If you listen to country radio nowadays, storytelling isn’t nearly as prominent as it once was, which makes discovering an artist like California’s Amanda Kate so exciting.
With her debut album Time, released in November of last year, Kate gave us a breath of fresh, yet familiar air with the stories her and her mother, who was an excellent songwriter in her own right, had created. With each layered in steel and fiddle and matched with Kate’s powerful delivery, each song on Time is a journey that not only pays tribute to her mother, but also tell her own personal story.
Hoping to start 2020 off as strong as she ended 2019, Kate released a cover of George Strait’s “Someone Had to Teach You” as March came to a close. Though the song has been recorded by heavy hitters like The Time Jumpers and Wade Hayes, Kate’s version brings something new to the table. The song comes booming out of the speakers and provides a fresh new chapter for the classic song.
Read along as Amanda talks about catching the music bug, what she hopes listeners take away from Time, how she defines success, her new single, her plans for new music this year and more!
Pro Country: Who are some of your biggest musical influences that have shaped your sound?
Amanda Kate: My mother was a singer/songwriter/musician, and she loved the Judds, so I’ve been listening to Wynonna since I was two years-old. I wish that I could say that I grew up listening to Asleep at the Wheel and all of the greats, but really within the last six years, I’ve come to really have this overwhelming obsession with that traditional country sound. My manager has introduced me to so many new musicians and vocalists that I never really grew up listening to, but now I have such an appreciation for them. Anything that’s dripping with fiddle and steel, I’m all in!
PC: You mentioned that your mom was a well-established musician in her own right. When did you start to get the bug to pursue a career in music?
AK: My mom wrote a lot of my music when I was young, so I didn’t start writing songs until I was about 17. For songwriters, that’s actually a little late, because there’s a lot of songwriters that will say they wrote their first song at six years old [laughs]. I tell people that I write songs, but I wouldn’t consider myself “a songwriter” like my mom or writers like Lori McKenna or Bob Wills; those are songwriters to me. As songs come to me, I love to be able to express myself creatively. Over the years, my songwriting just evolved, and it was incredible to have my mom be such a huge influence and be able to help mentor me in that way.
PC: What emotions were you feeling as you were preparing to release music for the first time with your debut single “The Package”?
AK: I wrote that song 10 years ago with my mom, and I never really had any plans to release it. It was one of the first songs I wrote with her in that way. I was living in Nashville at the time and she was living out here in California. When we were starting to record my album Time, I played an old YouTube video I had posted several years ago for my manager and asked him what he thought about it, and he said that I had to record it! It was me and my mom’s story, but now it’s become my story with me and my little girl. My mom wrote this poem telling her little girl to never give up on her dreams, and now that I have a little girl, I’m able to sing that to her. The song has come full circle, and I knew we had to figure out a way to record it.
PC: The music video for your debut album Time’s single, “Gypsy,” was released in February. Why did you decide to film a video for that song?
AK: “Gypsy” is probably the most “commercial” song on the album. Although the traditional country sound is where my heart is, I knew I had to have my first single and video be something that’s a little more “listener friendly” where I could reach a larger audience. That was another song that I wrote with my mom and a friend of mine, Chris Carothers. It was the most fun, upbeat song on the album. I knew it would make for a really fun video, and that’s what we wanted; we wanted a lot of energy, and to be really positive. A lot of the songs on the album are a lot more emotional, and I didn’t really want to release a super emotional video right out of the gate. I wanted it to be something a little more fun.
PC: “Without You Here” is one of those emotional songs, and is the only song you wrote by yourself on Time. Can you talk about the inspiration behind that song?
AK: My mom’s best friend’s husband passed away in a really tragic accident almost two years ago, and she was just going through a lot. Being as close as we are to her, she was talking a lot about her emotions and how she was feeling about losing someone so close to her. We live in the same neighborhood, and we were all together one day, and she was just crying. I went home after sitting with her, and the emotion and sadness she was feeling was weighing so heavy on my heart, and that song came out within 10 minutes.
PC: Your bio talks about how important the importance of Time and how the project initially came to be. Why did you decide to have the song “Time” wrap up the album and have it serve as the title track?
AK: My mom wrote that song a long time ago. I was about six or seven when she wrote it, so I grew up listening to her play it. That song was always one that hit home with her, because it was so much of her story about wanting to be able to reach out to people and always remembering to love at the end of the day. That’s her testimony. Being that the album was a time capsule of all the songs that I had written with my mom and songs that she had written on her own, and just really being a tribute to her, I thought that it was best to end the album with an acoustic song that meant a lot to me because of the memories I have of my mom singing it. Beyond that, it’s the message I really want to stand for, because my faith is so important to me. We just have to love one another; that’s what we’re called to do.
PC: You had several musicians on Time that have played on some of country music’s biggest songs, including Brent Mason, Buddy Hyatt and Larry Franklin. What was it like to record with musicians of that caliber?
