WITH the likes of Hozier, Kodaline and Hudson Taylor all leading by example, 2015 is set to be the year that Irish artists make their mark on the music industry – and that’s exactly what Killarney-born Amano is in the process of doing. The home-grown singer-songwriter is currently working in the studio, gearing up for the release of her first EP later on this year. Having only began her gigging career in 2013, this is an incredible milestone for the 19-year-old and proves just how highly the Irish industry thinks of her already. With regular features in Fortitude Magazine and having recently been named Hot Press’s ‘No.1 To Watch In 2015‘, Amano took some time out from her hectic schedule to chat to us about her success so far and what the future holds for the talented musician.
Tell us, how did your music career start out for you?
Music has always been a big part of my life but I had never had a big part in music. By that, I mean that I was in stage schools and musicals, choirs etc. It was never a world I’d expected to be taking on as an individual. I’ve always been an avid music fan for as long as I can remember. I bought my first CD (Ricky Martin) aged four and I haven’t looked back since. All of my pocket money has always gone on CDs and tickets for gigs so I suppose that nobody who knew me as a music-fanatic kid is overly surprised that my life has swayed in that direction. That lack of surprise is the opposite from what I’ve been feeling on a daily basis since I played my first gig as a singer-songwriter back in 2013.
When did you realise you wanted more than just the people of YouTube to hear you performing?
The story of my live music career basically consists of being a product of the social networking paradigm and falling into a whole lot of luck. I starting putting crappy cover videos up on YouTube in 2011 after encouragement from friends and inspiration from Justin Bieber. Those got a lot more attention than I had expected and I eventually picked up a guitar and started to learn songs so that I could write for myself. At this point I honestly still hadn’t even begin to foresee anything musical as a potential ‘professional hobby’, or in less elusive terms, a career. Orla Gartland was, and still is, the biggest Irish musician on YouTube at the time and as a big admirer of hers, I covered a couple of her tunes and entered some of her competitions.
I ended up winning a half-hour support slot on her first tour in Cork’s Cyprus Avenue and I guess that was like a rocket launch in terms of first steps into live music. Just a few days later I played my second gig in Tralee. There was a new promotions group called ‘Hear the Noise’ just being set up and it was their launch gig. I was terrible and the gig was a mess of youth club bands and teenage angst but the guy running the shindig, Sean Carroll, has since proved to be one of the most important people in my life. I have both Orla and Sean to thank for those early opportunities and I’m lucky enough to call them both friends now. Sean became my booking agent and through his efforts and mine, we’ve gotten to the point I’m at today.
Being 19, your world is probably full of emotion and adventure but where do you mostly find inspiration for lyrics?
Absolutely. I mean, adventure sounds so cliché but it is what life consists of right now. I don’t know whether I’m coming or going or where I even want to get to but every day bring something new with it. I love song-writing and just writing in general. It’s something I had started doing even way back in primary school. Song-writing is such an important channel in my life now though and lyrics come form all sorts of places. When you experience something difficult, some people find meaning for it in religion and other things. For me, it’s an enormous relief to be able to give my challenges and blips their own place in a song. It sounds strange but it almost makes the pain or struggle associated with a certain situation feel worthwhile. It contributed to making something more important and that’s a truly amazing feeling.
A lot of my songs just start with a image or a poem or story though. For example, my debut single ‘Skies’, which is coming out next month, started with a long car journey with my Mom from Waterford to Killarney. The sunset on the sea that night was just stunning and I threw a few notes about the view in front of me into my phone. A few months later, I came back to those words on my phone and turned them into a song. I have no method, the best things in life happen by chance and my songs are definitely products of a sporadic lifestyle.
For other aspiring artists like yourself, tell us how you got into the gigging industry? Was it a tough nut to crack?
Gigging is a maze. I’ve played in a vast array of ‘diverse’ venues at this stage and I still never know what to expect. Crowds are just as unpredictable. On a personal level, I’ve definitely developed a different attitude as a performer. That’s a necessity. You can’t allow anything to phase you. Whether every ear in the room is concentrated on you or just one person is trying to listen over the noise of everyone else at the bar, you’ve got to put on the same show. Even if no one is listening, you have to be grateful for being able to play somewhere. If I could give any artist one piece of advice, it would be to just appreciate every gig, every organiser, every venue and every act you play with. A little politeness and enthusiasm goes such a long way. Stop being disappointed if the crowd is noisy or too small – still perform like you’re headlining Wembley. Use the words ‘thank you’. Don’t be that act to leave once they finished playing and not listen to the others. Put yourself out there, make friends and stay positive. It’s really difficult but it’s just as rewarding.
You’ve supported many acts across Ireland over the past 18 months, but do you have any favourites?
Mundy was definitely a surreal support slot. Actually the whole experience was surreal – Annascaul, a warehouse at a beerfest! He was the first singer-songwriter I had ever seen live as a kid and ever time I caught a glimpse of him backstage I genuinely questioned whether it was real life or an elaborate dream.
SOAK is one of the best artist to ever come out of the country and I feel deeply privileged to have shared a stage with her. She’s as wonderful a person as she is a talent and following her journey is a joy in itself!
I’ve played with scores of other bands recently and the best part of it all is that I’ve left with new friends every time. I couldn’t possibly name them all but Ireland is a hive of activity in every genre with some of the most genuine and hardworking young people who just love to play music. It’s a great industry to be a part of right now.
What can we expect to see from you in 2015? Any exclusives you can reveal?
I’ve just finished up recording my first single ‘Skies‘ in Lamplight Studios – thanks to Guinness Amplify – and I’m dying to be able to announce a release date. I’m playing the Guinness Amplify live stages on February 26 in Cork’s Coughlans, which is incredibly exciting. A real exclusive is that I’ve also been in studio with Dublin rap group Dah Jevu, working on a collab for their debut EP. They’re one of the most innovative duos that I’ve ever come across and I was overwhelmed when I got the call. I’m really excited for that release too. I’m hoping to work on my own EP and more collabs in different genres this year, as well as keeping up with the gigging. Genre blending is something I’m passionate about so who knows what sort of surprising acts I’ll be working with in the next 12 months.
Photo c/o Ciarán O’Brien Media