Convo with Amanda Holley
Updated: Sep 11
In the vast world of music, there are some artists who possess a voice so extraordinary that it resonates deep within the souls of listeners.
Amanda Holley, a talented singer, songwriter, and musician hailing from Newark, is one such artist. With her soulful five-octave voice, Amanda takes her audience on a sweet and powerful ride through her infectious melodies and emotional lyrics.
Amanda Holley's journey from challenging circumstances to becoming a rising star is a testament to her resilience and unwavering passion for music.
Her ability to captivate audiences with her enchanting voice and heartfelt performances has made her a sought-after artist in the industry.
Currently, Amanda is focused on recording her EP, "The HolleyGraphic," which promises to be a remarkable showcase of her talent.
Collaborating with Grammy and Oscar-winning producers, Billboard Charting artists, and up-and-coming talents, Amanda is leaving no stone unturned in creating a highly anticipated project that will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact on the music industry.
With her sultry powerhouse delivery and signature ad-libs, Amanda's EP will be a testament to her unwavering commitment to her listeners and her love for music.
In her latest release, "Ride or Die" [Shotgun], Amanda showcases her remarkable vocal range, displaying a seamless transition from one gear to another.
Let's delve deeper into the world of Amanda Holley, where passion, talent, and unwavering love collide in the interview below.
1- Can you tell us a bit about your musical background and how you got started as a singer, songwriter, and actress?
Music is who I am and the reason I’m on this planet is to be a vessel for music and be for others what music has been for me. The stage has always been my home and my freest, safest place in the world. I’ve survived on music since day one physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and financially. Music saved my life and has enabled me to overcome extreme challenges, trauma, poverty, and abuse from birth up until now.
My dad’s family, the HOLLEY family has a deep history both as a freed slave family in America and as artists and musicians. I only met my dad a few times since I was born and he is no longer with us, but he wrote songs for the legend Sarah Vaughan, his sister (my aunt Pat Holley) went to Juilliard and discovered, trained, wrote for, and co-managed Stephanie Mills, dad’s brothers were in a doo-wop group on Warner Bros back in the day, and my mom went to the prestigious Manhattan School Of Music and played in orchestras and symphonies.
Though both of my parents were troubled, they gave me the gift of music from the time I was an infant. Music has always been our constant.
My family tells me that I sang before I could speak, I picked up my first violin at age 2.5, and later the piano to start arranging chord structures around melodies I heard from the time I was 3. I described these melodies and arrangements as “angel voices”. Mom and I didn’t have money for a babysitter when she worked in the theaters and symphonies, so I sat with her in orchestra pits when she rehearsed and performed.
Ultimately, theater directors and musicians and my teachers noticed that I was a little 5-year-old girl with a big voice. I started performing for large crowds of people hundreds and eventually thousands from small-town shows to churches, state theaters, and NYC theater - acting was second nature and one of my favorite art forms!
2- Your new single "Ride or Die" is a powerful and emotional song about love and standing by someone through thick and thin. What inspired you to write this song, and what message do you hope listeners take away from it?
When me and my producer and co-writers OhKayLaws (KOREY LAWS), Alisha Harris, and renowned Chico Bennett decided to move forward with “RIDE OR DIE”, I poured everything I had into it both as a co-writer on the song, vocal arranger, and performer. I couldn’t help but let the song take over and be the vessel for the music because it struck such a nerve in my soul.
By the middle of the writing/recording session, I had to fight back the tears . . . then ultimately this feeling of bliss took over. Even if I haven’t had it yet, true Love is out there. I can feel it.
Like so many others in this chaotic world, growing up the way I did was filled with abuse and pain and fear and I never had a real example of love let alone true “RIDE OR DIE” love . . . but I’m a believer despite it all. I won’t let the my past or the darkness of this world change who I am. At the same time, this kind of love starts with loving oneself enough to let go of toxic relationships so “THE ONE” can come into the picture and you can let love in and be all in for and with that person who does the same for you.
3- You've worked with a variety of producers and songwriters on your upcoming EP. What was the collaboration process like, and how did you go about selecting the people you wanted to work with?
I’m so thankful to get to collaborate with amazing producers and co-writers from up and comers to multi-platinum, Billboard Charting Grammy winners! I feel like the people I’m meant to work with and the songs I’m meant to sing always just find me somehow! Every time it really is kismet - like something out of a movie - and each song truly has its own individual origin story!
4- You've played at several high-profile events and venues, including Coachella and Carnegie Hall. Can you share a favorite memory or experience from one of these performances?
There have been so many incredible moments on my journey so far - moments I dreamt of as a little girl back in Newark never knowing how or if they would come true! I’d have to say that so far, playing and singing my original song at CARNEGIE HALL under the musical direction of Myron McKinley (musical director for Earth, Wind, and Fire) was probably one of the most surreal so far! I had a Steinway piano in my dressing room and took the stage at a venue I’d dreamt of playing ever since I was three. I’m the first in my family to play Carnegie Hall. It was a breakthrough moment. Special thanks to producer Michel Pascal.
