Amanda Fama hails from the sandy beaches of Long Beach Island, and her latest EP, Diner Talk, is a mixture of alternative and modern country. AQ recently caught up with the talented singer-songwriter to discuss her musical background, her influences, and her uncanny ability to write songs in her sleep (true story!)
Amanda, can you tell us a little bit about where you’re from?
Sure. I grew up in New Jersey near Long Beach Island and moved to Brooklyn about four years ago. I moved back home over the summer to work on my EP, though, so that’s where I currently am until I make my next move.
Nice! So,how long have you been an active musician and how did you get started?
I’ve been an active musician for over 15 years. My dad taught me how to play guitar when I was 11- or 12-years-old, and I haven’t put it down since. He’s a musician, too, and I would hop on stage with his band at bars when I was a kid. Believe it or not, I learned on electric guitar—but once I starting nailing down chords on the acoustic, that became my go-to instrument. At that point, I began playing open mic nights at local cafes, showcases at bars, talent shows at school… you name it. My mom and I would just hop in the car, visit various venues, and give them my contact info.
That’s really awesome—and perhaps the best support you can have!
Both of my parents played huge roles in getting me to the point where I’m at today, artist-wise. I’m still playing shows whenever I can and they’re fully supportive of my musical journey. I’m grateful for that.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard you before?
I would say that it’s a little bit country and a little bit pop—kind of like a mix between Kacey Musgraves and Maren Morris. It’s got those country accents… you know, with the banjo and the pedal steel. But, it also incorporates catchy pop hooks and even some synths. To be honest, I always have a hard time describing it, but I think alt-country or new country pop would cover it.
What was your latest release of music and can you talk about that a bit?
My latest release is a six-song EP called Diner Talk, and it came out on March 14. Most of the songs on the record tell stories about experiencing heartache, moving on, and accepting change. The title track was actually inspired by a real conversation that I had a few years ago at a diner with a guy that I was seeing. We had that dreaded “this isn’t turning into a relationship” talk, which totally sucked. Still, we ate pancakes, took Polaroids, laughed, and cried. Well, I think I was the only one crying, but whatever (laughs). I remember that day like it was yesterday. It was bittersweet. I was happy to be there with him, but sad that our “thing” wasn’t going anywhere. That same in-the-moment lust mixed with the sad reality of what was happening is what I experienced throughout the writing process of this EP. That’s one of the reasons why I called it Diner Talk.
The whole EP isn’t sad, though. There’s actually a really funny, sarcastic song on the record called “Honey,” and it isn’t related to love at all. It’s actually about someone needing to step off of their high horse, and I think it’s catchy as fuck! It was even the first song off of the EP to be featured on the radio, which I’m giddy about. There’s also a song called “Change,” and it was inspired by the emotions that I felt while I was deciding whether or not I should move out of New York City to work on my music career. We actually used a sound bite from the “L” train on that one to really give you that “Brooklyn” feel. I lived off of the L during the writing process, so it complimented how I was feeling perfectly.
Cool…. Did you write everything on Diner Talk on your own?
I actually co-wrote half of the record with Adam Ollendorff, a producer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist in Nashville who has worked with Carrie Underwood, John Oates, J.D. McPherson, and Kacey Musgraves. The story behind us working together is actually a really cool one. I originally met him when he was in Kacey Musgrave’s band a few years ago. They were playing near my hometown, so my mom and I went together. When they were done playing, I hung out by the tour bus with hopes of meeting them—and that’s when I met Adam. I ended up introducing myself and giving him my music information with hopes that he’d listen to my songs. Believe it or not, he did, and we eventually ended up co-writing and recording two records together—Disaster in Blue and now Diner Talk. Since he was in Nashville and I was in Brooklyn, we wrote a majority of the songs over FaceTime. It was a really awesome experience.
Wow, that’s an interesting way to collaborate. What is your writing and recording process typically like?
Whenever I sit down to write a song, I usually pick up my guitar and start playing a chord progression that reflects my mood. After that, I start singing a melody over the instrumentation. Luckily, the melodies usually just come to me, so that’s always been the most natural part of the songwriting process. After the melody is there, I add the lyrics. I’ve always loved writing—whether it’s stories or songs—so coming up with lyrics is always really therapeutic. So, I’d say that my songwriting process is music, melody, then lyrics. But, it’s different whenever I’m co-writing with someone, because that’s more of a collaborative process. Like, I might have a verse written walking into a session and have a full song by time I’m walking out of it. You never know how it’s going to go and what other writers are going to bring to the table.
I’ve actually written songs in my sleep before. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true. Sometimes, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night humming a melody, so I’ll grab my phone and hum the tune into my recorder before falling back asleep. I’ve incorporated one of those melodies into a song before, and it’s cool to think that I literally dreamt it. I have a few more on my phone and I think it’d be fun to write and record a “sleep” EP in the future that features those dream melodies.
As for recording, when I was growing up, my dad had a studio in our garage and we’d record all of my music in there. I learned a lot from that process, like how to track a guitar, sync up to a click track, record vocals, you know… that kind of stuff. But, we actually recorded Diner Talk at Drum Farm Studio in Menomonie, Wisconsin. It’s owned by John Richardson, a pro drummer who’s played with the Gin Blossoms, Will Hoge, Badfinger, Tommy Keene, and more. He played drums on my records, too! His studio is literally located on a farm in the Wisconsin countryside, and it’s so peaceful.
That sounds like and awesome environment to record in.
Going out there and recording is almost like taking a vacation, and I can’t wait for the next trip.
So, who are some of your influences as a musician?
I feel like I have so many musical influences. When I was a kid, my mom would play Jewel around the house, and I feel like her music inspired me on a subconscious level. Like, I wasn’t writing music yet—but when I started to, and I was inspired by her. “You Were Meant For Me” is still one of my favorite songs, by far. When I got a little bit older and started playing guitar, I looked up to artists like Taylor Swift and Avril Lavigne, but at the same time, my dad was constantly playing The Beatles, so I became inspired by them, too. Today, I really look up to singer-songwriters in the country and pop scenes, such as Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris, Natalie Hemby, Ruston Kelly, and Lennon Stella. I feel a strong connection with their work and can’t get enough of their music. I think they’re top-notch storytellers and lyrical geniuses.
Do you have a favorite memory as a musician?
Oh man, I feel like I have so many! A recent favorite of mine is definitely my record release show for Diner Talk in Manhattan. We actually ended up selling out the show, which was something I’ve never done in New York City before. Seeing everyone there and showing support for my EP truly meant the world to me, and I still tear up thinking about. Another special part of that night was that I played my set with my dad. He played lead guitar while I played my acoustic and sang, just like we used to do. We’re gonna continue playing more shows together in the future, which I’m really excited about. But, yeah, I think just seeing my friends and fans at that release show was my favorite recent memory as a musician. I loved performing my new songs for them and can’t wait to do it again.
Be sure to catch Amanda Fama at Ship Bottom Brewery in Beach Haven on April 20. You can also learn more about Amanda via her website, amandafama.com, or by following her on Instagram (@amanda.fama)