(Photo courtesy of Amanda Brown)
27-year-old singer-songwriter and “Voice” alum Amanda Brown sat down for an intimate conversation with PopWrapped’s Jacob Elyachar to talk about her remarkable career thus far. The gifted singer-songwriter from The Bronx already had several opportunities that would make most performers green with envy. Among those opportunities included performing on world-renowned venues around the country including the Apollo Theater, Madison Square Garden and Carnegie Hall. In addition, Amanda had the privilege and honor of working with numerous recording artists including Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake, Lenny Kravitz and Adele as a backing vocalist. Most recently, viewers got a chance to know Amanda, as she was part of the third season of the NBC hit singing competition: The Voice.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Amanda and she talked about her career and her time on the ratings juggernaut.
Jacob Elyachar: When did you first get interested in music?
Amanda Brown:Music was a part of my upbringing. I loved church and there was lots of music around. For as long as I can remember, I really enjoyed listening music and singing.
JE: Who are your musical influences?
AB:While I was growing up, I listened to a lot of Christian Contemporary artists. But when I was six-years-old, my mother bought a Mariah Carey cassette tape and I listened to that repeatedly. When I went to high school, I got into jazz and classical music. I also listened to a little bit of pop. The artists I loved listening to included Sarah Vaughn, Radiohead, Bjork and Paul Simon.
JE: One of your many highlights in the beginning stages of your career was when you performed “At Last” on “Showtime at the Apollo.” Could you please describe your experience performing on the Apollo Theater stage to my readers?
AB:It was great. The Apollo is a famous theater that tons of world-renowned musicians have performed on. I think for me, just to be able to have that opportunity to perform on stage was incredible. In addition, to have the opportunity to be on a show that was so well-known and popular and get as far as I did, it was really memorable. “At Last” is a classic tune and I was young, excited and it was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I will never forget.
JE: You had multiple opportunities to work with a diverse group of recording artists. How did you become interested in working with these artists?
AB:I was working at a gig and I met a saxophone player. I knew he played for Alicia Keys. While we worked together, I joked with him one night and said: “If she ever needs another background singer, she could call me.” (Laughs) He actually said that Alicia was hosting auditions for a background singer the next day. He made it possible for me to bypass the line and go up and audition. I got a couple of call backs and eventually got the gig.
JE: What were some of the lessons that you learned from the artists that helped out your career?
AB:One lesson that I learned was that this industry (the recording industry) is not an easy industry. In order to accomplish the things you want to do, you have to work VERY, VERY HARD day in and day out. You are always, ALWAYS working. You cannot be doing this for the money or the fame, because there are going to be days when you are tired and do not feel like doing anything and that is what I saw first hand by working with these artists. Yes, it is hard work and stressful at times but they love it so much, that it keeps them on track. That was the hugest lesson that I learned from them.
JE: What were some of the factors that led you to audition for “The Voice”?
AB:A friend of mine actually set up an audition for me. I was never really a huge fan of reality singing competitions and I never really said to myself that it was not something that I wanted to do. However, my friend pushed me to do it and I am glad that I did it. It was an amazing experience. I met so many awesome people and I am very fortunate to have been a part of the show.
JE: You performed Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” at your Blind Audition. What was going through your mind when Cee Lo Green turned his chair around?
AB:Before I went onto the stage, I said to myself, if no one turns around, no one turns around. If all of them turn around, all four (coaches) turn around. I wanted to just enjoy myself and entertain the crowd, so I tried not to look at the coaches during my audition. When I saw Cee Lo at the end of my performance, I was so happy because he is very talented and is a great Alternative artist. I thought that we would be a great fit.
JE: Throughout the Voice’s third season, you produced incredible vocal performances. For example, in your Battle Round, you covered Mariah Carey’s “Vision of Love” with your former teammate Trevin Hunte in a performance, which was the third season’s best battle. Were you surprised that Cee Lo paired you with Trevin?
