Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

by Deb Draisin

It all began with a wry sense of humor and a year’s worth of “Throwaway Song(s) of the Week.” That’s how 26-year old Jersey native Amanda Rose Riley broke out of her shell and into the world of hustling, busking, planes, trains and automobiles. The songs were so well-received that Amanda was inspired to posit herself as the second annual Flogging Molly Cruise’s “Resident Iterant Musician,” where she not only became Will Varley’s unofficial opener, but landed herself a guest spot during Frank Turner’s atrium set. Since then, she has been busily honing her craft bi-coastally, securing a steady New Jersey Transit “Music In Motion” gig, along with several “bootstrapped” performances throughout England last fall. She is planning an “epic” three-part DIY tour, as well as continuing to write songs for her first official album release, but, as a longtime friend, Amanda was kind enough to spare Jersey Beat a few moments to chat over vegan nosh.

Q: Welcoming Jersey newcomer Amanda Rose Riley onto the scene – please tell everyone a little bit about yourself.

ARR: My tagline is “DIY Acoustic Girl With Guitar Rock” because, well, it’s just me…and an acoustic guitar, trying to make stuff happen. (both laugh.)

Q: That’s a very good reason.

ARR: I’m also very influenced by punk and rock, so there’s kind of an edge to my music.

Q: Awesome - Jersey Beat readers are punk fans! Who are some of your influences?

ARR: Frank Turner is a huge influence, and The Bouncing Souls. Skinny Lister is somebody that I’m starting to get into now. I also like a lot of classic punk from the seventies and eighties, and some country and folk - a little bit of everything.

Q: Very cool. What are some of your career goals in the coming year? What would you like to see happen, musically?

ARR: I just want to get my music out there. Right now, I’m learning how to balance the dual priorities of performing as often as possible (I’m planning an ambitious DIY tour around both the United States and England this year – hopefully with help from both friends and strangers) and strengthening my songwriting so that I can record my first proper EP (possibly a full-length) by the end of this year. I also have stuff from 2015 and 2016, which I released during my “Throwaway Song of the Week” project. I made a little “Best Of” album out of those, all recorded in my bedroom: fifty-two songs in all.

Q: Wow, that was ambitious!

ARR: Yeah, I’d like to go into a real studio and write some better songs this year (laughs.)

Q: So, where can somebody find these “Throwaway Songs?”

ARR: You can find them on Soundcloud, Bandcamp and YouTube – the good ones anyway.

Q: Have you made any videos for the songs?

ARR: I have made some very goofy DIY videos, yes.

Q: Those are the best kind.

ARR: I made a video for my two – I guess singles? I posted one for my song about wanting to live in England, “The Wrong Side of the Pond.” Then I did another for “Do Do Do,” which is about following your dreams.

Q: So, why England?

ARR: I just feel like that’s where my soul belongs.

Q: Do you have a favorite lyric right now?

ARR: The new Skinny Lister album is really good – they have a song called “Charlie,” which is about going out there and making stuff happen: “Don’t think twice, go and find your future; you know that fortune favors the brave.”

Q: If you had to pick a line that describes you, what would that be?

ARR: Aside from “DIY Acoustic Girl,” you mean? I do have a second one - a sub tagline: “Equal parts dreamer and doer.”

Q: Which parts are you doing right now, and which ones are you still dreaming about?

ARR: I think it’s just the way that I approach music. I have really crazy dreams that I don’t even know if I’m ever going to grow into, like: I just want to take over the entire world, musically – no big deal, right? (laughs.) But I don’t just sit here dreaming all the time, I actually go out and do stuff, even when I’m not ready.

Q: What have you done so far that you didn’t feel ready for?

ARR: The first was the Flogging Molly cruise.

Q: Let’s talk about that.

ARR: It was in March 2016; I’d decided to bring my guitar along on the cruise and try to win people over.

Q: How did that go?

ARR: It went great! I actually had a little catalogue; a list of my original songs, plus some covers of songs by other artists on the cruise. Since nobody knew my originals, I put descriptions next to them, so that people could choose them based upon their mood, or whatever. I would just ask people if they wanted a free song, and yep! I got to play for a lot of little groups of two and three people, and I ended up playing for Beans On Toast. I wound up becoming the unofficial cabin opener for Will Varley, and then I got to play with Frank Turner. He had broken a string during this little atrium set that he was doing, so I gave him my guitar - and then he let me play one of my songs for him and his crowd. I had written three songs especially for the cruise, one of which was about the friendships that I had made with the people there, (“Not Your Mama’s Bahamas Cruise,”) so I played that one in front of his crowd - a lot of people! And then I got to stay up there and sing some of his songs with him.

Q: That is so badass! Did he like the song?

ARR: I have a video up on YouTube, where you can see him laughing at it and singing along on the last line!

Q: Cool! Do you think he’ll cover it?

ARR: Probably not, but you never know.

Q: Where would you ideally be now with your music, if you could wave a magic wand?

