No amount of practicing in your room/rehearsal space can prepare you for developing a strong live show, that comes from experience alone. - Amanda McCarthy
In this interview with YouTube musicians, I talk with the upcoming artist Amanda McCarthy. Amanda's YouTube channel has some great live performances and new songs. Be sure to check it out here!
So, while you are here, have a great listen in the background to one of Amanda's tracks:
Hi! My name is Amanda McCarthy. My music is a combination of pop, country, and rock - I like to call it "Nashville Pop meets Alt Rock." I pride myself on pursuing a career and path of authenticity. While I love guidance and direction, I've never done well listening to people tell me what I "need to do" to "make it" in the industry. I want to reach people and connect with listeners simply by being myself, and by being the best version of my true self that I can be.
Music has been my heart and soul since I was a little kid. It started seeing the kids on Barney - I wanted to hop inside the TV and be singing and dancing with them. As I got older, this manifested into idolizing Britney Spears, girl groups, and Disney Channel stars, and from there, my high school obsessions with Taylor Swift and Paramore. Taylor Swift inspired me to pick up the guitar - I was already writing songs, but learning an instrument helped me give my songs their own identities. I always knew I was somewhere in between country and rock, but not quite straight-to-the-gun pop either, and wanted nothing more than to be a part of a solid band, but that wouldn't come until much later. For the first 6 years or so of my career, I was totally on my own. I owe most of my career to my Auntie Debbie, who helped me get my first shows outside of my hometown and my first few big events that helped me start building my resume.
I tried on so many hats and I just wasn't happy with any of them. I love country music, but I've always resonated more as an artist with the pop-country sound, which wasn't as popular as it is now when I first started pursuing a career. People kept wanting to doll me up in cowgirl hats and cowgirl boots, and as much as I love country music, that just wasn't my thing. I then had a lot of people trying to "groom" me into a "pop star." (Side note: I really despise the word "groom" in reference to talent. It makes me think of dogs!) I tried to do the things people said would help me "shine" but again, it just wasn't me. I sang some pretty ridiculous songs and took on a pretty horrendous personality because people told me that's what I "needed" to do to gain fans. Thank God I stopped short of the backup dancers... Next came my rock phase. I LOVED it, loved every minute of it, loved the rebellion and the chance to feel fierce, and finally felt truly accepted as me by audiences and other musicians I genuinely jive with. But I missed the pure honesty, simplicity, and peace that came from me pouring my emotions into an acoustic guitar, and by rediscovering my love for pop hooks/melodies and the storytelling of country music, I've finally found the right balance of mixing all three genres into my own recipe.
I have been spending the past few months recording new music for myself and starting to get my feet wet in being a songwriter for others. I love both equally! Naturally, I love expressing myself as an artist, but writing a "commercial" song following all the commercial rules can be a really fun puzzle when I take my personal artistry out of the picture. I hope to show everyone all of the new stuff I have been working on very soon.... But I have some other cool things (that I can't announce yet) that may slow down that process. All I can say right now is that a single is on the way, and hopefully very soon.
My biggest accomplishment so far is having two of my songs make the first round of Grammy nominations in 2016. To be clear, the first round (also known as the nomination ballot) is the round before what gets announced to the public. So while it wasn't as public or as huge as those nominees, it was still really exciting for an independent artist like me to make it through the initial submissions and even be considered at all! The songs nominated were the acoustic versions of "Elephant in the Room" and "Bad News" in the category of Best American Roots Performance. Another award I'm very proud of was being named the recipient of Cornell University's Emerging Artist Award in 2017. I've also had a few main stage opening slots and quite a few side stage opening slots for artists like Steven Tyler (of Aerosmith), Hunter Hayes, Train, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Hawthorne Heights, and a huge personal inspiration of mine, Jason Lancaster (of Mayday Parade) - along with others.
Connections are everything. I have been fortunate to find opportunities through connecting with others in the industry - some of them are the "important" people you want to know - some of them are people with smaller reputations and the biggest hearts - and sometimes those smaller people work their way into becoming the bigger people. There are definitely two ways to go about making connections: One is by doing a lot of research and finding out more about the people you want to know, how to get to know them, and networking your life away to make it happen. The second is by seeing the value in every single person you meet, whether they appear to be important or not. Every single person you meet is a new connection you've made, and those relationships will build up over time. See the value in everyone, genuinely, not just the big dogs, and as you find the right niche of people for you, you will begin to feel a special level of reciprocation that can move mountains.
