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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman

By Gary Wien

originally published: 04/24/2018

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman

Someday I’m gonna sing a song that’s not in G, and like it / Someday I’m gonna do those fancy pickings at speed / Someday I’m gonna look an audience in the eye, and not stumble / Maybe even tell them something I haven’t memorized / But I’ll get there, I’ll get there, I’ll get there, I’ll get there / The fun’s in the journey anyway

Those are the lyrics that kick off Secrets I Told To A Sound Hole, the debut studio album by Morris County singer-songwriter Amanda Rose Riley.  It’s a fun, quirky look at the life of a musician from the very beginning of a career.  In many ways, all of the songs tell the same story from different angles.  The end effect is similar to a concept album.

“When I released the album, I did think of it as a concept album,” said Riley.  “I was very careful to try to order the songs so they sort of tell the story of my journey with music.  But when I was writing songs, I actually stumbled on the theme by accident.  I was just thinking a lot about music, my relationship with it, and my ambitions.  I realized I couldn’t write songs about anything else.  The only thing that was coming out was stuff about music.  I was actually kind of annoyed at myself at first, but I eventually decided to go with it because I realized it could be interesting.”

Her journey is definitely interesting as it provides insight into the mind of a young artist.  Riley is not your typical artist either.  She created an entire marketing plan from scratch for this album - spending time to create lists of publications, radio stations, and blogs who might be interested in her work.  While many artists can’t wait to record their first record in a real studio, Riley spent two months rehearsing her songs before entering the studio for the first time.  For someone excited to move forward as a musician, she was also careful to take time with each step of the road.

Riley was not merely patient; she loves every aspect of the business.  She enjoys reaching out to people, researching, reading books and blogs, and simply soaking up every aspect of the music industry.



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“I think I’m lucky in that none of it was boring or tedious for me,” said Riley. “I was very motivated because it’s a lot of money to invest for somebody that’s on a budget.  So, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just throwing my money into a void.  I wanted to do everything right.”

This means being proactive.  Riley has done everything from open mics to livestream acoustic concerts on the web. She has performed abroad and busked in public, performing for strangers with just her guitar.  Locally, she has performed as part of NJ Transit’s “Music In Motion” program, which auditions musicians to be able to play in major train stations and terminals.  She has performed in a few different stations in North Jersey and New York City, but generally returns to the Secaucus Junction station where she has received the best response (both tips and applause).

Her first experience busking was rather nerve-wracking, but she fought through it.  “It was funny because I was nervous about people hearing me, but, at the same time, nobody was even hearing me!” she recalled.  “Everyone was into their own business.  It’s very loud in the stations and I don’t use an amp or microphone, so people only hear me when they’re right next to me.  I like it that way because the only people who stop to listen are the people who are interested.  That way I don’t have to annoy a lot of people and make them cranky on their commute.”

Riley has also busked a few times in England.  Her favorite artists include Frank Turner and many who are also on the same Xtra Mile Recordings label as Turner.  She has gone to England several times to see artists in concert and has made many British friends during her travels.  In addition, her love of Turner has also led to some of the biggest steps in her career.

She was able to perform in the middle of an impromptu set Turner was playing during a Flogging Molly cruise, which led to several new fans.  Turner has also helped promote Riley’s music on social media.  Riley says getting associated with larger artists has helped her career more than anything else.

“I think the key thing is to find a place where there is a lot of people who would potentially like your music such as fans of a similar artist,” said Riley.  “That’s the kind of exposure I think is important. Everything I do has helped me.  Some things are better at bringing in new people and other things are better at keeping people engaged.  Even if people listen to you at one place and they like you they won’t necessarily follow you.  And, if they do follow you, you might bore them if you don’t keep doing different things.”

Doing new and different things has never been a problem for Riley. Unlike many artists, her first studio album was composed of completely different songs than she had been playing. Often, a debut album contains songs written years earlier and performed dozens or even hundreds of times before ever being recorded in the studio. 

“I wish I could write all of the time,” admitted Riley.  “I always try to put myself on a daily or weekly schedule to write a little, but, for some reason, my brain just works better if I give myself a time to just hole myself away for a couple of weeks.  When I wrote the album, it was basically within a month and a half.  I took breaks when I got burned out, but it was pretty much several hours a day every day.  That just seems to work well for me.”

It’s not like she didn’t have a collection of songs previously written to choose from.  In another nod to planning out a musical career, Riley spent a full year releasing new music via the Throwaway Song of the Week.  None of these songs appear on her album, although the best of the 52 songs are available on her Ultimate Digital Collection (2015-18), which she sells on a USB stick.

“I had only written a handful of songs before starting the Throwaway Song of the Week,” recalled Riley.  “The reason I did it is because I knew I would have to write a lot of songs before I starting getting good.  So, I told myself I was going to do a full year of weekly songs.  By the end of that, I was going to be proud of my songwriting skills and it pretty much worked!”

Her plans for a career in music also led Riley to make the leap from working full-time to part-time.  This was done for two main reasons: it gives her more time to focus on music and it also forces her to find ways to make money from her music.

“I think it helps me mentally because it makes me feel like I have to try harder to build income streams and build a career,” she explained.  “If you have a stable job and you don’t have to worry about money, I think it’s a lot harder to make yourself take risks and everything with music.”

None of the work and plans made by Riley would mean much if the songs aren’t good, but they are.  Secrets I Told To A Sound Hole is a wonderful folk rock album with songs that often share Riley’s love of music with inspiration as a whole. Listeners are welcomed into her dream of being a musician and we follow her heartbreaks and successes only the way.  Most of all, Riley shows that there are more successes and joys in life than people generally see.  In fact, one of her lyrics has even spawned its own movement.

