In Conversation With . . . Amanda Martinez, Part I

Amanda Martinez is a Canadian singer-songwriter of jazz and Latin music. In 2010 she performed in Johannesburg, South Africa as part of the FIFA Fan Fests during the World Cup celebrations. She recently released her second album, Amor, produced by George Seara (who also has worked with Holly Cole, Herbie Hancock, and Sting). Amor reached number one on the iTunes World Music Chart in 2009 and was one of the Top 10 albums on the iTunes World Music Charts for 2010. (See the Voice review of Amor and Amanda’s first album, Sola, here.)

Amanda recently took the time to talk with Wanda Waterman St. Louis about the nuts and bolts of following your dreams.

Early Listening

I was born in Canada and my dad is Mexican, so I got my Latin feel from him and my love of music from all the music he would play for me as a child. I studied classical piano throughout my childhood and teen years. I studied ballet as well. I participated in high school musicals, and that introduced me to the stage.

My mother is South African and she really loves music also. They both have this really diverse collection of music, so I would spend hours in my parents? bedroom, just listening to their records. I was never really in touch with the contemporary music that was playing on the radio; I was always listening to their music collections and I guess That’s what’s influencing me now.

I would listen to everything from Cleo Laine to Alice Regina, Silvio Rodriguez, and Pablo Milanés. I would also listen to a lot of classical music that my dad would play from different ballets.

Just a Dream . . .

For me singing was a fantasy. I thought it would be so cool to be a singer, and I always dressed up and sang to my imaginary audience. But I never considered it a career option because my parents were always encouraging me to pursue something more practical; they really supported me by coming out to hear me, but thought of my singing as a hobby. And I didn’t really have any musician friends growing up, so it really was just a fantasy.

I studied international finance and I specialized in Latin American finance, and my functional specialization was marketing. After working for less than a year in trade finance on the marketing side, I just realized that I still had this dream inside of me that was eating away at me . . . all of a sudden I felt really claustrophobic. I thought, Oh my God, this is my life and I’m never going to realize that dream!

I took some time off work and realized that I had to give it a go?I had to follow my heart.

. . . or Destiny?

I really jumped into it about 10 years ago. I just walked into a jazz club in my neighbourhood and asked if I could sing for them and they started giving me a weekly gig . . . from there I was just determined to make it work.

Family

I have a little two-and-a-half year old and I’m married to a musician whom I met five years ago. I met my husband Drew when I was already well immersed in the music scene. At the time I was hosting Café Latino and JAZZ.FM91, and [Drew] was a friend of the guitarist I’d been working with. He loves my music and he’s become part of my band. He helped me with the musical direction of my latest album.

Our little boy really loves music, too. He loves coming to the shows, and he’s got his own little drum set. He always wants to hear my CD before he goes to bed, and he loves when we have rehearsal at the house and he gets to watch.

On Songwriting

For the first album I just came up with a lot of ideas for the songs on my own and then brought them to Kevin Laliberte to play his guitar with me, and he would add more intricate chord progressions. For a couple of the songs I just brought the idea, what I wanted to do with the band as a whole, and then we just improvised together and came up with the song from scratch.

I’ve recently been writing with some musicians in Miami and there we’ve just been creating on the spot, but not with any preconceived ideas. There is no one way that I work; It’s all experimenting.

To be continued . . .

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