ARR: I want to be the sober, American, female version of Frank Turner (laughs.) I just admire the way that he is always working, and in a different city every day: touring, doing charity gigs, recording and writing.

Q: Are you involved with any charities, Amanda?

ARR: Not as a musician, but I’ve done regular volunteer work.

Q: For whom?

ARR: I used to work with New York Cares. They have a charity registry, where charities can ask for a few hours or days of help, and volunteers can just sign up for whichever ones they want to do.

Q: What are your other passions, outside of music?

ARR: I like history a lot, and languages; traveling.

Q: Can you speak any other languages besides English?

ARR: I speak some French and Spanish, and a little bit of German.

Q: Wow! Can you give us a lyric in one of those languages?

ARR: No… (both laugh.)

Q: Is there anybody that you would love to play with?

ARR: I guess I would like to play a real show with Frank Turner, not an impromptu atrium gig where I only get to play one song.

Q: How are you getting your music out there right now?

ARR: I usually do a live Facebook stream on the second Saturday of every month, and I’m playing with New Jersey Transit’s “Music In Motion” program, which certain stations are a part of. I’ve played at New York Penn Station, Secaucus Junction, Hoboken Terminal, and the Rock N’ Joe Café at Union Station.

Q: So wait, the people that you see busking in the train stations are actually commissioned?

ARR: It depends. I know that the MTA has a program too, for which you can audition and get sanctioned to play. I think that you can always take the risk and play without permission, but it’s much better if the people who own the property are organizing it.

Q: Can you give us a line from a song that you’re working on right now?

ARR: Yeah, actually, and I don’t know if this is bad: you can tell me before we put it on the record (both laugh.)

Q: Okay.

ARR: The line is “I’ll carry this guitar to my own crucifixion – the destruction of all of my real world ambitions.”

Q: What made you compare playing music to a crucifixion?

ARR: It’s just about how, for most of my life, up until maybe two or three years ago, I had internalized people’s cynicism and negativity about the music industry, and how impossible it is to make a career in music. They’d say “In the real world, you can’t follow your dreams like that; you have to get a real job." So, the song is basically saying “If I’m carrying this to my own death, that’s fine, because I really have to do it.”

Q: That’s deep. How did you know you could play? When did you realize it?

ARR: Oh, you mean like, that I was good at it? Well, I couldn’t play at first, and, arguably, I’m not very good now - a lot of my songs sound the same (laughs.) I spent a lot of years doing nothing but playing music all the time, and my rhythm did get a lot better. I think I’m passably a songwriter now.

Q: Do you remember what made you first get into music? What made you think “I should do this for a living”?

ARR: I kind of always wanted to. When I was like three or four, when people think it’s cute to ask you what you want to do, I would always tell people that I wanted to be “A singer, a writer and an artist.”

Q: Do you have a lot of support from the family about it?

ARR: Not at first, but I think they’ve decided that I’m pretty good, and they’ve seen me making stuff happen, like with the cruise, and playing at train stations, and how hard I’m working. So, they are more supportive now, and they think it’s going to work out. I actually feel pretty grateful for that. Some people, no matter how hard they work, their families never really think that it’s going to work out.

Q: Are they nervous about it?

ARR: A little. I think they know that, no matter what the risks are, if I want to do something, then I’m going to do it, so they’re not trying to stop me (laughs.)

Q: Any message to some up-and-coming artists out there looking to get started?

ARR: Just do what your heart tells you – don’t listen to anybody else. I don’t know if this is too off-topic, but I read about the top five regrets that people have on their deathbeds – I think this was a real survey that was done – and the number one thing that people wished was that they had tried harder to follow their dreams.

Q: And so here you are, following your dreams. What else would you like Jersey Beat to know about you? Who is Amanda?

ARR: (laughing) Let’s put Amanda under the microscope!

Q: Hey, Man, it’s an interview; I’m a journalist!

ARR: I’m just excited to meet more people as I share my music online, and play at train stations, or wherever they’ll have me – anywhere in the world!

Q: Do you think you’ll name your first album “Train Stations?”

ARR: No, but that would be a good thing to put in there somewhere.

Q: Just remember to list me in the credits, that’s all I ask. So what does the year hold for you?

ARR: Get out and play more gigs at different types of venues across the United States and England. Record and hopefully release an album this year – get it onto Spotify, so that more people can check me out.

Q: What would your dream gig look like; who would be in the lineup?

ARR: I don’t want to be too flattering toward myself, but it would be, like, every artist who has ever inspired me.

Q: Like a “Feed the World” thing – just get everybody in the room together and sing one song? Would you rather have a sing-along or a mosh pit?

ARR: Sing-along!

Q: If you could pick one line from somebody else’s song which really speaks to you, what would it be?

ARR: I have so many, but I guess, probably, from Frank Turner’s “I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous:”
“Life is about love, last minutes and lost evenings,
About fire in our bellies and furtive little feelings,
And the aching amplitudes that set our needles all a-flickering,
And help us with remembering that the only thing that's left to do is live.”

Q : That’s beautiful. Thank you, Frank, and thank you, Amanda.



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