The line, “I will choose love and music is enough” led Riley to create the hashtag #IWillChooseLove — something that inspired a music video and led to a page on her website that seeks to fight the negativity in the world with positive vibes.  She describes the page on the website as “My little corner of the internet that focuses on the good in the world, and positive responses to all the bad.  I’m far from perfect, but I want to see a better world, so I’m attempting to be the change.”

“I didn’t write that song for other people, I wrote it for myself,” said Riley.  “Last year, I was going through a period where I was having some personal issues and I was also getting down about some of the problems going on in the world and all of the negativity.  So, I was thinking how music is enough for me.  When I’m having a bad time, music pretty much always makes me feel better about everything.   I was also thinking about positivity in general - how behind every problem that people argue and complain about, there are good people trying to make things better.”

The web page contains links to websites with good news, places that promote random acts of kindness, organizations Riley likes, and links to charities and places where people can find volunteer opportunities.

Amanda Rose Riley knows that even with the best planning, the music business is one without guarantees for success.  For Riley, music itself is the success.  She cannot see herself apart from music and the fun is in the journey, wherever it takes her.



People round the world who want to hear me sing my songs… 

what a dream

I’m watching the old lady at the open mic

She’s amazing; am I afraid that could be me?

I’d have to say no; let’s call it plan B.





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State Theatre New Jersey presents Cirque Dreams Holidaze
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey presents Cirque Dreams Holidaze on Friday, December 7 at 8:00pm, Saturday, December 8 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sunday, December 9 at 2:00pm. Cirque Dreams Holidaze, a division of Cirque du Soleil, has become a critically acclaimed, state-of-the-art Broadway musical, and a fun-filled, holiday family show. Tickets range from $35-$98.
NJSO presents 2019 Winter Festival, 'Music Speaks'
(NEWARK, NJ) -- A trio of renowned guest artists with distinct musical voices—pianists Emanuel Ax and Daniil Trifonov and soprano Dawn Upshaw—headline the NJSO’s Winter Festival, “Music Speaks,” in January 2019. The Orchestra’s signature artistic event takes place across three weekends, January 10–27, in six New Jersey venues.
RVCC Chorale to Perform Annual Holiday Concert on December 8th
(BRANCHBURG, NJ) --The RVCC Chorale will give its annual holiday concert on Saturday, December 8 at 8:00pm in the Welpe Theatre at Raritan Valley Community College’s Branchburg campus. The program will feature Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantata, Das Neugeborne Kindelein, as well as a cappella pieces from by Sergei Rachmaninov, Zoltan Kodaly and Giuseppe Verdi. The program also will include an audience singalong of traditional carols.
Classic Stones Live! The Complete Rolling Stones Tribute Show Comes To SOPAC
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- The Rolling Stones, the greatest Blues band of all time, couldn’t make it to SOPAC on their 2018 tour. Instead, the acclaimed tribute band Classic Stones Live! makes an appearance on the SOPAC stage December 15 at 8:00pm for those who like to hear their Rolling Stones hits live.
Tony Trischka Presents "Of a Winter's Night" at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- Of a Winter’s Night is Tony Trischka's acoustic celebration of the holiday season. Based on his CD release of the same name, this concert features Trischka’s considerable melodic inventiveness on a wide variety of seasonal tunes. He turns his inventiveness loose on bluegrass and Americana music for the holidays. This one of a kind concert will take place at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship on Saturday, December 8 at 7:30pm.


"An Amazing Musical Genius!" Brian Wilson LIVE! at the State Theatre
In the music room in the back of our house, there’s an electric bass and amp, two acoustic guitars, a microphone and PA speakers, several pieces of music recording equipment, and a bookcase filled with books on music, not to mention a slew of assorted music memorabilia. But, perhaps, one of the most highly prized items in the room is hanging directly above the piano next to the college music diplomas.
Jazz Saxophonist Don Braden LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s a breezy day for a new installment of the Jazz On a Sunday Afternoon concert series at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts this Sunday Oct. 27, 2018 afternoon. Today’s special 3pm performance is entitled Earth, Wind and Wonder and is presented by jazz saxophonist Don Braden.
Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge LIVE! at The Strand, Lakewood
The stars are out this Saturday Oct. 26, 2018 evening in Lakewood, NJ for a “Golden Oldies” concert featuring Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge!
PODCAST: Grammy Winner Terri Lyne Carrington At TD James Moody Jazz Festival
Drummer, leader, and composer Terri Lyne Carrington made history as the first woman to win a Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz for her album “Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue.” Now, she brings her interpretation of Duke Ellington’s “Money Jungle” to the TD James Moody Jazz Festival at NJPAC on November 11, 2018, as part of a program called “Jazz Vinyl Revisited.” Producer Susan Wallner talks to Carrington about her connections to the jazz greats Clark Terry and Max Roach; her newest project, the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice; and why she thinks drummers make natural leaders.
Sha Na Na LIVE! at the Newton Theatre
The audience is streaming into the Newton Theatre auditorium in Newton, NJ this Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 for a live concert starring Sha Na Na!










Event calendar
Thursday, Nov 15, 2018


MUSIC

New Politics @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

THE REPUTATIONS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

TOTO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


THEATRE

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

ANNIE, The Musical @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 7:30pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 7:30pm

Spring Awakening: The Rock Musical @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm







DANCE

PARSONS DANCE @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm


FILM

Crybaby Matinee: March of the Penguins @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

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