By Gail Reynolds, Columnist
Prominent on Reynolds Rap’s list of musical talent that deserve wider recognition is AmandaLynn, AKA Amanda Lynn Boisen of the Barn Kickers, whose Up Before Noon CD was previously reviewed on Rock At Night.
AmandaLynn’s first CD, Ambition, should appeal to a wide range of tastes. Although she and her father, Steve Boisen, were in the vanguard of the ukulele resurgence, this is not a uke album per se. In this exquisitely produced collection, the uke is among many instruments employed to achieve the perfect effect, such as the cool jazz vibraphone on “Horizons.”
Each of the twelve songs has a distinctive sound and compelling poetic lyrics.
Recently Rock At Night had the pleasure of chatting with AmandaLynn about her musical development and her 2013 CD.
We began with her name. Her mother and father joked about naming their unborn child Amanda Lynn, but the musical pun genuinely clicked. Boisen is omitted for her solo endeavors with her dad’s endorsement.
As the daughter and granddaughter of professional musicians, she was always surrounded by live music and a variety of instruments and actively embraced musical performance since her earliest recollections. “I was singing before I talked.”
The 23 year old patiently and methodically executes her options. “My idea of what I want to do is always evolving.” Yet, performing is a constant since childhood “standing on the living room ottoman singing to my parents.”
Inspired by her high school band director’s positive impact, she went to the University of Tennessee for a music education degree. She also seriously considered joining The National Guard Band, which would have paid college expenses. However, she recognized such a program would not be a good fit. Likewise, in just her first year doubts regarding her career choice began to surface. Although her second year proved more fulfilling with its emphasis on vocal performance, she recognized music education would be just a means to finance her actual career goals. She asked herself, “Why am I spending all this time on a degree that will be just a back-up?” After her second year she decided to return to Tampa Bay to “regroup and stop just dreaming.”
This turning point is chronicled in “Ambition And Other Things,” Ambition’s first cut: “She’s walking away, had enough of this place . . . she picks up the pieces and she moves on.” There’s even a chiming four note fill that suggests the bells or glockenspiel of a school marching band.
Amanda had concentrated on woodwinds, on which she had been classically trained, for her music major. She admits that for some time, “I took a step back from clarinet, sax and flute because college attached a lot of anxiety to them.” However, she actively strives to reclaim that love.
Even dabbling in the Celtic harp, she won’t single out one favorite instrument over another, although she primarily uses uke and guitar, and occasionally piano, for song composition.
AmandaLynn has written close to a thousand complete and partial songs, observing that one or two out of ten might “make the cut.” So a prolific output from which she can combine bits and pieces to produce “Frankenstein songs” is important. “Sometimes quantity is better than quality.”
Her musical tastes are definitely eclectic and esoteric. No musical snob, she readily admits enjoying pop music and dancing to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.” However, she strives to transcend formulaic pop for creative inspiration. With a lifelong affinity for classical music and the Beatles, she also looks to the likes of Norwegian singer-songwriter Susanne Sundfør and harpist singer-songwriter Joanna Newsom for inspiration.
She aspires to create songs that have the same healing, cathartic effect that UK alternative rock group Placebo had for her. One of her songs she plans to put on her next CD describes such catharsis.
As mentioned earlier, there is also a profound poetic quality to her lyrics in which she utilizes unlikely verbal combinations. She often draws on her appreciation for mythology, as evidenced by Ambition’s ninth cut, “Icarus.” Recurring themes of the sun, the moon, feathers and ghosts are intriguing.
And a recurring self-description throughout this interview is “introvert,” somewhat paradoxical for a performer, but befitting a complex artist. This dichotomy figures well with the personal relationships she’s forged. The people whose company she enjoys also tend to be introverted musicians, who if they go out at all, prefer to do so on a more quiet weekday evening. Perfect, since most of their gigs are on weekends.
When asked what was the biggest surprise of her relatively fledgling musical career, she readily responded, “the ukulele community,” noting that uke enthusiasts are a bona fide community, as there are fewer barriers than in other genre, especially rock, if for no other reason than security constraints.
The festivals that feature performances, workshops — she does love teaching — and jams provide an opportunity for interactive sharing of ideas, a perfect environment for an “introverted social butterfly.”
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