CAPTIVATING is the word that comes to mind when I think of Amanda Brown. Her undeniable talent, voice, presence, warmth and wisdom are captivating. Like her Instagram bio says, she's not one you can put in any box. That's not only admirable, but inspiring.
Brown, a proud Puerto Rican/Jamaican has carved a career working with the music elite and some of the most established recording artists in the world. She has been a vocalist for Stevie Wonder, Adele, Alicia Keys, Tori Kelly, Michael Bolton, Jennifer Hudson, Jessie J and Cynthia Erivo. She has received critical acclaim from the likes of Rolling Stone and Billboard. Many music lovers discovered her after witnessing her complex soprano on season three of The Voice, which established her as a captivating front woman.
In 2018/19 she toured with The Killers as a supporting artist opening for the band to promote her debut album Dirty Water. She has since released her anticipated single ‘From Here’. “‘From Here’ dares the listener to survey the broken fragments of their lives, take a chance on self-belief and begs the question: where are we headed – as lovers, as a nation, as people?” It serves as the foundation of what’s to come from this powerhouse vocalist and songwriter, in 2021. We cannot wait!
We are proud to feature Amanda Brown for In Conversation. She’s on a personal journey to inspire the world with her words and music.
On Personal Journeys.
Amanda: A big part of my journey this past year has been making sure I set time aside for myself. It sounds like a cliche statement especially in this time of self awareness. I am content being a workaholic and can at times put work and others first. I now have a yoga and meditation practice. It's important to give ourselves time to just sit with ourselves. We always feel like we have to be moving, we have to be accomplishing this and checking off our to do lists. It's important to ask yourself how you are feeling. That was one thing I really wanted to focus on this past year while we were all at home. I really enjoyed it and learnt a lot about myself. I see myself clearer than I did prior to COVID and setting aside this personal time.
Elle: What’s your daily ritual?
Amanda: I try to carve out time for myself in the morning because it sets the tone for the day for me. Sometimes I have time for a forty-five minute yoga class and sometimes I only have time for a 20-minute class. As long as I get this in I feel so much better and I find that I am far more productive during the day. If I miss a day I notice the difference in my body and in my head.
Elle: What did you learn about yourself after starting this practise?
Amanda: I discovered a lot of things. When I first moved to Los Angeles, a little more than two years ago, I was at the tail end of a relationship and came out here to have a fresh start. I've been waiting to move out here for a long time. When I initially moved out I was meditating one hour a day in the mornings and that's what kind of began my journey into myself and I continued my practise into COVID.
I talk about this in the music that I am gearing up to release. I have been in a lot of codependent relationships for the majority of my life and putting other people first. And I am sure a lot of it is related back to childhood. I have discovered through my meditation that it's okay to say no. It's okay to say no even to the people that you love. If they love you, they will understand. If you genuinely don't want to do something you don't have to sacrifice your own well being for somebody else's. I find that the majority of the time it's not beneficial to either party - that was one of my big lessons towards loving myself and understanding that it's okay to take care of yourself. If you are not feeling well you don't have to go to that party. If you are tired it's okay for your partner to make dinner or you can order in. It was a light bulb that clicked for me.
It's so interesting that once I saw those things in myself then I met somebody who was the complete opposite of all of the men that I had dated. It's been interesting.
Elle: I agree with what you are saying. Practising saying no is hard for many people including myself.
Amanda: It's very hard. I think also being a woman we are reared to be caretakers and put ourselves last. At least for me, my mom is Puerto Rican and my dad is Jamaican and in those Carribean cultures you know as a woman you take care of the family. And everybody else sits down to eat before the woman even rests or can even make a plate for herself. This has always been the culture in which I was raised. Putting yourself last has always been what I knew. And what I've done. And it's not to say that you can't be loving and caring to the people in your life. I just think there has to be a limitation and you don’t want to sacrifice your own well being and your own mental and physical health to take care of those people. I've discovered that it's twice as difficult to take care of somebody else when you are on your last legs. And that's the definition of codependency. That has been a big lesson for me to learn over the last three years. During COVID and my meditation practise this light bulb went off. I sort of knew it but hadn’t been able to verbalize what I was doing.
I think, especially for women, it's important for us to make time for ourselves. It's important to ask yourself, am I doing this because it's been something that's engraved in me and I don't think twice about it or am I doing this because I have the time and the energy and I genuinely want to do this thing. It's the equivalent of Marie Kondo for your life. Ask yourself. It's a practise for me to ask myself and it seems silly but it is not something that comes naturally for me. What do I generally want and how am I generally feeling?
Elle: It's not silly at all. This is our life's greatest work to get to know ourselves deeply. Do you like this new version of yourself Amanda?
Amanda: Yes I definitely like the person I am becoming. I wouldn't say that it's easy everyday. There are definitely moments where it's challenging because I see myself sometimes reverting back to behaviors that I entertained. It's definitely work and can sometimes be mentally exhausting. It's worth it as it has helped me become a better songwriter, a better artist, a better partner and a better human being overall.
Elle: How do you feel you are contributing to this conversation or normalizing it by talking about it?
