By PAUL CANTIN
Way back in 1991, Amanda Marshall was a teenage protegee of Jeff Healey, and her first big break was opening for the guitarist at Ottawa's National Arts Centre.
Friday, she returns to the NAC with Canadian singer Chantal Kreviazuk, but this time, Marshall is the headliner, riding the remarkable success of her self-titled debut album.
"It feels great. We're really excited by it. The irony is definitely not lost on me," Marshall says from Chicago, where she is opening for John Mellencamp.
"Things have evolved, which is very nice. We've come to the point where we can play the NAC ourselves. That's really gratifying. Really nice."
If Marshall sounds a little blase about reaching this milestone, it's understandable. The accolades and rewards have been piling up around her like sandbags along the Red River.
In the past 18 months, her album has gone platinum worldwide, thanks in no small part to a gutsy live show that has left even the most jaded skeptic slack-jawed with wonder at the power of Marshall's voice -- a full-throated roar that seems to know no limits.
Along the way, Marshall has collected some high-profile boosters, too. Elton John, Jon Bon Jovi and Rosie O'Donnell have all heaped praise upon the singer. You'd think that might be intimidating for an artist just finding her footing in the music business, but guess again.
"You can be endorsed by the Pope, but if you get up in front of an audience and you can't deliver, you are going to be found out immediately. It doesn't matter," she says.
"On a certain level, it helps a great deal when someone with a certain celebrity status, whether it is Elton John or Jon Bon Jovi or Rosie O'Donnell or whoever, takes an interest in you. It helps on a certain level with the media, because the media loves that kind of story. They love when one celebrity takes another budding celebrity under their wing.
"I always found that to be the case, from my association with Jeff Healey up to this thing with Elton John. On one level, it is incredibly flattering. But no matter what kind of expectation might be created by him saying that, the bulk of anybody's interest in you depends on you. If you can't deliver, people know."
Naturally, her debut success will bring increased expectations for her sophomore effort. Marshall says the one drawback of her hellacious touring schedule has been little time to ponder what the future will bring.
"I listen to the (first) album now, and I think I sound really young and I know the arrangements have matured and changed and evolved over the last year. That's the great thing about being a performer and that's why I tour. It gives you the opportunity to continue to work on your craft and continue to grow.
"I would be appalled if I walked in to make the next record and hadn't matured or changed at all as a performer and human being. One thing that experience gives you is the opportunity to grow and change. Every album you make is only going to reflect what you have done."
Marshall Art Slays
Display of vocal fireworks thrills sold-out jubilee crowd
By MIKE ROSS
If they gave awards for being a show-off, Amanda Marshall would clean up.
Well, actually, they do - Celine Dion took them all last year. But rest assured, Marshall's turn is coming.
She's certainly got what it takes: Like Celine, the songs Marshall picks are less important than the way she slams them into the ground with her unbelievably huge voice - which was proved by her jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring power at the sold-out Jubilee Auditorium last night. With 2,700 fans cheering her on, Marshall absolutely killed those poor tunes.
After a little opening medley of sounds and songs from the '60s, the curtain dropped and the 24-year-old firebrand bounded onto the stage like the flyweight champion of the world to wail Fall From Grace, from her self-titled debut album. The crowd loved it. Backed by a competent yet somewhat generic rock band, Let's Get Lost followed, an otherwise bland song elevated to epic heights by bombast alone.
And she was just getting warmed up.
It doesn't matter what tune Marshall sings, or what they're supposed to mean. Why segue from Tina Turner's Can't Stand the Rain into Marshall's breakthrough hit, Let it Rain? There's no point - it was just a clever play on words, with the benighted songs being the sacrificial goats, so to speak. Marshall made every song into a dramatic production, riffing relentlessly to the extremes of range and power at every opportunity. I was afraid she might pop a vein, so over-the-top were her histrionics, especially in songs like Closer to the Ground, where Marshall sang circles around herself (now that's a good singer) during a jazz-like improv bit.
Here is a woman who does not know the meaning of the word subtlety.
To be fair, it was a rock 'n' roll show.
And some songs survived Marshall's killer voice. Last Exit to Eden, which featured Marshall picking out a few notes on guitar, emerged relatively whole. And Jimi Hendrix's Castles in the Sand turned out to be a stirring, inspired rendition, despite the fact Marshall pulled out all the vocal stops - a scary thing indeed - and thrashed around like she was having a seizure. Yikes!
