Q&A with singer/songwriter Amanda Hardy - the grunge of Seattle met a modern twist and created a new sound

"I think music has the power to change people’s thinking, for better or for worse, and that power is crucial in times of political incorrectness. I think our generation lacks the drive to write about political, racial, and social issues because people are scared to do so."

Amanda Hardy: Rock in Wonderland

Amanda Hardy is a singer/songwriter from Seattle, Washington. Her career began at the age of thirteen when she was discovered off the internet covering the Alice in Chains song ‘Brother.’ That video led to her playing the 2010 Layne Staley Tribute at the Showbox Market. After realizing that being on stage was her passion, she never looked back. Since then she’s been writing music and performing shows all over the Seattle area including opening for national acts Rob Zombie, Godsmack, Lacuna Coil, Sick Puppies, Anna Nalick, Styx and Queensryche.              Amanda Hardy / Photo © by Maryanne Bilham

More recently she has released a new album with Grammy nominated producer Warren Huart. She also spends much of her time writing new music with songwriters in LA. Amanda has been heavily influenced by the grunge era in Seattle and is putting a modern twist on her music to create a new sound. Amanda is also in Robert M. Knight’s Brotherhood of the Guitar. She was introduced to Yamaha Artist Relations who have taken her on as one of their artists. Amanda proudly plays Yamaha's newest guitar, the Revstar. Amanda is also associated with Ernie Ball strings.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Seattle music and culture of 80s influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

The Seattle music scene from the late 80’s through the 90’s has influenced me heavily from the moment I picked up a guitar. I have been in only a few different music scenes, the one up in Seattle, the scene in Los Angeles, and I have experienced others such as Nashville and across ocean in England. One thing I have to say about the Seattle music culture is that I don’t believe you will ever find a closer community of musicians; especially back in the 90’s. I wasn’t there to experience it like I am now, but I’ve watched documentaries and studied the music from that time. It is very obvious that the music made in Seattle, “grunge”, was made by a group of people who were all friends with one another and cared about the music. I believe that is why so many great groups came out of Seattle such as Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Temple of the Dog, MotherLoveBone, Pearl Jam, etc. Many of these bands shared members and nobody cared, they all just wanted to play music. Coming from this background, I think I view Seattle as a place where music was once great. Seattle still is a great music city, and I think that has a lot to do with the fact that it really isn’t a very big city, as opposed to Los Angeles, which is huge. No matter where I go in the world, Seattle will always be home and an example of what a music community can be.

How do you describe Amanda Hardy sound and songbook? What characterize your music philosophy?

As a musician and a songwriter, I always try my best to speak from my heart. My emotions drive my music because emotions and experiences are all that I know. I would describe my music as a form of rock. It is definitely grunge influenced, but I am always trying to create a new sound and not copy what has already been done. I started writing at 13 years old, and ever since then my music has evolved into something new. Each year I can notice a different style that I have tried out because as I grow older, my music changes. Right now in this moment I am working on a new EP that I am in love with. The sound is something I don’t think many people are doing, and I am really excited to share it with the world. It is grunge influenced, but modern at the same time. I always want to pay tribute to where I came from and what gave me inspiration to start playing music in the first place, and I think with this new music I am doing that.

"Being a female in a male dominated industry can have its challenges, but I have always seen being a woman as an asset. I think that being a girl in a male driven world sets me apart and makes me special." (Amanda & Robert M. Knight / Photo © by Michael Moebius)

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I’ve met many amazing people so far in my music career that have helped me in so many ways, but I think two of the most important are Robert M. Knight and his wife Maryanne Bilham. Robert initially gave me the opportunity to work in Los Angeles. He became a close friend very fast and from there he helped me get endorsements with Yamaha and Ernie Ball. Since I met him over three years ago we have done so much together and he has selflessly helped me in any way he possibly can. He also introduced me to many other young musicians who I found my best friends in. His wife Maryanne, a world-renowned photographer in her own right, has helped me push my music career as well. She has worked with me to create a style that pushes boundaries and creates interest. She has also set me up with clothing companies who I work with in line with my music career as well. These two people are genuine and selfless, and amazing friends on top of it. I wouldn’t be where I am right now without them. The most important piece of advice someone has ever given me would probably be to never settle. Those two words are so powerful in my life because sometimes as humans we don’t even realize that we are settling for something we want more out of. In any situation in life I think it is important to never settle for something you aren’t completely happy with. Keep striving for what you want most and you will never have to settle for anything.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

I’ve played with a lot of musicians already in my music career both at shows and in the studio. I think one of my favorite memories was playing a show at the Paramount Theater in Seattle. This theater is legendary because it’s where everyone who is anyone has played. There is a famous live show that Nirvana played on Halloween one year at this very theater. Recently I went there to watch Alice in Chains play as well. When I stepped out on that stage it had to of been the most nervous I’ve ever been getting onto a stage, because normally I don’t get nervous at all. But with this stage, I was shaking. It was huge, and I was picturing everyone else who had once stepped onto this same stage. Nevertheless we played a great show and it is probably one of my favorite experiences so far playing live.