Amanda: A lot of the time especially in the music business there is this culture or there has been of, well don't say anything as you don't want to be a troublemaker or the “bitch” in the room. You have to say yes to this and be easy going as you don't want to be known as difficult or challenging . I have had conversations like this with a lot of other women in the industry and I did this song with three other women, called “They Say”,which was released this past year. It's about abuse in the music industry and how the men who have had control in the music business for the majority of its existence have controlled the narrative. This song is about speaking up against that. So in small ways like that I have contributed to the conversation and I don't shrink away from any opportunities to talk about it.
What I have learnt in this past year is that honesty is the best policy. I want to be honest as for so much of my life, I have kept certain things and emotions to myself. I just think that being as transparent as possible is the only way that any one of us is going to see change in any industry.
Elle: The music industry is tough on women like many industries. How do you see women like you shaping the industry today?
Amanda: I think first and foremost by normalizing the idea that you can be successful in this business at any age if you work hard enough and are disciplined enough. Obviously in the music business ageism is a big factor. I look at people that have inspired me like Tina Turner, Cher, Mariah Carey and Madonna. Tina Turner didn't start her solo career until she was in her mid thirties. I think that it's very possible and normalizing that idea is important.
I think speaking out when you are uncomfortable in a situation or when you feel someone is being inappropriate and knowing that is the right thing to do. If you lose a job because some guy felt some kind of way because he was inappropriate then I don't want to be working on that job anyway. The more we do that as women as a community the better it's going to get for all of us.
Speaking up in instances where people say you need to show more breast or hike your skirt up a bit higher or act like you are ten years younger than you are. I think that is so silly and it's part of the culture that we all live in, in America. A lot of people want to be younger. We are all going to die at some point so you might as well embrace every single decade of your life and embrace the beauty of every one of those decades as before you know it you will be in the ground or cremated. It's important to normalize that you can be successful and talented at any age.
Also I don't have time and patience for people being sexually inappropriate and there unfortunately is a lot of that in the music business. I'm not here for it.
Elle: The only way I can wrap my head around ageism and women is that certain people can find women of a certain age intimidating because of their self-confidence or self-belief. Mid-thirties is when you have a certain level of experience, a foundation and wisdom. And that can be intimidating for some people. We should celebrate getting older and many cultures do celebrate the wisdom that comes with age. Everything you are saying sounds a lot like the fashion industry as well. That's what we are trying to change and challenge with these interviews.
If you had a magic wand and could change anything about the way women are perceived in the media what would you change? And in particular, what would you want to change about the way women of color are portrayed?
Amanda: It's a tough one as I would change so many things. One thing that I think about a lot as a Latinx individual is that not all Latinos are light skinned, which is something that unfortunately you don’t see in a lot of in the Latino magazines and Latino Grammy etc. That is disheartening to only see the one side because there is such a rich culture of Afro Latinos within the diaspora. It's something that I have been thinking about a lot as it relates to releasing music in Spanish, I want to be able to show people that hey there are Afro Latinos, we exist and we are a part of this community and this culture and we should be equally as represented on every front, in music, fashion, politics etc. That's the first thing that comes to mind.
This hits home a little bit. This world is full of a rainbow of individuals from all cultures, all communities and countries. We are a mishmash of human beings. We don’t all look one way or sound one way or act one way. And being able to fall away from those stereotypes and stereotypical ways in which we view people can only help to enrich those cultures and have them feel more full.
If I had a magic wand in general I would erase racism first thing across the board.
Elle: What do you want to communicate through your music?
Amanda: I think for me my journey has been about finding my way to the truth. I definitely feel for me I got caught up in doing what I thought I should for periods of my music career and singing songs that I thought people wanted to hear. And skirting around issues that I really needed to talk about. In my latest project that I am gearing up to release, it's very personal. A lot of my songs are confessional and they tend to be about relationships but what I love about this particular project is that I didn't hold anything back. I didn't not talk about something because I thought this might make this person uncomfortable or maybe it might be a little too much information. I embraced the honesty of what my reality was and I think that if we can all get closer to embracing our own individual truth and expecting those truths we will be a lot happier. Not to say that that's easy because the truth definitely hurts but it's so worth it in the end because you have a better picture of who you are and a better understanding of who other people are. That is what I am trying to communicate with my artistry I think. In five years it might change.
Elle: You have worked with some of the greatest artists ever. What have you learnt from them?
Amanda: I learnt different things from different people. Working with Adele I learnt the importance of not taking oneself too seriously. She's so funny and free on stage and it's something that I aspire to be.
From The Killers and Brandon specifically I learnt about discipline. He cares so much about the music being great. He will be the first person on stage ready for rehearsals. It's the importance of self discipline and if you want to make it in this business you have to be the force behind the engine. You have a team that works around you but you are the one who keeps the ball moving.
I learnt so many things from all the artists such as not being so rigid and having fun and being able to explore music with a band on stage. It's important because that's what makes each show magical. All the successful people I have worked with are very hard working and you don’t make it and then stop working.
Elle: What is your favorite word and why?
Amanda: One of my favorite words is ebullient. I enjoy laughing. I enjoy being silly, cracking jokes and having fun especially on stage. I remember that I was in high school when I first heard that word and I was like that's me! I am bubbly, I have fun and I definitely have my stale stagnant moments but that is definitely one of my favorite words.
Zvelle shoes: Noor Sandals and Mei Boots.