, in the right crowd for opportunities.
Yes, I’ve been very, very lucky. I think I’ve been very lucky to be in the right place at the right time. I was singing in a wedding band at one point and the sax player, I heard, had played for Alicia Keys. So once, I jokingly said to him, “hey, if she’s ever looking for a background singer…” and he said “well, she’s actually holding auditions tomorrow, so you should go.” It’s been stuff like that that’s happened.
I know you talked about your parents and trying to please them. Can you describe a moment that was like a call to being or self-discovery? Like F everything, I’m going to do what I want.
I think deep down inside I really wanted to do music, but it was a combination of fear and wanting to make everyone else around me happy. Like my mom’s a singer, not a professional singer but she has a beautiful voice and plays piano and my dad plays bass and guitar.
So I grew up around music and singing mainly in church, but really it was a combination of those two things. I thought “it’s a really tough industry and I don’t know if I have the heart and stamina for it” and also I know my parents would be proud of me if I went to school and studied business and became -whatever ideas I had in my mind of what would make them happy.
Are they supportive?
Yea they are now. My mom’s always been like really, really supportive. My dad is the harder one to please (laughing). You know, Carribbean fathers.
So after he saw me on TV, he was like “oh…she’s doing it!” It had to be TV that let him understand that yes, little by little it’s happening. It takes time, just like anything else does.
I was Top 6. It was a lot of fun and it was a big eye-opener to the music business and the people and what it’s like. But mostly it was a really good performing experience.
New York. The city of love. How did you and your boyfriend meet?
We met in the band, the Village Underground band. We were really good friends at first. I had a boyfriend at the time, so we were just good friends and found that we liked a lot of the same things. We would hang out and just listen to music, talk about music and laugh a lot. We’re both really silly and kids at heart.Then it progressed into a relationship. (Laughing) Yea, it’s nice.
What’s your favorite pick-me-up?
It could be a number of things. Like listening to music, going to a live show. I feel like that’s always really inspiring.
A Game of Preference
Shower or Bath:
Sweet or Salty:
Suburbs or City:
Heels or Flats:
Short hair or Long hair:
Books or movies:
Ooo, that’s tough….I’ll say books.
I’m reading this awesome book right now called, Just Kids by Patty Smith. Anybody who’s creative I think should read this book. She’s an incredible artist and songwriter, but she came up in New York in the late 60s, so she describes her experience as a young artist. As a poet growing up in New York she talks about what the New York art scene was like and her relationship with this other artist, Robert Maple Thorpe.
I find it’s like a love letter to New York during that time. It’s a really well-written book. Me and Colin are reading it together now, it’s really excellent.
What are your long term goals?
I just want to tour and sing my own music. I’ve been really fortunate, but I really want to sing my own music. After singing with a bunch of other people and singing their music, and seeing what that’s like to be able to share your ideas with people that are on the same page as you, it’s just really powerful. So that’s what I want to do.
Amanda Brown on Showtime at The Apollo – “At Last”
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