"As a musician and a songwriter, I always try my best to speak from my heart. My emotions drive my music because emotions and experiences are all that I know. I would describe my music as a form of rock." (Photo © by Peter Dervin)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Something I miss most from music in the past is the raw talent. People like Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin had such an amazing rawness about their talent that didn’t need to be touched up, because people liked the imperfections that would sometimes come through. Many people in the music industry today are touched up to a point where their voice is almost unrecognizable live. Recently I watched an interview of Adele, who I think is a very talented singer, and someone told her that she was pitchy in her last show. Her response was something I wouldn’t forget because I admired it so much. She said, “If I’m sharp or flat, that’s just my emotion coming through.” I found this inspirational for today’s generation of musicians because it’s rare that people are okay with their imperfections. But emotion is something I think is so important in great music, without it you get something that doesn’t make you feel anything. My fear for the future of music is that people will lose emotion and simply just make pop music, but I do have hope in the generation of music that is starting to come out now. There are bands like Wolf Alice, Royal Blood, and Rival Sons who are bringing back music with feeling. Raw talent and raw emotion tend to go hand in hand in music.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

If I could change one thing in the musical world and have it be a reality I would change how hard it is for musicians to make a living. With the Internet, it is very easy to steal music or just download it anywhere without having to pay for it. Streaming sites don’t pay artists nearly enough for their music and it leaves musicians struggling unless you are a huge pop star. There has to be some sort of way for middle-class musicians to make a middle-class living, if that makes sense.

"If I could go back in time anywhere for a day, I would go to a studio session with the Beatles when they first started writing Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Beatles are arguably my biggest influence as a musician. (Photo © by Brian Chambers)

Why did you think that the Alice in Chains and Layne Staley music continues to generate such a devoted following?

I think that the music made by Alice in Chains and Layne Staley have such a huge following still because of what I mentioned earlier, emotion. Back in the 90’s people in Seattle were very close and the music brought them even closer. I personally think Alice in Chains did a fantastic job being diverse with their music as well as to open up their fan base even more. They started out with a very blues-rock album, their next album was heavier and grungier, and then they put out a semi-acoustic EP. This EP opened their fan base up to the idea that the band could not only play hard rocking music, but they had a soft side as well that they wanted to share. From this point they were really able to do whatever kind of music they wanted without losing any fans. Over time, and since Layne Staley passed away, people have strived to keep their music alive. The reason I started playing music was for a Layne Staley tribute concert. This was my first show and what introduced me into that community. Every year on his birthday people gather from all over the world to play his music and keep it alive. This kind of community is what keeps the band’s following going.

What does to be a female rock artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown says? What is the status of women in Rock?

Being a female in a male dominated industry can have its challenges, but I have always seen being a woman as an asset. I think that being a girl in a male driven world sets me apart and makes me special. In a group of 10 guitar players, one being a girl and the rest being boys, who are you going to notice first? This is how I have always seen myself in the world of rock and roll. Sure, it isn’t easy being a girl in this industry because people automatically assume that you aren’t going to be as talented as a male guitar player, but that’s where we use our advantage to prove people wrong. It’s expected for women to be singers, but guitar players or bass players not so much. And a girl drummer? Unheard of! But trust me, there are women who are amazing at playing all of these instruments. And the ones that are amazing stand out even more because they are women and it is unexpected. For example, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart (a band from Seattle) are now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for what they gave to the rock industry. There are many women in rock today who are making it possible for girls to look up to someone other than boys. Lzzy Hale (guitar and vocals) of Halestorm, Ellie Rowsell (guitar and vocals) from Wolf Alice, Emma Anzai (bassist) from the Sick Puppies, these are all great examples of females who rock to their core. This topic is really important to me because my entire career I have been a girl in a world of boys, trying to fit in yet still trying to be a powerful woman. Over the years I have grown and realized that I don’t need to be “one of the boys.” In fact, I prefer not to be. I am a powerful woman who can sing actually play guitar too. Being confident in this position took me so long to master, but I now realize that my position is my advantage in the game. I’m very happy knowing that I will always be the one to show people that women can do the unexpected. The bottom line is that women can do anything. Just because men overrun the rock music industry, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for every woman that wants to be there too.

"The Seattle music scene from the late 80’s through the 90’s has influenced me heavily from the moment I picked up a guitar. I have been in only a few different music scenes, the one up in Seattle, the scene in Los Angeles, and I have experienced others such as Nashville and across ocean in England." (Photo © by Maryanne Bilham)

What is the impact of Rock n’ Roll music and counterculture to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

For a long time rock n’ roll music has influenced people on political and social issues. Bob Dylan for example was a great songwriter in the times of war and social mayhem. He expressed what he was feeling and gathered many in his wake to support him. There are other rock bands more recent such as Rage Against the Machine who fought against the government and what they felt was wrong in society. I think music has the power to change people’s thinking, for better or for worse, and that power is crucial in times of political incorrectness. I think our generation lacks the drive to write about political, racial, and social issues because people are scared to do so. But with everything going on in the United States right now it would be a perfect opportunity to say something important. Recently I wrote a song for my new EP where I felt like I was really saying something about the wrongness happening in our country right now. I touched on topics like racism, hatred, and vanity. For me, it was the first time I had ever written a song about something like that and I found it empowering. It’s okay to speak out about what you feel, and I hope more and more people start to do so again like musicians used to.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

If I could go back in time anywhere for a day, I would go to a studio session with the Beatles when they first started writing Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Beatles are arguably my biggest influence as a musician. When they wrote this album they had just decided to retire from touring and tried to reinvent themselves with this album. Not only was it a reinvention of themselves, but it was a turning point in music. Some call it the greatest album of all time because of its huge influence on music to come. To be able to be in the room when they came up with these genius ideas, I think I would probably gain so much knowledge while at the same time feel a sense of freedom that they probably felt being able to step away from what they had been doing and create something new. To me, the Beatles are the greatest songwriters to have ever lived, and to be there when they wrote this album would have been a privilege.

Amanda Hardy - Official website

Photo © by Bright Music Photography

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