Get To Know Amanda Holley: The Singer, The Artist, The Story
Music is in Amanda’s blood. This Bi-Racial, Newark native, deeply soulful, 5-octave songstress sang before she could speak.
Saturated in rhythm & melodies since birth by a cellist mom (Manhattan School Of Music) & guitar strumming, songwriter dad (writer for Sarah Vaughan), Holley was born from music & has risen from challenging circumstances surviving on her vocals since day one. She’s a self-taught violinist (from age 2) and pianist, who has been performing live for thousands since age 7.
Amanda was published by Columbia Press for poetry and prose as a young teen. Amanda recently performed her music at prestigious venues including CARNEGIE HALL, BIRDLAND, THE UNITED NATIONS., NEW YORK FASHION WEEK & Los Angeles FASHION WEEK, opened for WALE at SONY HALL NYC, played various COACHELLA events, ROCKWOOD MUSIC HALL NYC, THE W TIMES SQUARE & THE W HOLLYWOOD, among dozens of intimate & grand hotspots, pop ups, nightclubs & rooftops across the U.S since her Tommy Boy Warner Bros release.
She co-wrote and performed the TITLE Track to the motion picture, “Sharon 1 2 3” that played on SHOWTIME & in theaters. Her latest releases, through SONY / ATV / The Orchard, “CODE” & “Runaway” from her coming E.P., “The HolleyGraphic EP”, in collab w Billboard Charting producer /songwriters Davis Chris, Shane Foster, & Cecily Wagner set off Holley’s anthemic message of empowerment. “Runaway” is featured on dozens of music video channels and radio stations both nationally and internationally and her debut single at TommyBoy Warner Bros “FEENIN” has played on multiple iHeart stations along with MTV.
Gen Z / Millenial Amanda shows off her 5-octave range & sultry powerhouse vocals atop the hard-hitting, yet smooth, electronic Pop/R&B productions in her catalog of songs. Her arsenal of records is ready to go, all credit to her collaborations w Grammy & Oscar winning & up & coming hot producers alike, this is just a taste of the ultra-talented, multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter Amanda Holley.
Read below as we interviewed with Amanda about her upbringing, loving music at a young age, inspirations, go-to music equipment, artist collaborations, words to live by, and more!
Where is your artistic home? What city, neighborhood or country helped inspire your music?
I was literally born of music and I’m perpetually artistically inspired everywhere I go from the streets of Newark where I was born, to the churches, to the orchestra pits, to NYC, and now both NY and Los Angeles . . . my artistic home is wherever the music takes me.
No matter where I am, I feel music in every atom of my being and the people and places and nature always inspire me in new ways I didn’t even know I could feel.
What was the defining moment you realized you wanted to do music?
Music literally saved my life since day one and it has been and always will be my purpose to do for others what music has done for me. So I never really thought of “doing music” or music being something that I “do”. . . Music is just who I am and always have been and creating and sharing it with the world is something I couldn’t stop if I tried.
My family says that I sang before I could speak. Singing has always just been like breathing to me . . . and the stage has always been my safe place and my home. Before I can remember I’ve been told that my dad sang to me and strummed his guitar when he and my mother were homeless bouncing from rooftops to alleyways in Newark. Though they were troubled, both mom and dad were two passionate genius musicians and I know I got my gift from them. Unlike my dad who made R&B and SOUL music, my mother was a CLASSICAL concert cellist (she went to the renowned Manhattan School Of Music) – she says she ear-trained me in the womb with her cello so I would have “perfect pitch”.
As a kid, she gigged every single night and we couldn’t afford a babysitter so I spent most nights sitting in the orchestra pits of musicals and symphonies with her which led me to pick up my first violin at age 2. I assumed I had to play all the parts, sing all the songs in the libretto, and learn all the lines of the actors on stage. By age 3, I told my mom I heard “angel voices” in my head and she explained to me that I was composing just like my dad.
Shortly after that, I taught myself the piano on our little keyboard so I could play out the melodies I was hearing / composing and begin arranging chords around them. By the time I was 6, theater directors, church musical directors, and my school teachers took notice of my voice and would just ask me to sing and perform. The stage was my true home – my sanctuary and the freest safest place on earth. I could sing out everything I was feeling and going through and somehow it was helping those who I was singing to as well as my own heart.
I didn’t re-meet my dad until later in childhood and it was very brief, but when I did, I found out he wrote songs for the legendary Sarah Vaughan and also that my Aunt (his sister) discovered and wrote for Stephanie Mills and went to Juilliard. I’m sure I got my soul from him.
The Fox Magazine is all about inspiration, what/who inspires you the most?
My dad’s family, the HOLLEY family, has a deep history in both music and as freed African Americans in this country and their story inspires me every day.
My great-grandfather and great-uncle were both freed slaves one became a professor one became a doctor. My great-grandmother was a Native American (CHEROKEE) trail of tears survivor. Every single HOLLEY had the gift of music and whenever I’ve felt that I can’t deal with the pain of this world, I remember all of the unsurmountable odds they overcame all because of their will, their love, and innate gifts the creator blessed them with.
I also had so many angels come into my life as a kid – music teachers like Jazz Musician Bob McHugh who would sacrifice their lunches to help me with my scales and spend their free time with me after school when I was terrified to go home – even though I had no way to repay them. Because of this, I’m deeply inspired to carry the torch for music and love in the world the way they did.
Great songs, singers, and musicians not only inspired but kept me alive through a dark and challenging childhood, and knowing how much they fought to reach the masses with powerful art fuels my spirit whenever I’ve felt that the odds are too stacked against me. Artists like Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Ella Fitzgerald . . . and so many more . . . saved and changed lives and the world with the power of music and I know it for a fact because I’m one of the kids they saved.
What instrument or piece of equipment is your favorite to work with and why?
My voice comes the most easily to me and is definitely my favorite because it costs nothing and is with me everywhere I go and after that, I love working with the piano. I’ll always be a violinist, but as a composer, the voice and the keys are just such amazing tools for songwriting and conveying the messages that come to and through me!
Music is all about expression, what do you like expressing in your work?
Personally, I love messages of empowerment, passion, love, and soul. Music has always been the thing that has pulled me out of my darkest moments and empowered me since day one. Just when I feel like I can’t take the pain anymore, the song (whether I’m singing it, playing it, or writing it) lifts me above it all and changes me somehow as I create it. The song makes me a little stronger, helps me confront the emotions I didn’t know I could even face, helps me have the courage to love myself or someone else, or brings me into a state of bliss.
Each song has its own life and changes the performer and the listener on molecular level.
The song is bigger than I am – bigger than we are. So for me, what I love to express is not even at the forefront. For me, it’s all about letting the song and the moment express itself and letting myself be the vessel for the music and giving of myself to my audience.
What motto, quote or words to live by do you use to stay motivated when you aren’t feeling inspired?
“God bless the child that’s got his own” – Billie Holiday
Name a few artists would you love to do a song with and why
I would love to collab with so many great artists . . . too many to mention . . . I would love to work with The Weeknd or Drake. . . I feel like we could create something timeless and powerful that hasn’t happened yet and that my instrument would find other colors to paint with that it hasn’t tried just yet.
What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?
As a kid I was published by Columbia Press for writing poetry and prose and still write a lot today and am big classic literature fiend – I love reading. Also, I love nature and crystals and shoes.
What’s your best advice for aspiring musicians?
My advice to other musicians out there would be,
If you want music to be your job, treat it like it already is.
Also, I would say to let your music lead you and have faith that it will carry you to those who need to hear it the most.
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