Saturday, October 22, 2011

Burlesque and Music: Amanda Richards interview



Photo courtesy of Amanda Richards


After over two years of working with Amanda Richards aka DeManda at all types of Burlesque Shows, Miss Frankie Tease sat down with Amanda to discuss her brand new Grammy nominations, how she got on the PNW Burlesque circuit, and what it's like to be a Singer/Songwriter, Bohemian Country Songstress in Portland, Oregon.


FRANKIE
So Amanda, how did you get the news of your "Official Grammy Nomination" this week?

AMANDA
Well I got a call from my manager saying "we have some good news for you' and I hadn't heard from them for a while. And they said 'You're up for Grammy nominations this year'. It took about a week for me to get the list of what all the categories were, six total.

[Here are the six nominations 1-Record of the Year : Cookies & Whiskey 2-Record of the Year : Perfect Cup of Coffee 3 - Song of the Year: Ballbuster 4- Best Female Country Vocal Performance: Ballbuster 5-Best Country Song: Ballbuster 6- Best Country Song : Cookies & Whiskey]

FRANKIE
What is your favorite nomination, is this fair to ask?

AMANDA
It's hard to say, it all hit me at once. I was surprised that the song Ballbuster got 3 nominations. And, Perfect Cup of Coffee was great to see there.


FRANKIE
Don't you have a video of Perfect Cup of Coffee coming out?


AMANDA
Yes Perfect Cup a Coffee which was up for a Song of the year nomination, will be a video coming via community access and will also be released online sometime this year. It'll be on MCTV (Multnomah County).

FRANKIE
Would you have thought the type of year that 2010 was,would end in a Grammy nomination?

AMANDA
It was the farthest thing from my mind. I feel like this is a carrot I needed to keep going. Last year was really hard. There were times I thought 'why am I still doing this?' When this happened it was another thing to justify me being on this path.

FRANKIE
You've had many sold out shows at larger Portland venues over a period of approximately ten years. It's been phenomenal to see you putting out so many wonderful albums and original lyrics as a singer/songwriter, that are so well received. How do you stay inspired as a songwriter?

AMANDA
I'm preparing to record a fifth album and working on a sound track to a film right now, and I probably have a few hundred songs that haven't been recorded yet. I think it started as a therapeutic sort of thing. Over the last couple years it's started to evolve into an art form where I like the challenge of coming up with an idea and going with it. That's where the zombie album showed where I could pick a topic and go with it.

FRANKIE
Is the zombie album the most thematic album you've ever written?

AMANDA
Oh yeah, I've never written a theme album before that.

FRANKIE
What is your favorite Zombie album song?

AMANDA
People's favorites are: No Fear No Pain or Play Dead. My personal favorite on the album is Alone at Last because I really like the harmonies that were done on the chorus, I really enjoy playing it.

FRANKIE
What category do you most relate to singer/songwriter or female country vocalist?

AMANDA
Both have a stigma. For a long time I never wanted to call myself a singer/songwriter. It just seemed like such a cliche' : 'I'm a singer, I have a guitar, I play songs'. It's just really hard to be taken seriously. On the other hand country music, especially in Portland, has a stigma too. For one thing, a lot of Portlanders don't like commercial or pop music, and neither do I. I prefer much more the old school country.

FRANKIE
You bring up a good point that country today has been turned into pop, but old school country was much harder. You had to hit certain marks, sing in two octaves and you had to yodel! Am I right? When I heard you yodel on Zombie Yodel I got excited. I didn't know you could yodel. The original country is a venerable genre and you're doing it justice.

AMANDA
Thank You. People don't expect to hear yodeling, so when I do the yodel song live, people freak out. It's hilarious.

FRANKIE
How did you begin performing at burlesque shows?

AMANDA
It started probably about three years ago. I met Ashia Grzesik (currently a cellist for the 'Vagabond Opera') a few years ago at an underground competition where we were the two remaining finalists. I did some naughty songs and she did some naughty songs, and she did a naughty song, and she won. I was thinking "I hate you, you want to be in my band?" She started playing along with me at my solo gigs. Then later, she later got invited to the Moisture Festival in Seattle, and we created dirty duo called Buxom. We went up and sang songs about anal sex. She and I seem to perform together about once a year. She is very educated in Burlesque having lived in Las Vegas for four years and played with Cirque De Soleil. That was my first introduction to being involved in Burlesque. Then shortly after that I met you Frankie, and started opening at Tease Time Burlesque Show.

FRANKIE
I've seen crowds go wild after hearing your edgy lyrics, spoofs, comedy and commentary on relationships and on being a female in today's society. I think the anal sex song is one of the favorites. It's my understanding that Ashia Grzesik wrote that song and now you and her sing it separately and together. What is your favorite song to do at a burlesque show?

AMANDA
I do some covers for the burlesque shows. I like the Dirty Farmer song, which I learned when I was like five years old. "There once was a farmer who lived by a rock, he sat in the corner just shaking his ... fist". I've got songs on STD's and poor personal hygiene. Both angry and funny songs.


