Amanda McCarthy: Being nominated for Singer/Songwriter of the Year was a huge deal for me, especially being 19 at the time. I hadn't been out of high school very long and so many people had told me I wouldn't get anywhere. I put a lot of effort into reaching out to fans/family/friends to get as many votes as I could and had anyone willing to help me do the same. But I never expect to win anything, so I was super nervous at the awards show watching a lot of my friends who were nominated that year winning their categories. I honestly didn't believe it when I heard them call my name. I was in shock, and that award opened a lot of doors for me and was definitely a huge personal confidence booster.
B:H: How about when you were named runner-up for album of the year?
AM: Being named the runner up winner for Solo Album of the Year was just as insane of a feeling, but for a different reason. Unlike when I was nominated for Singer/Songwriter, I had a lot on my plate during the voting period so aside from a Facebook post here and there, I didn't really have time to put a lot of effort into getting people to vote for me this time around. Yet somehow I still came in second, which means a lot of people were doing it and keeping up with it on their own. THAT was a huge confidence booster for me, to know people were supporting me without me necessarily having to ask for it. With the Singer/Songwriter award, I felt like I won it for myself doing a good job marketing the voting process. With this runner up award, it was definitely my fans/family/friends who won that for me.
B:H: Your song, Elephant in the Room has been largely critically successful, having won the original song competition at the Southern New England Music Expo. Would you say that’s your most commercially successful song?
AM: I definitely think Elephant is my most well received song to date. It's the one people seem to remember the most, and I often see people singing the words back to me at shows which is really cool. I've even had other friends who are musicians cover the song and THAT is an incredible feeling.
B:H: If not, which song is?
AM: Sticks and Stones and Awkward are probably the other two that are most well received. Sticks and Stones has less of the commercial factor but more of an emotional one. I wrote that one back in high school dealing with constant bullying and I found when I finally decided to bring it out after graduating that a lot of people could really relate to the song. With Awkward, even after 4 years, people still think the simple line "you lied" is hilarious. Which works for me.
B:H: What’s your favorite song you’ve written so far?
AM: Elephant is my favorite fun song that I've written, not just because of how much other enjoy it, but because I had wanted to write a song in that style for a long time and writing that song introduced me to a new side of myself as a songwriter. Chasing Rainbows, a newer one that will be released soon, is my favorite really emotional song I've written, because I put more pain into writing that song than anything else I have ever written, even Sticks and Stones. I still can barely get through singing it without feeling everything I felt when writing it, and it's another one I've been getting good feedback on as well.
AM: I think the most frustrating experience for me as a songwriter is feeling like nothing I write is good enough. Here's a not-so-secret secret.... Despite how far I've brought myself, I'm not entirely confident in myself as a songwriter all the time. I know my strengths, but I always feel like I could do so much better. I know that I'm good at what I do, but being a perfectionist, the voices in my head often get to me and make me think otherwise. Also, the fact that much of the industry wants you to pick one genre and stick with it. I write songs in multiple styles and enjoy performing in multiple styles (pop vs rock, acoustic vs full band) and I don't plan on stopping or limiting that any time soon to fit a certain molded standard. I like doing different things, and as a friend once worded the best, I don't like to play by the rules in my songwriting. And that's perfectly okay.
B:H: What would you say has been your favorite/most memorable gig this year?
AM: My most memorable gig was when I performed at and won the songwriting competition at the Southern New England Music Expo in Rhode Island. I almost didn't make it to the show....I was facing a lot of personal challenges at the time and that day prior to the show was one of the worst days of my life, and I felt very very alone. On the drive down, I didn't even warm up or listen to music, I just prayed for answers, prayed that things would change, and that the challenges I was going through at the time would lighten up. But I pulled into the parking lot, swapped my flats for high heels, put on my game face and gave it my all. At the time, I thought winning the competition was the answer to my prayer. What I would later realize is on that day, I met the guy I'm now dating, and the president of Big Noise music firm, who I just signed with.
B:H: What about all-time favorite gig you’ve done to date?