AB:No, I would not say that I was surprised about the pairing. I really did not know what to expect for the Battle Rounds. I knew that Trevin and Cee Lo had this awesome bond since Trevin joined Cee Lo’s team and by the way, it is very difficult letting go of anybody, but decisions had to be made. I just wanted to give a really good performance and not be just two people yelling at each other.
JE: After that battle, Cee Lo chose Trevin to represent him in the Knockout Rounds. However, Adam, Blake and Christina were “manically” hitting their buttons to steal you. I remembered hearing Adam (who gave you a standing ovation on his chair) said that no matter what happened, he wanted to work with you. Did his selling point sold you or was there something else that made you decide to join Team Adam?
AB:I knew what I wanted to do as an artist and what direction I wanted to go in. I wanted to try some things that were out-of-the-box musically and that viewers did not expect coming from a young African-American girl, who grew up in church.
Amanda’s cover of the Aerosmith classic “Dream On” was not only one of the best performances of Season Three, but was nominated for a Reality Wanted Award for Best Performance. (Photo courtesy of Amanda Brown)
JE: Before we continued the interview, I wanted to congratulate you on being nominated for the 2013 Reality Wanted Award for Best Performance for your cover of “Dream On.”(AB: Yes! Thank You!)
That was the best performance from Season Three.(AB: Aww…Thank You! That was so nice of you to say that.)
How did you pick that song? Was that Adam’s idea for you to sing it? Or was it a collaborative effort?
AB:That song was probably the first song that was 100-percent my idea. I wanted to sing that song ever since I got on the show. What lot of viewers do not know is how difficult it is to get certain songs cleared on these kinds of shows. At times, you have to compromise with the song that you sing. I really fought hard to sing “Dream On” and I am glad that I was able to perform it.
JE: Of all of your performances from your time on the show, a lot of viewers saw your vulnerable side when you performed “Stars.” Were you hesitant to tackle the Grace Potter hit?
AB:Adam, the producers and I were sitting in a room and throwing song ideas back and forth. Then, Adam said: “I want you to listen to this song and see what you think.” So, I listened to it and a minute into the song, I immediately liked it. The lyrics are very strong and a bit sad and I knew it was going to be an emotional performance. “Stars” is a beautiful song that people should hear and I wanted to perform it for a number of reasons specifically because it is a great song.
Among the artists that Amanda Brown collaborated with on “The Voice” included R&B star Ne-Yo. (Photo courtesy of Amanda Brown)
JE: Do you have any highlights from your time on the show?
AB:I think performing “Dream On” was the most amazing experience from my time on the show. It was a song that I really enjoyed, wanted to sing and it made me feel great because I fought for that song since the beginning of my time of the show. The Voice was an awesome learning experience for me and to be able to work with both Adam and Cee Lo plus perform on national television every week, you cannot beat that.
JE: You are currently working on an album. How long have you been working on this album?
AB:I was working on a project before I got onto The Voice. It was something that I wanted to do for myself initially and I had a couple of things that I wanted to say. Once, I was done with the show, I returned to the studio to finish up that project. It is going to be a very interesting project. I am working with a photographer to pair each song with great images and I am excited about that. I also had the opportunity to work with some incredible producers and writers after I got off of the show and I worked on some really great songs that I am very excited about. I wrote a lot of music and I have to decide which ones going to be released first. (Laughs) I am also very excited to have the opportunity to perform these songs live.
JE: While we are on the subject of performing live, have you thought about touring?
AB:Definitely! I would really like to visit some cities where I have a few friends that cannot make it to New York or Los Angeles. I want to visit cities where there is a lot of musical activity going on all the time. I would also like to drive across the country and do a couple of shows. I would also like to go to Europe. I am looking forward to planning a tour.
JE: If you had the chance to meet with aspiring artists and musicians, what advice would you share with them?
AB:I would advise them to hone their craft and your artistry. In addition to honing your craft, artists need to know what they want to do and what they want to say.
For more information about Amanda and her music, visit her website: http://amandabrownmusic.com/news/