Amanda Ann Platt has fronted the North Carolina based band through five albums. The last three released on the Organic label. They are a band who are influenced by classic singer/songwriters and artists who would loosely have been called country in the past but now fall under the Americana umbrella. However as the main writer, singer and producer in the band she has decided for this latest release to use her own name in front of that of the Honeycutters. The music, judging from the last three albums, has been critically acclaimed and they have built a deserved solid following in the US and they hope to tour in the UK later in the year. Lonesome Highway caught up with Amanda recently and had the opportunity to put some questions to her.
After the previous relays it must have been liberating but also a little trepidatious to move from having The Honeycutters name out front now using your name?
Yes, trepidatious is a good word. I'm not particularly extroverted by nature, which is one reason I have always felt safer using a band name rather than my own. But it's something that has come up with every release, and now that I am the only original member (in addition to writing all the songs and singing them) I feel like it makes the most sense. We've had a lot of nice words of support from fans so I'm easing into it.
As a writer are you continuously collecting ideas, titles and lines or do you have to specifically set aside a period of time and quiet to write for an album?
Constantly collecting. Our process before hitting the studio is one of narrowing down from a list of songs that I'm proposing for the album ... sometimes as many as thirty. Writing is a coping mechanism for me, so it's hard to imagine going months of the year without doing it.
It's how I make sense of what I see in the world. I don't write a lot about the bigger stuff, politics and world events. It's more about processing the small moments I see-- the little comedies and tragedies of everyday life.
Growing up who and what were your influences that set you down this path?
My parents listened to a lot of classic country, blues, and bluegrass when I was small. Despite being born in the eighties I knew very little of pop radio until I was a teenager. We never had it on at home. My dad has an epic record collection of the aforementioned genres plus sixties and seventies rock and the Texas songwriters of those decades. They met and married in Austin in the seventies so they were strongly influenced by that scene. I think it rubbed off on me.
What sort of ambitions did you and do you now hold for a musical career. How important is ambition?
I think ambition is very important. With social media and internet streaming the scene is more crowded than ever, so you have to want it. That being said, I've never had a real clear vision of where this is going other than that I want to be able to keep doing it. My career has been a lot of small, logical steps, and if we carry on this way I'm fine with that. Just put the mic in front of me and I'll sing my songs.
To get to this point you must have put a lot of miles on the clock gigging and recording. What have been the highpoint and the low points to date?
Ahahahahaha. OK let's start with the high points ... the first time we sold out a The Grey Eagle in our home town (Asheville, NC). Opening for Billy Joe Shaver was amazing. Sitting at Guy Clark's kitchen table eating oatmeal while he smoked cigarettes and talked songwriting. The low points? Our van breaking down on the last day of a two month tour, out in Montana. Going through a breakup on the road sucks too.
Does the climate of what’s happening in the world effect your viewpoints?
Of course. I feel a lot of fear these days, as I think many are. It's an interesting time to be an American, which is the only perspective I can really claim, but I imagine it could be said that it's just an interesting time to be a human. I have some strong opinions but I try to focus, at least in my songwriting, on things that unite us rather than divide us. Rather than rage against someone who I think is wrong, I'd rather establish common ground and then see if we can't get to the bottom of what we're disagreeing about. I think that's the most powerful way to change someone's mind.
What was it about this music that drew you in in the first place?
Honesty. It's not that I don't like pop music ... I do get into some of it. But I think that if someone can make you feel something with nothing but their words and a melody, that's a very special thing to experience.
Over a period of time you have had some changes in the line-up of the Honeycutters. Is it a problem keeping platers together?
Not necessarily. There have been two major incarnations of the band, pre 2013 and post 2013. That change over had more to do with a romantic breakup and falling out. Since 2013 we've only had one person leave the band. Musical relationships are complicated, sometimes they end without a lot of closure. But that's part of making art together, I think.
How do the economics of recording and travel effect the range and possibilities of what the band could do?
More than I'd like to admit. As a five (sometimes six) piece band we can't afford to do a lot of the gigs that say a duo or trio might be able to swing. I also have always been a firm believer in guaranteeing my band a certain amount. None of them are kids any more (not throwing them under the bus, neither am I!), they have families and mortgages and I would hate for them to be losing money playing with me. So we end up turning down some stuff because I can't afford to get us there and pay the band too. It does hold us back a bit. But I think it also keeps us happy and fed ... I love having the full band, I'm not very interested in doing the duo thing anymore.
Of your own songs which ones are you especially proud of?
Hmmm. I love Marie, off our first album. Me Oh My, off the album by the same name. Blue Besides, from the On The Ropes album, as well as Barmaid's Blues. And off our new one I think my favourite might be Eden. I don't know though. That changes. A lot of the ones I really feel proud of we haven't recorded for one reason or another. I just like it when I can sing something every night and feel like I still believe it, like the words don't get less true.
As co-producer of the album how do you achieve the sound that you want for an album?
Honestly the band has a lot to do with it. We have a lot of similar sensibilities, we love warm seventies tones. This time around we listened to all our previous records and picked out our favourite drum sound, guitar tone, vocals, etc. I'm not sure that we ever nail it - it's a constant pursuit. But it keeps us on our toes.
You have a team around you for management, radio and PR etc. Is that a vital part of survival in this day and age.
It is for me! I'm scatter brained and prone to fits of laziness. It's much easier for me to finish a song than it is to write an email. And for the promotional stuff, who wants to do that for themselves? It's much easier to say glowing things about someone else than it is to promote yourself, I think.
Are physical sales the main part of how you sell or has the download (and streaming services) also played a major part?
I think in recent years we've seen it tip towards the streaming side of things. But we do sell a lot of physical product at shows and off our website.
Finally, where are you happiest on stage or in the studio?
On stage, definitely. I love the studio but nothing beats the energy that comes from having all the players on stage, and an audience. That's connection. Nothing beats it. And I love my band!!! Did I already say that? They're incredible. And nice people too. It's a gift to be able to travel and make music with your best friends.
Interview by Stephen Rapid Photograph by Eliza Schweizbach