At the age of 23, Amanda Marshall has more musical experience under her belt than performers a decade older. And on her self-titled debut, the versatile Canadian singer proves that she's used that experience well: Amanda Marshall showcases a powerhouse vocalist who can capture a startling array of emotions. Recognizing her talent early, her parents enrolled Amanda in the toddler's music program at Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music when she was 3 years old. "The conservatory is very much about roots," she explains, "about learning where music came from, all the different aspects of classical music from the ground up." But by her mid-teens, the rigors of the conservatory had become somewhat stifling to this proficient student. "I knew that my interests didn't lie in being steeped in serious classical music anymore." For one thing, she'd discovered jazz. A friend had introduced Amanda to the music of Ella Fitzgerald, which led to a memorable real-life introduction to the great singer. For her friend's birthday, Amanda got tickets to a Fitzgerald concert in Toronto. After the show, Amanda and her friend snuck backstage to watch Ella walk to her limo. As Marshall recalls, "She had very poor eyesight -- she was blinded very easily by light -- and she tripped and fell. And my friend caught her!" The grateful Fitzgerald autographed the teenagers' programs and chatted with Amanda about music and her singing ambitions. "She was really graceful and gracious about it, and I'll always remember that." A different backstage meeting--with blues-rock guitarist Jeff Healey--led to the launch of Amanda's own professional career. Healey encouraged the aspiring singer to try her luck at an open-mike night at a Toronto club where he would be hanging out the next night. Seventeen-year-old Amanda got her father to accompany her to the club, and as promised, Healey played guitar with her when she sang. Since Healey was enjoying his first success with "Angel Eyes" at the ti me, his appearance with the powerful young singer was duly noted by the media: One re-porter dubbed her "the love child of Joe Cocker and Janis Joplin." Within four months, Marshall had put together a band and begun playing clubs. When Healey offered her the opening slot on his Canadian national tour, Marshall knew she'd been handed a proverbial golden opportunity. "I got to tour without a record, in front of audiences who didn't know who I was, and that was my introduction to show business! With a laugh, she adds: "My mom was a liiitttle bit freaked out." But Amanda took to life on the road like a pro, later touring with Tom Cochrane on the heels of his best-selling Life Is A Highway. These high-profile tours brought Amanda at least one serious recording offer, but she chose to wait until she truly felt ready. "You only get to make your first record once," she reasons. "I thought I better have a handle on it before I put anything out." In October 1994, Marshall went to Los Angeles to meet with transplanted Canadian songwriter-producer David Tyson (Hall & Oates, Alanah Myles). The collaboration proved so fruitful that they ultimately decided that Tyson should produce the record, too. Less than a year later, Amanda Marshall was completed. One of Amanda's favorite tracks on the album is "Birmingham," a moving story-song that is the first single and video. "It was the one of the first songs I was offered that was thematically a little different than the others. And I thought it was really intriguing, the fact that a man had written in a really articulate fashion, and very sensitively, about this woman stepping off a path which seemed sort of unbreakable." Marshall wrote the country-flavored "Sitting On Top Of The World," and collaborated on two other songs, "Dark Horse" and "Let's Get Lost." She co-wrote the latter with another Canadian, Christopher Ward, a former VJ on Canada's Much Music channel. Ward had once interviewed Canuck expatriate Neil Young for the music station, and asked him if he would ever consider moving back. Young replied, "I've done my cold time." His response was the inspiration for "Let's Get Lost," a rootsy rocker that could be a rallying cry for those who endured the record-breaking winter of '96. Other standout tracks include the wistful "Beautiful Good-bye" and "Last Exit To Eden," on which Marshall rages against self-inflicted losses. Released in Canada in October, 1995, the first two singles from Amanda Marshall, "Let It Rain" and "Birmingham," both cracked the national Top Ten. By March, '96, the album was certified platinum in Canada for sales of more than 100,000 copies; it continues to sell on the strength of Amanda's live performances and radio airplay. Now that her record is released in the US, Marshall is itching to get back on the road: "That's sort of where I'm most comfortable, it's where I think my strength is and it's what I really love." Beginning in April '96, the singer will be the special guest of Epic labelmates Tears For Fears on their US tour. She's certainly had enough experience; now American audiences can experience Amanda Marshall.
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