5- In addition to music, you're also an actress and have appeared in Off-Broadway shows. How does your experience in theater influence your music, and vice versa?
Playing Off-Broadway growing up throughout my childhood and teen years really gave me a sense of discipline when it comes to the live show!
Year in and year out, 8 shows a week, I invested all that I am in order to feel every song, every line like it’s the first time, and live the emotion to the maximum degree! Live performance with an audience is like jumping off a cliff and trusting the wind to carry you!
I take all of these lessons with me even when I’m on set for tv and film and when I’m on tour A whether the audience is a few hundred or thousands or just a camera lends - the same rules apply.
I learned to trust the music and the scenes and characters in order give the audience everything I am so we can all live a moment together and through that moment I find freedom! It’s a symbiotic relationship between the artist and the audience in all cases.
All that we are exists in that moment for the story to come to life and bring the audience on a journey!
6- You've been publishing your writing since you were a teenager and your music has been featured in motion picture soundtracks. How does your creative process differ between writing poetry and writing songs for your EP?
This is such an amazing question and not many people ever ask me about this! The first time I was published by Columbia Press for poetry and prose as a teen I didn’t even submit myself because I didn’t think my writing was strong enough. My amazing teachers are the ones who submitted me and got me published and I’m so thankful they did!
I really have to turn on different switches when it comes to writing and composing songs vs poetry and prose. They are two such beautiful art forms that share so many similarities whilst taking different paths to get to the same destination - that destination being a place where the audience is sucked into the story, the feeling, and the moment and - in turn - it causes a shift within the listener/reader!
For me, they are both vital outlets of expression, and every piece I write changes me at my very core. I’m always a little stronger, freer, or more in tune with myself and the creator by the time I reach the last words of the piece I’m writing!
Finally, on a more technical level, with poetry and prose, we dig into the detail, going small to go big, whereas with song lyrics it all depends on the genre and feeling and message of the music. It’s a delicate balance and I have so much reverence and love for the sanctity of writing in both mediums!
7- What challenges have you faced in your career as a musician, and how have you overcome them?
In truth, navigating the industry from my young teens until now has been extreme on every level as a female, a black bi-racial female, and a purist when it comes to my art and purpose.
So many times I nearly gave up or gave in - especially coming from a challenging childhood - I just wanted my music to take me someplace happy and safe.
I was disillusioned to encounter so much darkness in the business - but after crying it out, I always decide to keep pushing through - so that one day I can be a part of the movement to make this industry a safe place for artists and those who are coming up like I did so we as can achieve the ultimate goal which is to be there for those who need our music the most in this world!
There have been so many horrors and miracles along the way and no matter what, the music keeps me going and pushing through it all, and somehow I know I’m strong enough to get where I’m meant to be and be in service to others.
8- Can you give us a sneak peek into what listeners can expect from "The HolleyGraphic" EP?
I really have so much to say about “The HolleyGraphic EP” & am so excited to finally share this first collection of original songs with each of you and as many of you as I possibly can! For now, all I will say is that this EP begins the way I did - in the streets.
9- You describe your voice as having a range of five octaves. How do you go about training and maintaining your vocal abilities?
As a child, I didn’t know I had a “wide vocal range” . . . I just couldn’t hold myself back when singing along to Whitney, Aretha, Ella, Billie, Aaliyah, Brandy, and Mariah among so many other great legacy vocalists . . . I was a little girl with a big voice who loved soul, R&B, and jazz - I relied on this music on so many levels. By the time I was 8 years old, I sounded like I was 20. I wanted to be able to sing every note I felt. At that time, I finally met my Aunt (Pat Holley) and found out that she was a singer too, and a songwriter who went to Juilliard and wrote for and trained some of the best R&B singers in the world.
She explained to me that my range was a lot to handle on my own and wanted me to know how to take care of my voice so it could last me a lifetime. She started integrating me with Juilliard prep teachers and took me under her wing. I’m forever grateful to her.
Eventually, I was surrounded by Oscar and Grammy-winning vocal producers and that’s when my understanding grew even more. I grow more and more each day as a singer and pray it never stops. I want to sing to the world for the next 300 years at minimum and good vocal health is a must!
10- What advice would you give to other aspiring musicians who are just starting their careers?
I would say if you can’t stop making music, don’t stop! Live like there is no plan B. Believe in your purpose and your voice and don’t let the temptation to give up or give in take you off your path.
Stay true to your individual sound because no one knows what gift you have to share more than the creator does or more than you do!
Lastly, if you want music to be your job - act like it already is!