Meet Amanda Sadler. She’s Kingston’s newest rising star, a veritable powerhouse on the country music scene and longtime triple threat (she’s been dancing, playing instruments, and singing since she was, as the folksy adage goes, knee-high to a pig’s eye). Last August, she released her debut EP, The Light, to a packed house at The Brooklyn. Since then, the fiery-haired crooner has been going non-stop, with a songwriting stint in the country music mecca of Nashville, recently being named as Country Music Association of Ontario’s artist of the month, and playing must-see gigs like YGK Craft Beer Fest. But there’s more to Amanda than boots and heart. Would you believe she went through a punk phase? Read more from our conversation below.
1. Are you from Kingston originally? If not, what brought you here? What keeps you here?
I grew up in Barrie, Ontario and moved to Kingston in 2008 to go to Queen’s for my Honours degree in Sociology and English Language & Literature. Kingston immediately felt like home. In fact, when I was checking out universities before making my final pick, I instantly fell in love with the campus, and even more so with Kingston as a city, and told my parents I had zero interest in visiting any other schools. I knew right away that this was the right fit for me.
When I graduated from Queen’s, I had no doubts that it was time to pursue my music as a career. Music has always been my greatest passion, and although I had no idea at the time how I was going to go about it, I knew that building a career in music was what I was determined to do. This is when I truly fell in love with the amazing community within Kingston. I was introduced to several incredible musicians who have the biggest hearts and were willing to help an emerging artist find her way. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for wonderful mentors and friends such as Michael George, Rob Carnegie, and Emily Fennell Taylor (Miss Emily) just to name a few. I can’t even begin to say thank you enough to them for helping me to get my start.
2. Can you describe how you got your start in music? Do you have any specific musical influences or idols?
Music has been a lifelong love of mine. I began dancing when I was 4, quickly picked up piano soon after, and began singing in church around the same time, which eventually led to years of vocal training. Music has always been a medium for me to express myself, and I fell in love very early on with the power of lyrics and their ability to stir someone’s soul. I was given my first guitar at 15, and began song writing around the same time. There was no looking back after that!
I’ve always listened to a wide variety of music – everything from Top 40’s to Classic Rock, to Americana. I even went through a punk phase for a while! Though I enjoy all genres, Country music has always held a special place in my heart. I’ve always loved the emphasis on strong lyrics in Country Music and their ability to move listeners in so many ways, and it was clear when I began song writing that my heart and soul were in Country music. I continue to be fascinated with the incredible story telling within the genre.
My influences range all across the board, from Lindi Ortega, to Shania Twain, to Johnny Cash, and Alison Krauss, whether it be for their music, their voice, their brand – each one inspires me in a different way. Right now I can’t stop listening to Chris Stapleton and anything written by fellow Canadian Donovan Woods. I’m a huge fan of anyone willing to take risks with their music – the artists and writers that embrace what makes them unique, and don’t try to fit within the status quo. These artists have such an incredible impact on the industry and continue to inspire me to do what I love every day. My goal is to bring a sound and an energy to the table that is entirely my own.
3. What is your song writing process? Any particular habits, or perhaps rituals you associate with writing? What inspires you?
Song writing for me has always evolved around the lyrics first. I’ve always had a fascination with words and I enjoy the challenge of trying to find a fresh way of saying something. I strive to never settle for clichés within my writing, and I am so appreciative of the amazing co-writers that I work with who continue to push me towards my best writing.
I can be inspired by anything at all – a phrase I’ve overheard throughout the day or in a TV show, a response to another song I’ve heard, and of course anything happening in my personal life. Inspiration can come from the strangest places, so I try to keep an open mind at all times to soak it all in. I always keep a list of ideas, hooks, and titles with me, so that I can jot down ideas on a whim. It’s essential for me to have lots of ideas at all times, so that when I go into a co-write, I can always have a few strong options to pitch.
I recently had the amazing opportunity to spend a month down in Nashville on a writing trip, and since then have been spending a lot of time co-writing with other artists and songwriters within Canada as well. A lot of my writing process these days consists of furthering my craft through co-writing. I’m always eager to continue honing my craft and learning from other writers and mentors. I believe that there is always room for growth and improvement, and writing is very much like a muscle – the more you use it the stronger it gets. I try to write everyday.
Spending a month in Nashville was an absolute dream come true. I am so grateful that I got to dedicate every day to furthering my craft and learning from some incredibly talented writers, including quite a few fellow Canadians who call Nashville home! I’m very much looking forward to heading back down to record some of this new material, and even more excited to share it in the very near future!
4. What are some of your favourite venues or past gigs that you’ve played? What makes them stand out?
This past weekend I had the opportunity to play YGK Craft Beer Fest at Fort Henry, and it was one of my band’s favourite gigs to date. We were so impressed with the turnout and the calibre of the acts, and we were over the moon to be involved in such a fantastic local event.
I’m thrilled to be involved in the Country Music in the Park series (sponsored by Downtown Kingston and Country 93.5) again this summer as well. This is one of my favourite gigs to play, and always draws such a great crowd. I’m so grateful to live in a city that supports original music and emerging artists with such enthusiasm. You can catch me playing this event on July 28th from 7-8 pm in Confederation Park.
I also checked a personal milestone off of my list last August when I released my debut EP The Light that I recorded down in Nashville, TN and held a release party to celebrate at The Brooklyn here in Kingston. This EP was partly crowd-funded through a Kickstarter campaign, so this was a very special and memorable gig for me, and one that I was so excited to share with the mentors, fellow musicians, friends and family that helped to make that album possible.
5. Your music keeps you very busy, but how do you spend the rest of your time, whether in work or play?
I pride myself on not only being a musician, but also a business person, so when I’m not writing, rehearsing with my band, practicing vocals, guitar, piano or banjo, I can usually be found working on the more business-oriented aspects of my career. I truly enjoy all aspects of this business, so it never really feels like work for me. I think it’s a beautiful thing when a passion and a career can come together, so I’m always eager to be hard at work.
Another passion of mine that I’m so grateful to be able to tie in with my music is charitable work. I’m thrilled anytime I can take part in local charitable initiatives or spearhead fundraisers myself. Being involved in and working for non-profits is something that captured my heart from an early age, so I jump at the opportunity to be able to combine my music and my passion for charitable work any chance I get.
If I find an extra hour in the day after all of this is done, I can usually be found enjoying one of the oh-so-wonderful restaurants downtown. I’m a huge foodie and our city plays home to some amazing restaurants, so I try to get out and support local as much as I can!
6. What’s coming up for you personally in terms of performing? Where and when can we see you play?
My next gig coming up is one that I’m very excited about, as it will be my first writer’s round, alongside other fantastic artists such as fellow Kingstonian and my good friend Kyle Dunn, and the incredible Steve Wilkinson. I’ll be debuting some of my new material at the event, which takes place at Overtime Sports Bar on June 24. I’m also looking forward to playing Red House West on July 2nd, and Country Music in the Park (sponsored by Downtown Kingston and Country 93.5) on July 28th. More info on upcoming gigs will be released soon as well – stay tuned!