Growing up in Orlando, Florida. Over the years, visiting Disney World (Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure) with your brother, you both have memorized ride dialogue. If you were to oversee a complete makeover of your favorite attraction, which would you choose and why?
One of my favorite rides at Islands of Adventure is Jurassic Park River Adventure. It’s one of the older rides at the park so I think it deserves a fresh new look especially now that the animatronics have become more life-like! I am also just a big fan of the Jurassic Park movies, and it would make sense to update the ride with the new Jurassic World movies coming out!
Playing piano since you were 6-years-old. One of your biggest inspirations was instructor Ron Feldman, who encouraged you to try out for an 8th grade talent show, after you’d left the same audition a year earlier crying from nerves. Sadly, he passed in 2014 from cancer, but he left his mark on your life — pushing you outside of your comfort zone and encouraging you to never stop chasing your dreams. You now have a 501c3, Manda’s Musical Hope, that raises money and awareness for cancer research through musical performances. If you were to play a song in Feldman’s honor, that would show him your dreams are bigger than ever, what would it be?
I think I would play my single “Girl In The Mirror” because I wrote it by myself and I think it showcases how far I’ve come as a songwriter since taking lessons from Ron. The song is also really important to me because it came from a vulnerable place. I have always struggled with self-doubt and insecurity and Ron was someone who really helped me believe in myself and my music. I would like to think he would be proud of how far I’ve come-from the girl barely able to try out for her middle school talent show to performing shows all around Nashville. I don’t think I would be where I am today without him.
Singing in church. Writing songs for fun in 5th grade. Self-taught on guitar (in middle school), until you found a teacher at age 14. Named as one of Nashville Songwriters Association International “One to Watch” in 2013. You shared that you’re inspired by all types of music, from 50s to current radio hits. What are some of your all-time favorite songs to cover?
“Denials underrated, you should try sometime. It’s always effective and it’s only denial if you’re wrong.” — John B (Outer Banks) Along with co-writers Michael August, Austin Nivarel, and Steve Lester, your latest, “In Denial,” tells what it is like during the period after a breakup, from a place called ‘Denial’ — which is your own kind of paradise where the breakup never happened. How did you decide to use a 50s melody for the song?
I didn’t really plan on creating a 50’s style groove for “In Denial.” It just happened naturally! But, I am really inspired by artists from the 50’s like Dion and The Belmonts, Bobby Vinton, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and so many others!
Self-described “textbook nerd.” A Belmont University graduate, you earned a Business Administration degree in 2 years, then returned for a Bachelor’s in Songwriting. Adding a Master’s in Public Relations through the University of Florida. How hard is it to take what you learn from the textbooks to make practical applications in the music industry?
Everything I studied at Belmont University and the University of Florida has helped me navigate the music industry. I learned how to market myself as an artist as well as how to treat my music career like it’s a business. While at Belmont, I was also fortunate to take music business courses that helped and continue to help guide decisions I make every day. I am blessed to have the knowledge I have and am grateful for all of the experiences I had at both schools.
“I knew exactly what to do. But in a much more real sense, I had no idea what to do,” one of your favorite quotes from The Office. You shared, “Anyone else feel like they are going to be super socially awkward once life is back to normal again?” Where is your dream, post-covid, travel destination? And will you take your dog Boo?
My dream, post-covid travel destination is Italy. I have been there before, but I would love to go again! Not only is the food amazing, but there are so many places that I have yet to see. I also have family that live there that I miss. If I could take Boo, I would, but it might be too long of a flight for her to handle!