For Your Ears Only: Amanda Zelina

A charming soul on and off the stage, Amanda Zelina is rare talent that’s as bold as her voice, personality and sound. Having performed a set at The Central that could make knees weak and blues lovers howl, the Canadian songstress talked to us about her influences and being attached to music.

© Jeff Parsons

When did you first get involved in music?

I was a late bloomer. I think around the age of 16 realistically. I only started seriously writing songs at 17 and picked up the guitar at 18. Mind you music was always in my life, so I suppose in a way I was actively involved as a child growing up around the turn table, banging pans, dancing and most of all listening. I think that the listening part, the years of just sitting and listening, helped more than any training.
What did your parents listen to while you were growing up?

Well my Dad would always be playing ZZ Top, Elvis Presley, BB King, Ray Charles and Muddy Waters. Good ol’ rock n’ roll, soul and blues. Every other summer I went to visit my grandmother in Newfoundland and she would play all the old country records like Johnny Cash and The Carters.
Which artists influence you the most?

The really old ones! The old blues guys like Lightnin’ Hopkins, Howlin Wolf, Sleepy John Estes, John Lee Hooker and Junior Kimbrough. The ones whose voices rip through you and whose playing is exciting. They lived through things I will never experience in this lifetime and it paints a different shade of truth to their songs. To go through something so devastating and re-create those experiences into a song that makes you stomp your foot and celebrate life, that is something rare and incredible.
Otis Redding or Jack White?

That’s like asking: sex or chocolate?. I love them both. Depending on the mood, both are equally satisfying and both let off the same endorphins but in a very different way.

How would you describe your music?

Truthful. Raw. Real.
Your talent has attracted critics and a handful of musicians such as Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins. What was it like being personally requested by him to perform at his 40th birthday party?

It was flattering. It’s one of those moments you are in and really feel like whatever you are doing has brought you to a certain place. That’s comforting.
Unlike most artists you’re also intimately attached to music and everything about it. Can you explain more on why you recently decided to sleep in the studio where you are recording new material?

Exhaustion? Well, I feel like there is something magical about really submersing yourself in the creative environment that you are building. Sleeping in the old church (Catherine North Studios) is special. There is just this peaceful and nurturing energy all around the place. So you spend all day and night working away catapulting your creative energy out into the open space. Then when it’s time for bed, I’ll be laying there on the couch and all of a sudden the piano in the corner of the room is still not finished; so I’ll walk over, sit down at it and it gives me a song.

It’s an abstract thought, but the residue of creative energy buzzing off of all of us during the day gets released at night when no one is there and it’s calm. In those moments there is something very amazing that happens. Because of exhaustion, my mind doesn’t have the time to judge a creative thought so when I’m laying there and I get an urge to go to an instrument, I trust it. In less than five minutes, I have a new song. It’s sort of like stream of consciousness writing.
Music is known to assist individuals, whether its by helping them ignore the outside world or providing them with inspiration to dream and achieve. Would you say music is more of a cure or a drug?

Depends on how you use it. It’s all relative. I think any real musician has worked it both ways.
How does the new material sound?

The new material is loud, confident, raw and just unapologetic blues-rock. It deals with themes that are more mature than my last record. I am planning on releasing it June 1st.

Why did you choose to start the project The Coppertone?

I kept having a re-occurring dream of a big black bull killing me and then it came to me looking through the eyes of the bull. After about the tenth night, I woke up and understood what it meant. It was a for-shadowing of a death and a rebirth. I have always wanted to write a record like this one but was always intimidated and afraid. I finally trusted my gut and became that bull in a sense and wound up confident! It was a huge step for me.

When I wrote Love Me Till I’m Me Again, I was going through a lot of depression and figuring my life out as I was trying to get back on my feet. This time, I was just ready to really be who I am to the fullest extent, no apologies. It’s liberating to wake up in the morning, grab a guitar and just have fun without worry of judgment. This is the direction I have wanted to trust forever and never have.
What’s been your favourite show that you’ve played and why?

I use to play an open mic night for two years in a row every Tuesday at a hostel in Hollywood, California. Every night there was so memorable. I met so many beautiful people through those nights and we all became a family of sort, nurturing each other’s songwriting. It was very non-Hollywood like, it was a place of love, growth and of learning.
Favourite place in Toronto to hang out at?

I rarely hang out in Toronto all day as I prefer to live in the country but I don’t mind going to Sonic Boom to pick up some great vinyl or visiting The Dakota Tavern and listening to amazing music all night.
What does music mean to you?


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