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Wednesday, February 28th

Amanda Shelly

An exclusive interview with Musiqtone
Special to Musiqtone

I came across Amanda Shelly completely by chance when I was reading an article on the Purdue Exponent Online about Battle of the Bands, which happens every year Purdue, which I’m a student at. And I was very impressed by her pedigree that was described in the article, who she was, who were her influences in her music, and what blew me away was that she had been featured in the Indy Star and also on a popular radio station in the Indianapolis area. I decided that I should contact her about perhaps helping her along the road because after all, that is one of our goals outlined in Musiqtone. But because my assignment made me trade the seeming simplicity of life and closeness in West Lafayette for returning to my roots in Hoffman Estates, a northwest suburb 30 minutes from Chicago, I was unable to meet her in person (and I still haven’t) but through a few e-mails exchanged between myself and her boyfriend, who is serving as her manager, I was finally able to talk to her and through our initial conversation (thank heaven for AIM…), she struck me as a driven person with a ton of music smart around her and in today’s sexist music atmosphere, that is very refreshing.

It is almost incredible how accomplished she is at the age of 19 and there’s no telling where she can go next. She is May’s You Gotta Know for the month of May and I got a chance to sit down with her and ask some questions, mostly about her music and as always with me interviewing, I also put her on the hot seat on The Buzz.

The Interview: Alan Ho: Tell the readers a little bit about yourself.

Amanda Shelly : Well, I am a 19 year old sophomore at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Currently, I am studying several areas of forensic science and hope to someday pursue a career in that field. Outside of school related activities, I am busy writing and playing music, enjoying Starbucks coffee, and being actively involved in my church.

AH: What got you interested into making music?

AS: My seven years of singing in a choir, my love for writing poetry, and my knowledge of how to play the guitar got me interested in making music. It’s just funny that I never really started composing my own music and turning my poetry writing into songwriting until several years after I stopped singing in my choir.

AH: You’re very accomplished for someone so young, how long have you been making music?

AS: I have been making music since I was about 6 years old. I recall making up little songs about Jesus that were only a few lines long. This was a reflection of our family’s love for Christian music. I can’t say that my lyrics actually started sounding more like actual songs until I was about 15 years old. With a year of guitar behind me and more of life’s experiences, I was able to create several songs that were more sophisticated. I have been writing ever since.

AH: I understand that you picked up the guitar at 14, what got you interested in the guitar?

AS: A few friends from my church played guitar in the church praise band, and I always thought that it looked like fun. I knew that they would agree to help me if I ever decided to pursue the instrument and so I immediately purchased an old guitar from them and began learning. Shortly afterwards, I also became a part of the praise band for five years now and counting.

AH: Who are your biggest influences in music and in you career? What do you put your music under if you can classify it?

AS: My biggest influences as far as artists are concerned are Michelle Branch, Sheryl Crow, Plumb, Avril Lavigne, and Toby Lightman. My most recent influence in writing my songs has been Anna Nalick, a newly discovered, lyric-driven pop artist. If I had to classify my music, I would say that it is light acoustic rock. J

AH: Here’s a big one: What is your philosophy in making music? Everyone has some sort of philosophy in their music. What’s yours?

AS: My philosophy in making music is to be able to let people relate to the music that I write. A lot of my music deals with a suffering relationship that someone is trying to get out of or make better, and I think that a lot of people have dealt with similar situations like that. Another philosophy I often have is to express the feelings I have inside of me in the form of a song. This is starting to become more evident in my most recent songs that I have not yet recorded.

AH: Now being a singer-songwriter and focusing on the songwriting right now, how do you go about writing a song? Philosophy on that? Or what inspires you to write a song and perform it?

AS: It almost never fails that I will always write the music to my song before I begin coming up with lyrics. I think that having a strong foundation for lyrics makes it easier to come up with words and create a catchy tune. My inspiration is drawn from things that happen in everyday situations. Most of my songs are not necessarily about myself, but rather a reflection of situations or relationships of people I’ve known.

AH: I know you’re a small-time musician but we ask everyone this: How have people responded to your music?