The Janis Joplin comparison Marshall's been dogged with ever since Jeff Healey "discovered" her is right on the money. She's actually more like a sanitized Janis - all the chops, intensity and raw talent, but with none of the pain or soul.
Opening act Chantal Kreviazuk is the antidote to Marshall's mindless vocal fireworks.
Accompanying herself on grand piano, the Winnipeg performer demonstrated an equally brilliant voice - but one which she put fully to the service of sensitive and moving original songs.
And that's far more important than showing off for its own sake.
Amanda On The Move
Canuck singer gets a taste of the big time
By MIKE ROSS
Welcome to True Tales of the Road, Celebrity Edition.
Our guest this week is the lovely and talented Amanda Marshall, who performs tomorrow in the Jubilee Auditorium.
Last year, the 24-year-old singer was touring Norway, of all places. Why, you ask? Because her self-titled debut album had become a huge hit over there - as it has in most other countries where it's been released.
In any case, Marshall recalls browsing through the concession stand at a little airport in the town of Sandnes (population 43,000), when all of the sudden she had a strange feeling.
"I noticed that everyone was looking at me. I could feel it. I looked up and I realized I was on the cover of every publication on the newsstand. I was on the cover of all the newspapers and magazines and stuff. It was really funny. I was like a big celebrity in this tiny little town in Norway."
It's not just Norway, either.
Since she of the big voice and dramatic hand gestures stormed on to the scene in the fall of 1995, Marshall has sold more than 600,000 copies of her album in Canada (and 300,000 in the U.S.). She'll be starring in her first network TV special, airing tonight at 7 on CFRN (Cable 2).
She's also had more celebrity endorsements than Thighmaster.
Elton John called Marshall his "favorite new singer" on The Rosie O'Donnell Show.
Marshall herself was on the talk show the following week.
"The cool thing about (Rosie)," Marshall notes, "is she has people on that she genuinely likes."
NYPD Blue's Jimmy Smits is a fan. Jon Bon Jovi said nice things about her in an interview with Metal Edge magazine - not a lot of Marshall's fans read Metal Edge, perhaps, but it's the thought that counts.
Marshall just finished a U.S. tour opening for John Mellencamp, who would bring her onstage to sing Pink Houses. He, too, is a fan.
And the list of Amanda fandom goes on: Regis and Kathie Lee, David Letterman, that new guy from Melrose Place ...
"His name is David something," Marshall says. "I can't even remember his last name. He used to be on Baywatch ..."
OK - you get the point. In less than two years, Amanda Marshall has been transformed from a Toronto bar singer to a celebrity recording star, taking it all with remarkable aplomb.
She's admits it's hard to be objective about it, but "it makes you stop and think.
"It's all pretty positive," she says. "There's moments, like 9:30 on a Saturday morning and you just want to go out and buy some milk, and you're suddenly very aware that people are aware of you.
"You do the things that you're comfortable with. I haven't had any really negative experiences. People are really cool. They want an autograph or they want to talk to you. Sometimes you feel bad because you don't always have time and you don't want people to think that you're blowing them off, because you're not. But if you're trying to get from here to there and you've got five minutes, you try and kind of let everybody feel like they've had their moment."
Marshall certainly didn't plan that her life would turn out this way. She agrees that she's "lucky" to have had such a single-minded desire to become a singer - even from childhood - but like any of her peers, it's more about hopes and dreams than actual plans.
"You never know how things are going to go," she says. "I think you hope that people are going to dig what you do and that you're going to get the chance to do it on a really comfortable level."
Even so, she's not too surprised how it's worked out for her. "It doesn't seem like a huge explosion to me. Everything has seemed fairly logical and normal."
Normal, that is, if you happen to be Amanda Marshall.
Musical training: Toronto Royal Conservatory of Music.
Album: Self-titled; released October 1995.
First hit: Let It Rain.
Album sales: six-times platinum in Canada (600,000 copies sold); 300,000 sold in the U.S. (Following a recent appearance on The Rosie O'Donnell Show, Marshall sold 10,000 albums in one day).
