Amanda Brown

by Corey O'Flanagan

On touring with Alicia Keys and Adele, her time on The Voice, and finding songs in her dreams.

Born and raised in a Christian family in New York City, Amanda Brown was influenced mostly by gospel music until her time at the highly prestigious LaGuardia Arts High School. After a brief stint at Howard University, she decided to pursue music full time and soon found herself on tour singing backup for Alicia Keys. Three years on the road and she was ready to pave her own path. Singing in late-night clubs in NYC she earned her chops as a performer and decided to audition for season 3 of The Voice.

In this episode of the Songfacts Podcast, we get a behind-the-scenes look at her time on the show, including the day-to-day workflow and the nerves she had leading up to her stellar performance of Aerosmith's "Dream On."

Since placing fifth on the show, Amanda has released the album Dirty Water, toured with Adele, and is set to release a new EP and the single "From Here" at the end of October.


The new single "From Here"

"From Here" is a song that I wrote in 2018 while on tour with The Killers. It's about a relationship I was in that didn't work out. I was at a crossroads at the time and I had been feeling this pull to move out to the West Coast.

Each time I write a song, the process is very specific to what's going on at the time. In this instance, I wrote "From Here" with Jessica Vaughn and Keith Merron, and Jessica had asked me what I wanted to talk about. That crossroads and that relationship was at the forefront of my mind in that particular moment. I hadn't set out to write this song, but I had set out to write music with female songwriters. I found that it was so easy for me to talk about more personal, emotional things having another woman in the room.


Dreaming music

There's another song on the EP that actually came to me in a dream, I kid you not. When I moved to California, I started dreaming music. For the first time, I started dreaming melodies. I would wake up at 4 a.m. and grab my phone and record a VoiceNote.

So the song "Can't Let You Go," the melody for that came in a dream and the next day I started writing lyrics and fleshed out the song.

I do forget my dream songs sometimes, so it's really important for me to record them, otherwise I will lose them. Once I hear it, I have to record it right away.


Background

I was a shy Christian girl that grew up singing in the church in The Bronx. In the 7th and 8th grade I had a music teacher that had introduced me to musical theater, and he encouraged me to audition for a specialist arts school, which I then attended. It was LaGuardia Arts High School.

My time at school taught me so many valuable things that prepared me for the career I've had. From learning to sing in multiple languages to vocal technique, it was an extremely valuable time of learning that really built up my confidence.

My parents are very strict Christians and I grew up listening to gospel music. My time at school was so eye-opening in exposing me to other genres of music. There was a lot of sensory overload from just listening to gospel music at home to hearing jazz, classical, R&B and so on for the first time.


Touring with Alicia Keys and Adele

I began working and auditioning around New York City when I was in my early 20s. It was around this time that I got this amazing opportunity to tour with Alicia Keys. At this point I had only traveled outside of the USA once with my family, and I had never had a full-time singing job. I went from not experiencing that life to being paid to sing and travel around the world for three years. As you can imagine, after that, I was hooked.

Later on, I toured again with Adele and she was awesome. She would give us background singers our moment to showcase our skills, and invite us to come up and sing a song with her. She's a truly amazing person.


Being on The Voice

I left touring with Alicia Keys and other various artists after three years to develop my own songwriting career. I landed back in New York and began singing at a club in the West Village, which helped me hone my solo live performance skills. It was during this time when I auditioned for The Voice.

I was always nervous before each performance. I had already performed "Dream On" a million times and I remember seconds before I went on stage I couldn't remember the beginning of the song. I do think despite those nerves you feel, if you put the work in to respect the original artist, but still add your own twist to a song, and then connect with your audience, it always works out.

The routine varies day to day behind the scenes and it's not always filmed chronologically. You stay at a hotel and you do spend a lot of time by yourself going through the music. Other people were doing a lot of hanging out and singing together, but at the time that wasn't my vibe, so I focused on rehearsing.

Although I hadn't learned anything new in terms of technical singing, my time on The Voice was an experience where I learned a lot about what I do and don't want in my singing career.


Dirty Water

I love all kinds of music and appreciate what all genres have to offer. With Dirty Water, it was my first effort writing a full album and I wanted to experiment and create with all of those different genres. I feel like I learned so much about myself during this process and I really got to learn what worked for me and for my future albums. Dirty Water is my baby.

The song "No Good" is also about a relationship and in the lyrics when I'm saying, "I'm not good for you," I'm actually talking about the other person giving off that energy to me. It's like a sarcastic remark to what they're saying to me. It was a homage to a person hanging onto our relationship while saying they were no good for me, but maybe one day they will be. Unfortunately, I didn't shut the door on that relationship for a few more years.

October 6, 2020
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Learn more about Amanda and her music at amandabrownmusic.com

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