AK: They are so incredible! It’s totally a God thing, I don’t know how I got so lucky to be able to work with them other than the fact that God had a plan and knew what was going to happen. I went into the session that day, and they recorded the entire album in one day, which was incredible! That’s what they do, that’s why they are who they are. They were all so kind, and the fact that a lot of them knew my story with my mom and knew a lot about where I was coming from, it really helps them completely dive into the album and into the songs and the stories, and helped the music in such a beautiful way.
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from listening to Time all the way through?
AK: I hope that people can hear the fact that I genuinely want to be able to tell stories with my music. I want to be able to always have the conviction in my voice and in my vocal presence to tell a story. I hope that people can hear that I love country music and that’s where my heart is, and at the end of the day, you just have to tell stories that are your truths. You have to put out songs you believe in, and not be afraid to be different. In this day and age, I think people get so caught up in making sure to put out music that is going to get attention, but at the end of the day, my mom always said it had to be about one soul at a time. If I can put out music and one person likes it or is touched by it, that’s enough for me. That’s what I hope people walk away with.
PC: Your website talks about once having dreams of fame and being known worldwide, but that you are now understanding the power of music and touching individual people. What brought about that change in mindset for you, and how has it helped you?
AK: I think it was just maturity. I started singing professionally when I was 16, and when you’re young, the dream is to be famous. That’s how you measure success. As I’ve gotten older, I realized the importance of what it means to be an artist, and that doesn’t necessarily mean fame. For me, the fact that I’m able to show my little girl that I’m going after a dream and doing what I love every day, that is success. I want to show her that it’s not about how many people know who you are or how much money you have, it’s about doing what you love, and if you’re doing that, then you did make it.
PC: You released a cover of George Strait’s “Someone Had to Teach You” a little over a week ago. What went into the decision to record and release your version of that song?
AK: I was with my manager playing in Vegas, and when we were driving, we were talking about how I was already working on my next album. The original plan was to release a single in May, but because we’re not able to travel, that kind of threw things off with recording. I was supposed to be in the studio this week actually, so since that’s been delayed, I thought that doing a surprise single release that was a cover would be fun. My manager had told me about a song that The Time Jumpers had released, Harlan Howard had written and George Strait recorded in the 90s that he thought I would do a really great job on. When you he said George Strait, I said pretty quickly that I didn’t want to do it [laughs]. I didn’t want to cover King George. When you cover the greats, it’s tricky because there’s a lot of people that are diehard fans, so you should never touch that. When I heard what The Time Jumpers and Dawn Sears did with it, it made me realize that we could do it. It’s a blend of the old school with a fresh sound as well. When the musicians cut the song, I wasn’t even in Nashville. Buddy Hyatt messaged me the track and said he thought I was going to be really happy with it, and they nailed it! I put the vocal on it, and we put it out!
PC: “Someone Had to Teach You” has already surpassed 1,900 streams in a little over a week since its release. Is there a level of validation that comes with having that success so early on?
AK: Definitely! To me, the fact that people are listening to my music is incredible. The numbers definitely help because I want to play bigger shows and go on tour, and to do that, you have to have the numbers to back up why people would let you play their venue. Being able to see the numbers grow and see more people listening to my music and finding me warms my heart and gives me a lot of hope that I can continue doing this!
PC: 2020 has thrown the plans of many out the window. Of the things you can control, what are your plans for 2020?
AK: I’ve got a handful of songs that we’re listening through and trying to figure out which ones we definitely want to cut. I want to continue writing new music while I’m home, and just really doing a lot of reflecting and soul seeking. I want to figure out what I want to say on this next record. I’ve made it a point that I want it to be more upbeat and fun; more songs than I can perform live. When I play a show, I can’t play 90 minutes of ballads, I have to be able to play songs that are upbeat and our crowd-pleasers. I’m listening through the songs and figuring out what I want to say, and trying to decide if it’s something that will go over well live. Although the songs on Time are my story, there’s only certain settings that I can play a lot of those songs live, so that’s definitely a focus.
Another thing is just spending time with my family. I’m definitely a workaholic in a sense that I love to be busy, and it’s been tough for me having to realize that just because I’m not playing every weekend, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I can’t be working on things. It’s okay that I’m going to spend time with my family and write songs and ride your horses and clean the house. My husband will say that we should do some spring cleaning, and that’s the last thing I want to do, so I say we should ride horses instead [laughs].
PC: Is there anything you’d like to add?
AK: Anybody reading this, I’d love for you to find me online! I manage all of my own social channels, and I love when I get messages from people! As we start growing the fan base and traveling, when I’m coming to the city where I know some fans are, I’d love to be able to message them and personally invite them out to shows. I love connecting with people, so send me a message!
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*All images courtesy of Amanda Kate and Amanda Kate Facebook Page*