Amanda McCarthy’s “Don’t Stop Me”
“… my message of walking away from something that is no longer serving a positive purpose in your life. And if anyone makes a life choice, big or small, based on my song, then that song did its job.”
Amanda McCarthy is a storyteller compelled to speak the truth. Based in Nashville since 2020, with a 10+ year start to her career in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, she is an award-winning songwriter, entertainer and recording artist. Blending many influences, her original music is the infusion of pop, country, modern folk and rock — sprinkled with millennial snark and the heart of an old soul.
If you were to plan your dream home tour on the East Coast, which venues would you want to perform at and who would be on tour with you?
If I was at a point in my career where I could play any venue I wanted… I would play at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford, NH as the headliner on the main stage. And for Boston major venues, I’d love to play both the House of Blues and Gillette Stadium. Honestly, any openers would most likely be friends of mine. If it were my dream home tour, and I had the huge fan base to make that happen, I’d want to put some of my super talented friends in the spotlight with me.
Road Trip, your highly acclaimed debut full-length album. Which song from the album would you say best represented you as an artist at that point in your career?
There are two.
One would be “Elephant in the Room” — if a local artist could be a one-hit wonder, that was mine for a while, haha. It was the first song I wrote that not only made me feel like a songwriter, but the first song where people started to really take notice of me. I had previously released an acoustic version, but the full-band vision had been a long time coming.
The other one would be “San Diego” — while I write music of all genres, I feel like the way that song came out really spoke to me and reminded me who I am as an artist at my core.
April Cushman’s “The Long Haul.” “How fitting and full circle that the first song I ever wrote in Nashville (before I moved here) is my first cut as a Nashville songwriter.” Can you share what inspired the lyrics?
I wrote this song with Krystal Polychronis, Kristian Veech and Tom Shubsda on my first trip to Nashville. Krystal had already moved here, while Tom, Kristian and myself were visiting. We were discussing how a lot of people really soak up being the “hometown hero” and shining at home, and being afraid to shoot for bigger goals where they may no longer be the top dog. And that’s kind of what inspired “The Long Haul” for us, and for me personally, I didn’t feel like the hometown hero so I had no problem choosing to be a small fish in a bigger pond. I pitched the song to April because I know she’s a go-getter with the same drive and mindset that I have, and I know she is trying to move to Nashville as soon as she possibly can.
“Unanswered Prayers,” Garth Brooks’ cover. “This song has been a part of my life since I was a child but has come to mean a lot to me as I’ve gotten older. It really solidifies for me time after time that things always happen for a reason and that there is always a greater plan.” What other songs would you add if you were asked to put together a playlist of healing music?
Some of these relate more to me personally rather than the overall general concept of “healing,” but my playlist would consist of: “Waiting for the End” by Linkin Park, “Wake Me Up When September Ends” by Green Day, “Clean” by Taylor Swift, “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera, “Warrior” by Demi Lovato, and my own original song, “A Bridge Better Burned.”
International Women’s Day. Inspiration. Connecting emotionally with fans. Dealing with music venues that ‘prefer male bands’ as you look for bookings. How can the music industry best eliminate sexism?
I appreciate this question, but so badly wish I didn’t have to tell people how to not be sexist! I’ve never judged a song or the quality of music based on the gender of who is singing it. I encourage people to give everyone a fair chance, always. To connect with music via lyrics and voice quality, rather than the appearance of who is performing. I try to practice this as well when I host writers rounds in Nashville: some shows will be an all-women spotlight, but other than that I try really hard to make sure my line-ups are almost equal in regards to gender. I encourage all artists to cover songs regardless of the gender of the original artist. A lot of Broadway bands in Nashville have “guy songs” or “girl songs” — but some of my favorite artists to cover include Luke Combs, Brooks and Dunn, Aerosmith and Tom Petty. My friend Kristian Veech (male) does some really great renditions of songs by Taylor Swift, Kelsea Ballerini and The Chicks. Any step we can take to break down gender barriers helps everyone in the long run.
Residency at Big Shotz off Broadway with your full band, playing country, classic rock, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s hits, 2000’s and on Top 40 covers (full list). Speaking of playlists, you have a very wide-ranging list of songs you cover. What tips would you give to a new artist planning to add covers to their gigs?
When I first started building my cover repertoire, I didn’t want to think about singing songs I didn’t like. So instead I picked popular artists, and picked my favorite songs by those artists. So while I was studying material that would be familiar to a bigger audience, I was still choosing songs that were genuinely enjoyable for me. For new artists trying to get into cover gigs: think of the first artists that come to mind in the genres of oldies, classic rock, 90’s, country (old and new), and 2000’s to current Top 40 hits. Pick five artists from each time period, and learn a song by that artist. You now have a full night of music ready to go, and you can continue to learn new songs on your own time or through requests.