AS: People have responded very positively to my music. I am always delighted and surprised to see how people will just come up to me and say the most wonderful things about how much they like it. I recall a few times when I began playing at open mic nights for crowds of people who were simply talking and minding their own business but who then became completely silent and attentive when I started singing. That, to me, is a very neat experience and also very rewarding. Another thing that has started happening recently is that people will ask me to sign my CD for them, which is so… cool! So, overall, people have been VERY kind.

AH: Talk about your time in Nashville and your sessions with Debbie Champion. What kind of advice did she give you and how has that helped your journey in the music biz?

AS: My time in Nashville was one of the best experiences of my life and possibly the most eye-opening. I knew that I was able to make some progress in my small town of Westfield and around Purdue’s campus, but it was a true test for me to see how I could compete in Nashville and what kind of response I would get. And, what do you know, people responded to me the same in Nashville as they did back in my hometown! I played at Pie in the Sky, the Commodore, and have a rain check for The Bluebird Café. The Commodore with Debbie Champion was amazing. I waited 3 hours to play, was the very last person, and only had one song. Thankfully, Debbie liked me a lot, told me that I was very talented, gave me her card so that I could contact her for a booking, and also gave me the name of one of her friends who was sure to book me as well!!! This boosted my confidence level a lot.

AH: What was it like to get your songs on the radio?

AS: Very, very exciting. It was something I never imagined would ever happen and I was speechless when I heard myself for the first time. It’s an overwhelming yet awesome feeling to know that everyone in the Carmel/Westfield/Indianapolis area can hear me on the radio!

AH: Which song on your EP defines who you are?

AS: I wish one of them did just so that I could say so, but truth be told- none of the songs on my current album are actually about me or define me. Within the past few months though, and with the giant transition of me going to college, my songs have started to become more of a reflection of who I am now that I feel I have made some big changes in my life. (this makes it easier for me to write songs and have them actually relate to me.) My newest song, Forever and a Day, describes how I feel about my current relationship. It’s about being with someone who treats you very well and makes you feel like nothing can ever go wrong. It is about wanting to love that person ‘forever and a day.’ These songs, however, have not yet been professionally recorded.

AH: Why is music important to you?

AS: It is my absolute passion!!! Music gets me through the day, is relaxing, fun, entertaining, makes me very happy. Without it, I really don’t know what I would do.

AH: What are your goals, both short-term and long-term? Where do you see yourself five, ten years from now?

AS: Right NOW, I am working on delivering my bio and demo CD to several places that play live music. I am trying to get some gigs for the summer and get more experience playing in different areas all over Indiana. My long term goals are uncertain, but I do know that it is very important for me to pursue my education and hopefully get a job in forensic science working as a crime scene investigator. In my spare time, I hope to continue writing songs and playing at as many places as possible. In five to ten years, I will hopefully have a job and be very happy with where I am at. If within these next ten years someone offers me a record deal, I would not hesitate to take that!! The Burn:

This is where I put the person I'm interviewing on the hot seat...

AH: Favorite song from your EP?

AS: The Way I Smiled

AH: What’s spinning in your music player right now?

AS: Anna Nalick of course!

AH: Music none of your friends expect you to listen to?

AS: Hardcore, screaming music (eeks!)

AH: The ultimate tour spot?

AS: New York!

AH: Which act or acts would you love to share the stage with?

AS: John Mayer or Anna Nalick

AH: What kind of special talent(s) you have besides making music?

AS: I am fluent in sign language. AND I can make my stomach growl on command- is that a talent?

AH: Favorite foods?

AS: Pineapple lol

AH: What would you want to do if it wasn’t for music?

AS: I would be a very very sad person.

AH: Your most embarrassing moment performing?

AS: I forgot the words to one of my newest songs and I was too far into the song to start over so I just had to suffer thru it. L

-Alan Ho is the founder and chief head of Musiqtone...and also the guy who writes incoherent articles whenever he wants to...oh yeah and the interview thing too. You can reach the big man at Musiqtone at alanho@musiqtone.com.

(C) 2005 Musiqtone. All Rights Reserved. Any part of this interview cannot be used without written express consent from both the representatives of Amanda Shelly and Musiqtone.