Barley and Vine, the Amish, and Were-Chihuahuas

Matt sat down with folk-a-billy (tm) artist Amanda Lyn to talk music and discuss their upcoming November 4th show together at Barley and Vine in Orlando's Milk District. The show will be a release party for Beemo’s new single “Did For You.” Amanda will play her originals (and maybe a few covers) with Tony, Matt, and Justin during the set break. Free show, starts at 7pm.

MJ: Elevator pitch me. If you had to describe your music in like ten seconds....

AL: My music is inspired by Sun Studio [in Memphis]. And what makes it different is that it’s rockabilly in a female voice with a modern twist.

MJ: So how long have you been singing?

AL: Since forever? [Laughs] My mom always tells this story: When I was 4 years old I did my first musical at my church. My sister was 6 and I was 4 and we had a little solo/duet thing together in the show. And my mom vividly remembers hearing us sing and looking around confused and saying “Oh my God they can sing! On key!” because all of my mom’s side of the family is tone deaf. So since I was 4 years old I’ve been singing in front of people, but I’ve probably been singing forever.

MJ: How long have you been writing songs?

AL: Since I was eleven. Um... Good songs? . That’s probably a debatable range. [Laughs]

MJ: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder?

AL: That’s true. The Manatee Song is really great that I wrote when I was eleven.

MJ: Oh...

AL: Oh, I shouldn’t have told you that! [Laughs] Oh crap!

MJ: No no, yeah. So this is happening now. We’re going to play that later.

AL: No! [Laughs] But I wanted to start taking guitar lessons when I was six because I loved the group Newsboys and my favorite person in the group played guitar so I wanted to play guitar. And my guitar teacher when I was eleven, she gave us an assignment to write a song. And i wrote the “Julie Song” about my cousin Julie and it kind of opened up like “Wow, like maybe i can do this” and it’s kind of just been going from there. That was the spark.

MJ: Where are you from?

AL: I am from the Reading area of Pennsylvania.

And where exactly in Pennsylvania is that?

AL: Bumblef*** nowhere. [Laughs] One county over from Amish country in Berks county. But I’m officially a Florida girl now so that’s what I like to tell people.

MJ: Did you get your drivers’ license changed over, then?

AL: Yeah I did.

MJ: How did you end up in Orlando?

AL: When I was going away to college I knew I wanted to go to school for musical theater - and I knew that I wanted to go somewhere warm. And very far away from Berks county. I did auditions at six different schools all around the country and UCF just ended being the one I got into and was the best fit for my personality. So I moved 1000 miles away from home to go to college and I’ve been here ever since.

MJ: You have to be careful digging on Berks county too much. This blog has a big readership there.

AL: Oh yeah?

MJ: Huge with the Amish people. Huge. They don’t have Internet, though, so I have to go read it to them.

AL: [Laughs]

MJ: So talk to me about Dangerous Man, your single that came out this year, I believe?.

AL: Yeah! August 3rd is when it came out. It is the first time I ever had full instrumentation behind my music so that was really exciting. I really wanted to go for this kind of rockabilly sound and i didn’t know if it would to work at all and the studio I went to really made it happen the way I wanted it to. And the video was really fun because I got to shoot it with some of my best friends and i think it came out really well, so I’m super excited about it

MJ: Where did you record it?

AL: Whole Hearted Productions.

MJ: That’s with Dane Myers, right?

AL: Yeah!

MJ: So you moved on from the guitarist from Newsboys and i hear that there’s another man in your life who very important, musically, to you.

AL: Yes! Yes!

MJ: Who is it again?

AL: Elvis Aaron Presley! So he is probably my biggest musical influence, lately at least. And just you know, the love of my life. [Laughs]

When I was probably 13 my family took a trip to Virginia Beach and there was an Elvis festival going on there. I was in a really really bad mood, like teenage girl throwing a hormone fit. We were walking on the boardwalk and I just kept saying “Mom, Let’s just go back to the hotel.” And my mom’s like “No, we’re here, we’re going to do something. Let’s go listen to the Elvis music!.” There was a ridiculous 15 foot blowup of Elvis at this thing, and terrible - sorry guys - terrible Elvis impersonators singing. Everything you think is bad when you think of Elvis impersonator was happening on that stage.