Writer’s Rounds like Nash Writers Collective and the Music Industry Mastery Presents. “Music has never been about being famous to me — at the core, it has always been about making people’s lives better. … I may or may not ever get a record deal or publishing deal, but I’ll always be able to know that one way or another, I’m following my mission.” How do these rounds inspire you as a songwriter?
Writer’s Rounds remind me how truly blessed I am to be around people who understand songwriting at their core in the same way that I do. Nashville has a home for every genre, and many rounds mix up their genres, which I prefer. I almost always leave a round with a new idea for a song bouncing around in my head. Plus, it’s a great way to connect with other songwriters and potential co-writers in an organic and natural way.
Social media. Algorithms. Playlists. YEP Nashville’s Most Active Member Award. “I only wrote six songs in January. And they were all co-writes, which I LOVE, but not finishing a single solo write just isn’t like me. This is an all-time LOW for me. I’m used to writing 15–20 minimum. While I had my reasons for backing off, “it’s hard to give myself grace” when I’m not meeting my own standards for myself. (If you know you know)However… we all know when a song is a dud and when we write something good. And this month brought me a 100% success rate of me truly believing in the potential of every song written. Even if it’s only six, that’s six more strong songs I have under my belt now. Last time I had a 100% rate like that? I don’t know if I ever have. I have always measured the success of my life in numbers, since long before social media or a music career were relevant. But as I get older, I’m slowly learning to be at peace with the classic sentiment of ‘quality over quantity’.” Does social media and/or fans influence the music you create?
I would be lying if I said that I don’t think about it. While I consider myself a multi-genre artist, I definitely worry sometimes about straying too far outside of my little mixed-genre bubble in one direction. I am encouraging myself to break those barriers within myself, and one of my upcoming singles called “Green” will do just that. It is also really easy as a modern songwriter to find yourself comparing the amount of followers and plays you have to your peers around you, or to figure out what you need to break into the next level above you. But while I experience these insecurities (along with MANY artists, even if they don’t talk about it), I ultimately strive to continue to pursue my most authentic path no matter what.
“Don’t Stop Me,” Nashville-debut single, is upbeat and empowering and focuses on finding the courage to walk away from something that is no longer serving a positive purpose in your life. “I never expected to be the one cutting this song. I wrote this on a cold New England day with @tyopenshaw about stuff in his own life. When his music went in a different direction, I toyed with the idea of pitching it to a few other artists. But something in this song clicked in me. I had just moved to Nashville and was playing this song at rounds. Not only did I see it connecting with people… but I felt it connecting with me. If you’ve had at least one conversation with me, you probably know I’m not a huge fan of my hometown for a lifetime laundry list of personal reasons. And as I found myself singing this song in Nashville, Tennessee… all I could think was “I did it. I walked away.” And the load that took off my shoulders was astounding.” Can you share how the song has impacted others, along the lines of how Garth’s “Unanswered Prayers” impacted yours?
I don’t know if the song has been out long enough for me to truly assess how it has impacted people, but from what I have been told, people have really appreciated my message of walking away from something that is no longer serving a positive purpose in your life. And if anyone makes a life choice, big or small, based on my song, then that song did its job.
Tom, the best drummer/fiancé/therapist/personal assistant, … “HEALING. ISN’T. LINEAR. it’s all over the place and it sucks and it’s a mess, but it’s worth it every step of the way. You can’t pour from an empty cup, but I’m looking forward to finally having a full cup again.”#crosscountryroadtrip #roadtripusa #mtrushmore #devilstower #fallstuff #pumpkinpatch #openroads #greatplains #badlands How do getaways with Tom and your daughter to different states help you through the process?
Traveling gives me the opportunity to share my music with people all over the country, and hopefully one day, the world. The crowds aren’t always huge, but it has been a slow climb at building my fan base. Outside of that, being able to travel WITH my family makes music seem like less of a crazy fantasy and more of something we are all able to accomplish together on our own time. Finally, traveling has always helped me find new inspiration to write about (for example, my album Road Trip) and recharges me to get back to work and stay busy working on my goals when I do finally get home.
Wedding. Florida. Tropical theme. How’s the planning going for this very special trip?
It has been a lot of fun to put the puzzle pieces together. We just finalized the guest list — luckily with minimal stress. I now just have to figure out how to fund the wedding while continuing to fund further music projects. :)
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Amanda McCarthy | Singer-Songwriter | Nashville, NH, & Boston