Other recordings: The Don Was-produced This Could Take All Night, on the Tin Cup soundtrack.
Notable opening gigs: Jeff Healey, Tom Cochrane, John Mellencamp.
Celebrity endorsements: Elton John, Jimmy Smits, Jon Bon Jovi and Rosie O'Donnell, among others.
Other education: Says Marshall: "I remember there was like a week there when everybody was going off to university and I thought, geez, maybe I should go to university. I went to night school at the University of Toronto for about a year and I dropped out to go on the road. I was taking English. And I hated it. I was miserable."
Counts Elton As A Fan
By BLAIR S. WATSON
For a rock performer, writing one's own material is almost as important as being able to sing it well.
But for Toronto's Amanda Marshall, how one interprets a song is just as valid; if not more so.
The singer, who performs her brand of steamy blues rock at the Jubilee Auditorium Saturday, admits her writing credits are limited; with her self-titled debut album featuring only one Marshall-penned track and one she co-wrote.
Marshall says she's just not ready to take on the task of writing an entire album.
"I'm still pretty young as a writer," admits Marshall in a phone interview.
"For me, at this point, writing is an alternative creative outlet ... But mostly, writing is a discipline. It's being willing to hand yourself over to the moment when inspiration hits you. It's being willing to get out of bed at 4 a.m. and jot down that idea you just dreamt. Often, I'm just not willing to do that for whatever reason. But I really like it."
Although the diminutive powerhouse of a vocalist seems indifferent as far as writing, she's gained the attention of at least one of superstar.
"It's funny, Elton John phoned me earlier in the year. He's been really supportive of me," says Marshall, referring to John praising her on the Rosie O'Donnell show.
"He really likes my record and he called me to tell me so. Having never met me and not really knowing me, he said `I get the impression just from talking to you that you are a much better writer than you think you are.' and I think that's probably true."
One wonders if John is thinking of Marshall as a future collaborator.
"I'd never say never. But, I haven't heard from him in some time or made any attempts to get in touch with him. I would never dream of over-stepping the bounds of good taste and tracking him down."
Marshall, now 24, began her professional career at 17; a career that has led to her opening for such notables as Jeff Healey, Colin James, Tom Cochrane, Tears For Fears and most recently on tour with John Mellencamp, which featured the singer in duet with Mellencamp on Pink Houses.
In actuality, it was Healey who opened the door for Marshall.
"I met Jeff (Healey) when I was in my last year of high school ... a girlfriend and I went to his show and we went backstage to get his autograph and I told him I wanted to be a singer. He invited me to a jam session at a club. About two months after meeting him, he offered me the opening slot on his tour," she recalls.
The singer has often been compared to a host of vocalists from Bonnie Raitt to Sheryl Crow, to even being referred to as "The love child of Janis Joplin and Joe Cocker." The comparisons don't bother her.
"I have always been compared and lumped in with people that I actually have a lot of respect for what they do.
"If I was being touted as the sixth Spice Girl, well that would be a little less flattering," she quipped.
Amanda Marshall A
By BEN RAYNER
It's been one of those whirlwind years for Toronto's Amanda Marshall.
Since her eponymous debut album arrived on shelves amid a torrent of major-label marketing a little more than a year ago, the husky-voiced singer has hit the road with such industry heavyweights as Tom Cochrane and Tears For Fears, had none other than Elton John rave about her on national television and amassed a million-strong following around the world.
Marshall arrives at Barrymore's tonight for the first of two sold-out Ottawa dates -- she returns on Dec. 16 -- that all but wrap up an extensive, cross-Canada headlining jaunt.
"It's really gratifying that the record's done as well as it has because it's allowed me to do what I love to do, which is touring," says Marshall, 24, calling from a date in North Bay.
"We've been on the road pretty solid for about 11 or 12 months ... We've been pretty much all the way from the North Pole to New Zealand. We've seen more of the world in the last year than I've seen in my entire life."
Marshall will likely visit what little remains to be seen of the world by the time she stops touring in support of the first record -- something she doesn't expect to do until at least May. In fact, following a brief holiday break in her home town, she and the band are off to play in Japan.
Apart from allowing her to see more of the planet than most human beings, Marshall says her still-brewing success has yet to spoil her.