FRANKIE
What are you getting out of being able to perform in a burlesque show environment, as opposed to being in a more conservative environment such as a traditional country audience?

AMANDA
I have a lot more creative freedom. I won't have to worry about offending people. People are looking for comedy and sexuality. I think doing burlesque shows has helped me infuse more theatrics into my performance. It has improved my performance all around.

FRANKIE
Like the theatrics I saw at your Rock Opera Zombie album premature release party for "Play Dead" when your band 'the Hardly Hards' were in full bloody gore? I also love your comedic timing when you're introducing a song, and singing.


AMANDA
I am interested in getting more into stand-up comedy and sketch comedy.

FRANKIE
How far of a stretch is it writing lyrics that are a story, and doing the sketch of an idea on stage? How different is it?

AMANDA
In some ways writing sketches may be easier, just because I don't have to make things rhyme. I also have done this enough to begin to know where the audience will go with things.

FRANKIE
It seems that as an artist you want to keep growing as a performer, as a top priority.

AMANDA
I want to become a better entertainer all around. Burlesque has helped me with that, to be adventurous, being in the moment with your audience, the improvisation. I don't always go out with the set list, I might figure out what to play as I feel out the audience. Sometimes being too rigid and planned keeps you from connecting to your audience. If you go in with a plan you say 'ok I will generally work in this area, but I will also do what I want. Sometimes the things I say are in the moment and unplanned.

FRANKIE
One of those moments that stick in my mind is when you brought a very large heckling man on stage while you sang seven verses of an Irish folk song, ,and he had to do the jig. It seemed perfect behavior for your Burlesque altar ego: DeManda. How did you come up with the name DeManda?

AMANDA
My first album's engineer gave me the name, first to others then to me. It's easy to come across as being demanding when you want something a certain way.


FRANKIE
How often do you write?

AMANDA
It comes in spurts, there'll be a few months where I just can't stop writing, songs and sketches come out of me. Then I'll get distracted for a while doing business or relaxing. I've really learned to honor that creative process and not put too much pressure on myself to write when I'm not being productive. To allow myself space to grow as a person and as a writer.Sometimes it takes a while to finish a song. It took me probably almost a year to write the song Ballbuster. I wrote the first verse and the chorus and then it took me forever to write the second verse. It's something I had been thinking about for a while and I had to draw upon real experiences to finish the other verses. The last verse took the longest to write, because I really wanted to come up with something that drove the whole song home. "Instead of giving flack, maybe I should be giving thanks, for the chlorine in the gene pool because I know you're shootin' blanks".

FRANKIE
I've heard the debate that the word feminist is no longer relevant. You have called yourself a feminist, what is your take on being a Feminist and what that means in today's age?

AMANDA
I think being a feminist is a crazy belief that women are equal to men. I don't think that feminism is dead. There are millions of our sisters out there in the world that are without freedom and are suffering with male dominated patriarchy and sold into the sex trade. Also, if you are forced to have children you are easier to control and it's easy to control your children. Feminism isn't over, there is not an equal amount of women in the government and our government is very patriarchal, the system itself is patriarchal. Until we're all taken care of and we can see the world from an equally feminine and masculine point of view, there is still a need for feminism.


FRANKIE TEASE
With burlesque, what's interesting to me is that professionals like yourself are bringing their skills to Burlesque where they can be more creative and free with their expressions. Because it's been filled with amateur efforts it has changed the landscape of what people may expect at a Burlesque show. I've seen people hear the introduction 'singer songwriter' and see the cliche's that are popping through their head, and you get up there with a smile on your face and sing feminist songs that are also hilarious, and make people think "what am I actually doing with and to women?"

AMANDA
At the same time, I have extremely sexual songs too.

FRANKIE TEASE
I think feminism can be misunderstood, angry, or lesbian. There is no way that we have the choices that men have at this time.

AMANDA RICHARDS
It's getting closer but we're not there yet. I was really intimidated by a male dominated business when I first started. I realized if I had a band I had to boss all those boys around and I've learned to do it without being a bitch about it.

FRANKIE
Do you have any advice working in the Portland music scene that you can impart? Portland is a nice place to collaborate, but what advice do you have for serious artists?

AMANDA
If you're just getting started, play all you can in Portland. But there are places outside of Portland accessible if you drive and have a sound system. If you're trying to make a living it's important to explore all aspects. Sell your music online, build your fan base, and keep your lifestyle really simple. Keep your expenses down. Some months are great, some months are not so you have to be prepared.

Amanda Richards will be playing as her bawdy burlesque altar ego at TEASE TIME A Naughty Valentine Show at Tonic Lounge Sat. Feb. 5, 2011, 9pm 21+ . Advanced tickets and front row tables for two are available http://www.brownpapertickets. com/event/152205 , or $10 day of show.


View the 53rd Grammy Awards Ceremony Sunday February 13th 2011, 8pm EP/PT CBS

This interview was conducted and recorded live and transcribed by Miss Frankie Tease in Portland, Oregon 2011. It was originally published on examiner.com