IN a line from "Rules," the title song on Amanda Raye's debut release, she sings, "I want to be more than just that girl." The singer/songwriter has the pipes and pen to do it and Rules is an outstanding EP. Be sure to listen on your best headphones or speakers to hear the nuance and tonal quality of Raye’s voice as she torches, teases and taunts in a set of well-written songs. Give it some listening time, it's good enough to grow on you.
The St. Louis, Missouri native grew up listening to all types of music via her parent’s eclectic tastes. Michael Jackson, Shania Twain, CCR, Colbie Caillat, they all informed her early years, and she says, “The Beatles have remained a favorite my whole life.” School choir and classical training provided the groundwork for her pitch-perfect performances. These days she’s listening to “more alternative styles and authentic country.”
As the singer trained and performed, the songwriter was raised on reading: “I always had a passion for literature. When I was younger, I would spend days reading books, I could read very fast and would read one after the other. I began writing poetry when I was in middle school.” The stage was being set for Amanda Raye’s life in music and words.
As she works on her career in music, there is another role that is, by far, the most important to Raye. As the mother of two, she is loving and protective. “Teaching them how to be strong, loving, kind, independent women is my main goal in life. Everything else is secondary.” Her music demands some sacrifice in time, but the girls are her joy and always on her mind. It’s a roller-coaster and she uses it all in her writing, getting songs from “emotions spanning hurt to joy—and in between.”
“The most important thing in my music is the message of love,” says Raye. “Self love, loving one another, learning to love yourself. In whatever way it is received by the listener, the most important thing is the message of love.” Love is at the heart of the material, but not the world-peace kind. The hearts of Raye’s characters know the flirting kind. The hurting kind. The wary and the careless kinds of love.
Raye calls the first and last songs on the 7-track EP “bookends.” That’s a good description for “Rosie’s Song,” and this first cut is a short preview of the vocal power she brings to the songs that follow. “Open Up Your Heart” is well-crafted and performed straight up and solo in the EPs jazzy, spare production. Nicely done, but it’s on the next track, “Meaning Of Bad,” that Raye channels a young Rickie Lee Jones (compare the tone and delivery) and the EP finds it’s true identity.
The ballad, “Once Was A Time,” is a highlight of the EP, and grooves in a blues/rock space at a Renaissance fairgrounds, sung to a wayward knight. There’s smoke in the cabaret as Raye sings the title track, “Rules,” where she is defiant but willing, hurt but hopeful, about love. And rules are “for careful fools.” It’s perfectly coy, with a wink at the end, and a great track.
She’s still a little shy, but sure, on “You Can’t Forget Me.” Featuring some nice guitar work, it’s a friendly little reminder to a lover thinking about leaving—again. We’re back at the cabaret for “In Dreams,” and it’s closing time. Raye and the piano player share a haunting, wistful goodnight.
Raye credits Rules producer, Rich Mossman, for his vision and guidance, saying, “he helped me form all of these songs into a cohesive idea that made sense, not only musically, but also to me as the artist.” Local musician, David Mills, was also “an essential part of the beginning process of this EP.”
“I believe my music and my way of being can be a positive influence on the world—but that remains to be seen,” says Raye. We’ll see—and hear—more from her with a full album in the works and plans for a trip to Nashville. For now, grab a copy of the Rules EP and stay tuned for dates when you can share an evening of music with Amanda Raye here in Hampton Roads.
Rules is available at amandarayemusic.com
Photo illustration by Kevin A. Gilbert. Photographs (from top): Jeremy Hodge, Byrd's Eye Photograpy, Glenn Woodell.
Below, Amanda Raye performs, "Daddy's Song:"