"My own life has been pretty much the same," she says. "I'm not really home enough to revel in the celebrity or whatever."
Marshall's brief return home this autumn is giving many fans recruited over the past year or so their first chance to see her perform live.
And, as she would prefer to have it, live is where she shines. Marshall's gutsy, blues-leaning voice earned her a name on the club circuit and fans like Jeff Healey long before her album's radio-friendly stable of hits -- Birmingham, Let It Rain, Beautiful Goodbye -- brought her to radios across the continent.
"I'm incredibly happy when people tell me they find our live performances different," she says.
"I want people to walk away from our shows thinking that they got something out of the show that the audience the night before didn't get, and that the audience the next night won't get."
Elton John Spreads
Word About Amanda Marshall
By BETSY POWELL
TORONTO -- Amanda Marshall missed it. But her mother "and other hysterical sources" relayed the news.
The formerly flamboyant Elton John gave the Toronto singer a major plug on a U.S. talk show watched by millions.
Host Rosie O'Donnell asked the music veteran "whether he listens to new, up-and-coming artists and he picked my record," she explained over the phone from New York City.
"It was really, really sweet and he tracked me down in Banff to talk about the album and just to check in and say hi, I guess."
Some 318,000 people in Canada have also picked up Marshall's self-titled debut album since its October 1995 domestic release. Sales in the U.S., where the disc came out last spring, are a respectable 238,000.
Marshall, 24, is still touring the 10-song disc across Canada but flew to New York last week, coincidentally, for an appearance on O'Donnell's show before returning to Ontario for a series of gigs.
And guess who she had lunch with while there? Reginald Dwight (a.k.a. Elton John) himself. The lunch was apparently spontaneous and took place after Marshall's Canadian interviews were completed, a spokesman for Marshall said.
Just how the British superstar came across Marshall's pop-flavored music is uncertain. Marshall thinks he may have seen her perform in the U.K.
It's apparently just a coincidence that the two likable thieves in this year's movie Two If By Sea, Sandra Bullock and Dennis Leary, refer to John as they try on glasses as the film cuts to Marshall's song Dark Horse.
John is keen on collaborations -- KiKi Dee, John Lennon, Axl Rose, to name a few -- and he's contributed backing vocals to many other artists. But Marshall said before their lunch no plans had been made.
"At this point everything's been kept very loose, it was very sweet that he called, but anything's possible."
She plans to return to the studio in April or May and hopes to write more songs for her follow-up. She contributed two tracks to her debut.
Marshall, whose robust singing voice is as full as her long, thick hair, said she's surprised that she hasn't grown weary of singing a limited repertoire.
But fans attending her concerts won't be guinea pigs for untested, album-bound material.
"As a listener, I'm not really in to that," she said.
"Especially when it's someone's debut record. You know what's coming and they preview a song that they're putting on the second record, and then the record comes out ... I miss the anticipation of what's going to be on the album.
"For me it's not a great way to hone a song by virtue of the fact that perhaps an audience didn't get it. Maybe it's just that audience, maybe the song's not done."
November 25, 1996.
Amanda Marshall wails on
By MIKE ROSS
For a woman so green to the ways of recording artists, Amanda Marshall has filled the role seamlessly.
After being signed by Sony Music last year on the strength of her reputation as a fiery bar-room singer, the 24-year-old performer was asked by the president of the record company what kind of record she wanted to make, to which she replied, "I don't know."
But Sony knew what to do. With the input of heavyweight songwriters like MuchMusic-VJ-turned-Alannah Myles-svengali Christopher Ward, a self-titled album smack in the middle of the road between pop and rock resulted, and the lead single Let It Rain burned up the airwaves across the country. Whether Marshall was groomed for success by outside forces or not, the album is a hit (at least 100,000 copies sold in Canada), and the singer has since thrown herself into the task of promoting it like a seasoned veteran. She plays the Thunderdome tonight.
`HAD A REALLY GOOD TIME'
"We've had a really good run so far," she says. "We've been on the road now for 10 months, and we've had a really, really good time. We've done pretty much everything we've set out to do. For me, it was a chance to get out and tour and let people see what we do, and basically, see the world. We've done that, with the exception of Japan, which is where we're heading to next."