Authenticity, passion and hard work. Audiences can tell when you're not being yourself... I found that out personally as I was going through those few years when I was still trying to really discover myself as an artist. Passion and hard work go hand in hand together. I only consider talent to be a very small portion of my success so far... because quite truthfully I think most people are more talented than I am. But there are people who can sing me under the table, and probably write the next #1 hit on the pop charts, who just aren't putting in the effort, so they aren't seeing any results. I've never been the best or thought I was the best, but I've always been very passionate about reaching the next goal on my list and working hard to see those goals to fruition. I credit most of my achievements so far too sheer persistence... and maybe a touch of insanity.
The biggest pro and con of the music market these days is that everything is much more accessible than it was even 5 years ago. Which is amazing, because independent artists just starting out are able to get their hands-on resources that were once only available to signed acts. I put my very first single way back in the day on iTunes in 2012, and people thought it was a huge deal! It's become much more standard, normal, and pretty easy now for new artists to get their music up on all the listening platforms, which I really do appreciate. However, this also makes for more competition, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it makes you really have to figure out what makes you special, what makes you different from everyone else trying to do the exact same things as you are. It makes you put a lot of thought into branding, social media strategies and having a personal connection to your fan base. Something else I feel is important to note is that money plays a huge role. We all like to believe it doesn't, but let's just be brutally truthful here.... who is going to have the better shot? Someone with level 10 talent who can't afford to record professionally or hire a PR team - or someone with level 6 talent whose parents have no problem investing $100K+ so they can record in top-tier studios and buy on to tours opening for major acts? Its basic math. There are always exceptions to course, but they're certainly fewer and farther between. It can be easy to fall into negative feelings of jealousy and jade, but you have to get creative and figure out how to work around it and find your own ways to push through and level up. It's not easy, and there's no one specific formula that works for everyone.
I wake up usually because I hear that my daughter is awake. We spend the day together, where we have a mix of play time and me trying to get work done at home. Most nights I'll then have a show, and go to bed not long after I get home. It doesn't sound that glamorous and I don't really get a lot of sleep (haha) but I consider myself very blessed. Being able to pull in an income as a full-time musician allows me to spend my days with my daughter instead of being stuck in an office, having to choose between her or a show at night. My goal in the next 3-5 years is to work my way into the next pay range where I can play fewer shows and become a bit pickier on which gigs I take, but still continue to increase my income annually.
For the first little while, take every show you possibly can that your schedule and budget allows for. No amount of practicing in your room/rehearsal space can prepare you for developing a strong live show, that comes from experience alone. I played a lot of empty rooms, but I'm glad those walls saw my mistakes rather than crowds of hundreds. When you're first starting out, no crowd is too small. I have met many artists (usually managed by stage parents) who would refuse shows if it wasn't a big enough event. Artists who were just starting out!
And I know others like myself who would drive more than a few hours to play a show that ended up being a small crowd, but being able to say I left with most of that crowd now being fans of my music. I made some of my best connections that led me to some of my biggest opportunities playing to 10 people. You never know who's in the audience, you just really never know. Play the same to those 10 people as you would to a crowd of 1,000. If I had to choose between a crowd of 10 who genuinely loved my music and holds potential for amazing connections, versus a crowd of 1,000 who ultimately don't care and will forget about me the next day, you can bet I'll be choosing the crowd of 10 even to this day. Quality over quantity. Also, even more importantly, leave your egos at home. Nobody wants to deal with that. It doesn't make you look like a "star." It just makes you look bad and drives away anyone who may have wanted to work with you. Last but not least, remember to follow your heart and your gut, stay true to yourself, passion over money, and even if you find yourself needing to re-adjust your goals, never ever give up.
I use social media to give people an overview of what I do musically, as well as glimpses into my personal life. Because I want you to know Amanda the Person and not just Amanda the Musician! I post show schedules, video snippets, news updates, and the occasional quality meme.
Website - www.amandamccarthy.com
Facebook - www.facebook.com/amandamcmusic
Spotify - www.tinyurl.com/AmandaMcCarthySpotify
Twitter - www.twitter.com/amandamcmusic
Instagram - www.instagram.com/amandamcmusic
Thanks, Amanda, for your great interview!
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