So I was just grumbling and I remember, which now hurts my soul, I said to my mom “Who even cares about Elvis anyway?”

And my mom said “Amanda! He did a lot for music! He’s a big deal!” And I was like “whatever” as teenagers do.

Ever since that day, Elvis has followed me around. So like I’d walk into a store and there’d be an Elvis cardboard cutout staring at me. We would be walking in the park and some family would be having a picnic and listening to Elvis music. And for years that just was the joke that Elvis was everywhere and he follows Amanda around because she was an unbeliever.

My sophomore year of college I thought, “I should know something about this guy since he’s followed me around for years.” And I listened to his music and I just got hooked and when I get hooked on things I learn everything there is to know about them. So i spent an entire semester of college binge watching Elvis movies. There’s 30 of them. 31. I watched all of them in one semester. [Laughs]

So then later that year i was going to be auditioning for Million Dollar Quartet, which is a Broadway show based on a day in history when Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis all were in Sun Studio together. There’s one female character in the show and I looked up the show to see if I looked like the type they usually cast as this female character. I’m scrolling through and I see a picture and I’m like, “Well, that’s Elvis that’s not actually a picture from the show.” And I click on it and I was like “Oh my God! That’s a person who’s not Elvis!”

It was Cody Slaughter who is one of the top Elvis tribute artists in the world and he actually did the first national tour of Million Dollar Quartet. And i was like, “Wow, this guy’s good!” and I was watching YouTube videos of him and stuff.

A friend of mine and i eventually went to one of his shows when he came around to Florida. We met him and he’s just a super nice guy. And my friend turned to me and he said, “You know, Amanda, you can do what those girls did. You could be a backup singer for him.” And I was like, “Aw, that’d be so cool but you know.... sure, maybe that’ll happen.”

Well and then less than a year later it ended up happening.

MJ: How did you get that back up singing job?

AL: For my 21st birthday I asked my parents if they would go to the Georgia Elvis Festival with me. And we went and one of the events was supposed to be an after party at this bar. But it was really, really crowed and really loud and there wasn’t enough room for everyone so we ended up leaving. And right as we were leaving I heard this couple talking and they were like “It’s too crowded. We’re just too old for this” So i jumped right in and said “Yeah me too. Ha. Ha. Ha” because i was probably the youngest person there. And we just struck up a conversation and it turns out that they produce a show with Cody in Colorado.

So that just struck up a really big friendship with them and I kept asking “So are you looking for a backup singer?” And they told me “No, we have everyone we need.” I had a wide open summer, no job. I’m trying to get my internship for school and nobody’s hiring me. This backup singing thing was like the last possible thing. Something made me email them again and just say “PLEASE let me send you an audition video, I promise I can do this better than anybody you would have.” So i recorded a video of me singing along to Elvis songs and singing the harmony parts in a room by myself. Awkwardly. And i sent it to them and the next day they called me and said ‘Yeah, we’re bringing you in” So that was pretty cool.

MJ: Did you get your harmony skills from singing with your sister?

AL: Yeah Yeah! Definitely! My sister is not pursuing any type of music as a career but she’s really, really good at harmony. Better than I am. And from the time we were small we would just put on our favorite songs (when we were small it was Britney Spears, boy bands, you know, Dream Street, N’sync) and we would sing along and we would make our own harmonies to the songs. And my sister’s more of an alto and I’m more of a soprano so we would kind of just pick pick the parts and sing together.

MJ: Pick the boy you wanted to be?

AL: Yeah basically! [Laughs]

MJ: So if you had to pick some essential listening from the Sun Studio days for someone looking to start a deep dive...