The irony here is that her live performing - which Marshall's been honing about six times longer than she's been a recording artist - don't match her album at all. It's like hearing two different artists: Dr. Jekyll on record, Miss Wail-My-Guts-Out on stage.
"I want people to walk away with a more intimate knowledge of me as a performer," she says. "You can do stuff in a live setting that you can't do on record.
"Everybody knows that at a quarter to one on a Friday night, you can get away with stuff that you couldn't really get away with in a recorded setting. I love those moments, those sweaty, middle-of-the-night kind of moments where you can do stuff that no one's really going to want to listen to on a Monday morning."
ROASTED BY REVIEWERS
What's most remarkable is how Marshall's been handling criticism. She's been roasted by reviewers on more than one occasion, at one point getting compared to Skid Row laughing-stock Sebastian Bach - something that could wither a weaker ego.
But negative reviews just don't seem to affect Marshall - she ignores them.
"I don't read any of the press," she says. "I tried to read them, good and bad, and I just discovered you just get tired about reading about yourself all the time. I've told the same stories and talked to half the world in the last 10 months - and I know all this stuff now."
Tickets to tonight's concert, also featuring warm-up act Wendy Lands, are $15 and available at the Thunderdome (433-DOME).
April 4, 1996
Learning the game
By PAUL CANTIN
Amanda Marshall remembers all too well her first performance in Ottawa.
It was the early '90s at the NAC, opening for the Jeff Healey Band. Apart from bar shows in her hometown of Toronto, it was her first-ever concert, so the then-teenage, gruff-voiced singer was blissfully unaware of the pitfalls of performing.
"My very first tour, very first gig ... I was 17," says Marshall, who returns here tonight to open for Tom Cochrane at the Congress Centre.
"We come walking on with two acoustic guitar players. We did cover songs ... It was going really well.
"And there was this pause before I introduced the next song. And out of the darkness out of the back of the auditorium, some guy yells: 'WHO ARE YOU? WHY ARE YOU HERE?'
"Had I had more of a clue, if I wasn't so green, I probably would have realized: 'Oh, they want Healey.'
"But I thought: 'Wow, they really like us. Thank you for caring.' I thought: 'Wow, we're really winnin' em over. He wants to know who I am.'
"I was so cocky."
All her hard-earned lessons prepared Marshall for the making of her self-titled debut album, which has already launched two hit singles -- Let It Rain and Birmingham.
It's painfully early in the morning, but Marshall is enviably chipper and chatty as she lounges backstage at CJOH between on-air performances during a promo swing.
"I'm pretty gregarious. I like to talk, as you've probably noticed," she says.
"I did a radio thing with Energy-something. Live performance at 7 a.m. It was very exciting.
"Actually (my voice) was not too bad. I'm lucky, because the huskier the better. I go into phone sex mode ... 'Hi, this is Ramona. You're listening to Energy 1200.' "
It's hard to reconcile her relaxed manner with what's at stake with her album, which -- for a debut record from a Canadian artist -- received an unprecedented promotional push.
"The amount of attention and scrutiny the record has received from Sony acted as, frankly, a real kick in the butt. It was a motivator more than anything else," she says.
"It's not so much pressure as it is a great motivator. There's nothing like having a group of people behind you that genuinely like you and support you."
January 14, 1996
The buzz is hot on 23-year-old Toronto singer Amanda Marshall
By JANE STEVESON
Tell Amanda Marshall it's a good time to be a female singer from Canada - the seven million album sales and 10 recent Grammy nominations of Alanis Morissette and Shania Twain combined - and she'll tell you that it's a great time to be a female singer, period.
"I'm as excited for Alanis with her six Grammy nominations as I was four years ago when Bonnie Raitt got eight or whatever it was," enthused Marshall, the day after last week's Grammy announcement.
"It's exciting when people with whom you share certain characteristics do well because it makes it more obvious to you that there's potential that you could do well.
"But Canadian, not Canadian, female, not female - it's good stuff and I think it bodes well for everyone in the business to see women doing well."
Marshall should know. Her self-titled debut went gold in Canada (50,000 in sales) within eight weeks - maybe you saw her picture in the Toronto subway? - and spawned the Top 10 single Let It Rain. All without a Canadian tour under her belt. That happens in late February.