AM: Two of my favorite gigs were at The Middle East in Cambridge, MA. One was when I got to open up for Jason Lancaster (singer-songwriter and former lead singer of Mayday Parade). He is one of my idols, so to open for him was surreal, and the crowd reaction was amazing. The other was a show where I sang Awkward, and people in the crowd went crazy over it and started Tweeting me #youlied. I gained a lot of fans from both shows and really felt appreciated by the crowd.
B:H: You’ve had the chance to open for some pretty big names in the music business. Was there ever a time you were star struck?
AM: I was definitely star struck meeting Jason Lancaster. He complimented my set and I fan girled HARD(sic). I'm sure he could probably tell, I was not smooth about it at all.
B:H: Taking things a different direction, where are you originally from?
AM: I'm originally from Londonderry, NH but when I play shows outside of New England, I usually just say I'm from Boston.
B:H: Have you ever studied music formally?
AM: I had on and off vocal training between the ages of 12 and 19, but never consistently. My brother taught me a little bit of guitar but I mostly taught myself, along with piano and ukulele.
B:H: How long have you been a songwriter?
AM: I started "writing songs" when I was 4 (Lol). My binder of original songs dates back to when I was 13, but I really dove into it when I was 15 and started playing guitar.
B:H: How long have you been doing music in general?
AM: I have sang since I was a little kid, but I first started singing solo at school events when I was 12, and started branching out of Londonderry at 14.
B:H: Who would you say has influenced your musical development the most?
AM: When I was younger my biggest influences were Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato. That list has gone on to include Fall Out Boy, Secondhand Serenade, Michael Buble, Adele, Avril Lavigne, Mayday Parade, and Tonight Alive.
B:H: Would you say that it is more difficult breaking into the music scene in New England, as opposed to elsewhere?
AM: I think breaking into any music scene is difficult, I wouldn't say it's anything to do with New England specifically. There will always be cliques of people who already know each other, and you have to be willing to really fight and prove yourself to make yourself known. Honestly, only in this past month or so do I really feel like people are starting to recognize me and my music. And that's okay. I'd rather be the small fish in the big pond a little while longer than get too comfortable being the big fish in the small pond.
B:H: It’s widely known that you aspire to take on the music industry with gusto…and having bolstered such an impressive resume it’d be hard to deny your success. However, that wasn’t always the case. What would you say would be the greatest uphill battle you’ve faced so far as an independent artist?
AM: My greatest uphill battle has probably been fighting the accusations that I never had a chance in hell of making it in music. I had a speech impediment (really bad lisp) that everyone said would stop me, so I went to a vocal teacher who was also a speech therapist and got rid of it. I have a hair disorder where I have to wear hair extensions due to not having a lot of my own hair, but I've learned to find the right extensions and work with them and use different colors or hats to really find my own look, and recently I've had important people tell me that I do have the right look, which is a complete turn around from what I heard in previous years. People always told me I HAD to get contacts to have a shot, but my quirky personality allowed my glasses to become my trademark. The biggest thing was all of those things being the reason I had stage fright for years, hindering my performing ability. But learning to turn those "weaknesses" into things I love about myself that other people can appreciate has made my stage fright go away, and now I really truly feel comfortable being myself on stage instead of being what people once told me I had to be.
B:H: Do you have any upcoming releases we can look forward to?
AM: I will be releasing Chasing Rainbows and a full band version of Elephant in the Room in the next few months!
B:H: Any upcoming shows on the horizon?
AM: Upcoming shows: 5/14 at the Middle East Downstairs (Cambridge, MA) w/ Joe Dias & Pat Sicotte -- 6/19 at the Bank of NH Pavilion (Gilford, NH) w/ Jason Isbell & Frank Turner on the Magic Hat Stage -- 7/15, 7/16, AND 7/17 at the NH Motor Speedway for NASCAR Weekend (Loudon, NH) announced here first!
B:H: Lastly, anyone you’d like to shoutout?
AM: I want to give shout outs to my Auntie Debbie, my parents, my daughter Leah, Myke and Joan for reminding me to believe in my dreams and helping make them possible. I'd also like to shout out the musicians who play in my band and make me sound good, along with supporting me and encouraging me to always take the next step. They are: my brother Mark McCarthy, my boyfriend Gabe Straight, Tom Shubsda, Andy Kiniry, Tori Ano and Derek Jameson