AL: Ooh, I’m glad you asked! Of course I’m going to recommend Elvis. I think if you to listen to one Elvis song from the Sun Studio era you want to listen to Mystery Train. I love that song. It’s the song that Sam Phillips, who was the producer at Sun Studio, said was the greatest thing he ever recorded with Elvis and i think its true.

I would also listen to Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox.” I just think that song is really fun.

I would listen to Johnny Cash “Folsom Prison Blues” because I feel like thats the song that every American who's interested in American music needs to know.

I also think you should listen to “Just Walking in the Rain” by The Prisonaires. They have a really cool story. They were prisoners who sang and Sam Phillips just liked their sound. They got parole in order to go and record this song. It’s a single so its got two sides but I think “Just Walking in the Rain” is a really amazing song.

Let me think of one more. Oh, and Ike Turner’s “Rocket 88.” It was Sun’s first big hit after Elvis, I believe. And its just a really fun song.

MJ: Now to the really important stuff. If at the full moon you had to turn into an animal what would it be?

AL: Phhh. Easy. I would definitely turn into a chihuahua. I feel like I’d turn into a rabid chihuahua. Like vicious, scary, but really adorable.

MJ: So you could lure victims in?

AL: Yeah like I’d look really cute and then I’d maul them.

MJ: Note to self.

AL: [Laughs]

MJ: And what’s your favorite dinosaur; this is important, now. Choose wisely.

AL: [no hesitation] Pterodactyl. And if your’e gonna ask me why, i have an answer...

MJ: I’ll get to that, first just as a paleontological geek I have to point out that a pterodactyl is not technically a dinosaur. But... close enough. It’s an archosaur, close enough

AL: Oh. My. Lord. [Laughs]

MJ: Ok, go ahead.

AL: It’s pterodactyl because I love the Power Rangers and I always wanted to be the pink ranger.

MJ: [Laughs] That is a most legitimate answer. I will forgive picking a non-dinosaur as your favorite dinosaur. Ok. Lighting round. Favorite Elvis song?

AL: Ooh! “If I Can Dream

MJ: Last TV show you watched?

AL: Riverdale

MJ: Last song you listened to?

AL: Niall Horan’s “Seeing Blind

MJ: Automatic or manual?

AL: Manual, my car is manual.

MJ: Batman or Superman?

AL: Batman

MJ: Sharks or dolphins?

AL: Dolphins!

MJ: Daphne or Velma?

AL: Daphne

MJ: Beaches or mountains?

AL: Beaches

MJ: “Dirty Dancing” or “Road House?”

AL: “Dirty Dancing” because I don't know the other one.

MJ: I’m sorry that is incorrect, the correct answer is “Road House.”

AL: [Laughs]

MJ: What is your favorite musical?

AL: Jesus Christ Superstar!

MJ: James Buchanan or Abraham Lincoln?

AL: Is there even a choice, there? Lincoln, of course.

MJ: Correct answer. And what do you have coming up?

AL: Well, Im doing this little show with Beemo on November 4th..

MJ: Oh! That was one of the questions. Who’s your favorite member of Beemo? Don’t say the mandolin player; I heard he's a douchebag. Actually, don’t answer that question...

AL: Well I haven't met everyone yet so I cant answer that question in good faith.

MJ: Good, good. We wouldn't want to sow discord.

AL: Thats me subtly dodging that question.

MJ: So November 4th at Barley and Vine...

AL: Yes! November 4th at Barley and Vine at 7pm. It’s a free show and Beemo is nice enough to let me sing a few songs with them so I’m really excited. And there might be a random 80s song in German if you come.

MJ: Excellent! Thanks, Amanda!

AL: Thank you!


Note: I'm fascinated by movie poster reviews where they take things completely out of context and stitch quotes together. So, here's an obligatory out of context stitched together quote:

Amanda Lyn: “ foot blowup ... girls ... and ...maul ...James Buchanan.”

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