Now Sony Music Canada is preparing to launch their hot prospect in Europe next month - with umbrellas that have her name on them no less - and the U.S. in March. No word yet on umbrellas there.
"There are very few records that we work on in Canada or even in the industry that in such a short period of time go gold," said Richard Zuckerman, Sony's vice-president of international A and R (artists and repertoire) and marketing.
The buzz on the 23-year-old Torontonian with a Rapunzel-like head of golden, curly hair and an even bigger set of vocal chords began five years ago.
After attending a concert by blues singer-guitarist Jeff Healey, he invited her to come and sing during an open jam the next night. Healey was so impressed that he invited Marshall to tour with him and Tom Cochrane.
That's when record companies came calling.
Marshall initially signed a major deal with Columbia in the United States but later opted out of her contract because she was unsure about her musical direction.
"The whole grunge movement had just sort of broken and the world and the music business were both really distracted," said Marshall, who signed with Sony later.
"It was very male-oriented, garage rock, riff-oriented music and it wasn't a great time to be sort of a mainstream, radio kind of artist."
Which is exactly what Marshall is.
She knows it and so does Sony, whose biggest Canadian female artist is Celine Dion.
"Celine's sold in excess of 10 million units and it's not as though she's alternative or even hip, it's just she's an amazing talent and I think we feel the same thing (about Amanda)," said Zuckerman. "It's not the next thing in terms of music, but it is in terms of talent of the artist."
Marshall's powerful voice brought such early descriptions as "Janis Joplin-Joe Cocker love child."
In the studio, however, she's more reminiscent of Melissa Etheridge, Sheryl Crow or Amy Grant with the bombastic retro sound of such '80s Canadian rock chicks as Alannah Myles and Sass Jordan.
Produced in L.A. by David Tyson (Myles, Hall and Oates) with material from Canadian songwriters Marc Jordan and Christopher Ward and session musicians whose bosses have included such rock royalty as James Taylor, Carly Simon, Tina Turner and Bob Dylan, Marshall's debut has received decidedly mixed reviews in Canada. The main complaints being the songs are weak, the album is overproduced and Sony's marketing hands are all over Marshall.
"All I can say is I made the record I wanted to make," said the singer. "People's antennae go up when they suspect that you are associated with as big a money-making machine as a company like Sony. I think they become suspicious and they start looking for things.
"But I don't think because you choose a more sort of commercial or legitimate - if you will - way of making records that that makes you any less legitimate of an artist."
Marshall also points out that she's just being her fully-clothed self and not some scantily clad diva on her album cover and inside on the liner notes.
"Just because it says Sony on the back of the record does not mean that there is a team of little men - `Don't look behind the curtain!' - that the Wizard of Oz is controlling the way I dress and what I say. It's merely a vehicle."
Adds Zuckerman: "It's the voice and the image. She always had an image. She always had a strong identity about herself."
Similar criticisms of superstar packaging have been thrown at Morissette, who began her career as a teenage dance artist before the scathing, foul-mouthed single You Oughta Know turned her into the posterchild for jilted women.
But Marshall doesn't understand what the fuss is all about.
"So she made disco records when she was 16? Who cares? I mean so what? It's a good song. Get up and dance. Shut Up!
"Certainly I'm all for honesty in music, but I mean - at the end of the day - it's music. This isn't neurosurgery, it's music. And either you can sing or you can't. Either you can write or you can't. Either you can play or you can't."
And no matter what you think of her music, Marshall can sing.
The AMANDA MARSHALL FILE
FAMILY: Only child. Father from Canada. Mother From Trinidad. Grew up listening to classical, golden oldies and jazz courtesy of her parents, who she still lets listen to her demos first.
EARLY YEARS: Was enrolled at the Royal Conservatory at age three. Sang in high school choir but always wanted to play in a rock band. Got to meet Ella Fitzgerald at age 15 after a concert.
BIG BREAK: Jeff Healey invited her to sing at an open jam and later tour with him and Tom Cochrane. Columbia (U.S.) signed her initially.
DEBUT: Self-titled album for Sony Music Canada sold 50,000 domestically within eight weeks. To be released in Europe and the U.S. in the next two months.
ON MAKING HER FIRST ALBUM: "I didn't really have to do too too much screaming and yelling and shaping and groping to get what I wanted."
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