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Amanda Kravat Mixes Panic, Faith, Love and Acceptance -- and Evokes Glimmers of Chrissie Hynde, Neil Finn and Cheap Trick -- on Viper 10/14 EP, 'AK'
(Published: October 07, 2014)

Amanda Kravat Mixes Panic, Faith, Love and Acceptance -- and Evokes Glimmers of Chrissie Hynde, Neil Finn and Cheap Trick -- on Viper EP, ‘AK'

Chronicling a Long Road Back to the Music Business After Opting Out, as Recovery and Maturity Shape a More Grounded Life: "I knew how fortunate I was, but I was approaching a dangerous place - for me. So I jumped ship, to keep from losing it all."

HUFFINGTON POST Interviews Kravat and Premieres a Track

New Songs Take Shape: "I've always thought of myself as an alright enough songwriter...but so much noise always got in the way, either inside my own head or just nearby... Finally I feel like I can get through that haze.  I'm lucky I get a second chance."

Artist-songwriter Amanda Kravat is a rare blend of insightful, emotional, deep and exuberant, all dolled up to match her bright orange hair. Evoking the lyrical vigor of Aimee Mann, the Pop ear of Sara Bareilles, the confidence of Chrissie Hynde, and the over-the-top style of Steven Tyler, Kravat recorded her upcoming Viper Records debut EP ‘AK' live-to-2" tape at the famed Magic Shop in NYC. 

"I'm lucky I get a second chance," Kravat comments. ‘AK' marks her return to making music after a multi-year hiatus during which she raised two kids, built a more grounded life, and re-discovered her creative ‘voice' -- "I've always thought of myself as an alright enough songwriter...but so much noise always got in the way, either inside my own head or just nearby. Finally I feel like I can get through that haze. I still haven't bought my mother the house I promised her years ago - that would be nice. But if I can make good music for people who want to hear it, and have that music support me and my family, I'd be a happy camper. Success for the sake of fame is not a goal (observing my celebrity friends has taught me that). I've always struggled to find real balance in my tightrope life...feels like I'm closer than I've ever been."

Kravat's witty and melodic four-song collection suggests glimmers of her heroes Cheap Trick, Neil Finn and more, and was mixed by Mark Saunders (David Bowie, Shiny Toy Guns, The Cure, Neneh Cherry). Kravat's frenetic opening track ‘Not Myself Today' and its wailing crescendo suggest a panic attack/collapse down the rabbit hole; the gorgeous ballad ‘I Could Tell You I Don't Love You' is the EP's centerpiece and easily one of the most elegant and memorable love songs to emerge in some time; ‘Wouldn't Be This' evokes Semisonic on a Sunday morning, and ‘Somebody Else is Driving' sets "faith in a Higher Power" to an uptempo beat. Viper plans its digital release for October 14th, with broader national distribution via INgrooves/Fontana (UMG) set for early 2015.

Interview and Song Premiere
10/6/14, by Michael Ragogna -- huff.to/1s3noMn


A Conversation with Amanda Kravat
Mike Ragogna: Amanda, your AK EP showcases quite a few, I'm assuming, influences or artists whose music meant something to you. Is that the case and who are some of your favorites'
Amanda Kravat: Music seeps in and becomes embedded in our DNA, definitely into mine. I always say if I write something nearly great, it's probably because somebody else wrote it first, whether it's a Stravinsky bit, or a great jazz change. There are only so many notes and the ones in between. As for the songs on AK--yes--so many influences are in here. There's that John Lennon nod, it's a minor/major chord thing in the verse to "I Could Tell You I Don't Love You"; one of the first bands I ever saw was Cheap Trick, and "Not Myself Today" is certainly in that 1970s, I'm winking at you' mode--"Saturday was Klonopin," etc. Also I really dig New Pornographers, love how they can make pop songs really rock. I hear a little Neil Finn in "Wouldn't Be This." Also I always wanted to throw in a little octave singing, I loved that about Squeeze, and that's in "Wouldn't Be This" too. TV On The Radio...archetypal indie rock. Chrissie Hynde/The Pretenders. The clenched-fist drama of "I'll Stand By You." Ahh, and the strings on "I Could Tell You I Don't Love You" thanks to Patrick Warren. The strings were producer Max Coyne's suggestion. Remember INXS and those cellos' Not sure if that was Chris Thomas or INXS' idea. I've always wanted to have a ballad with just the right amount of strings on it. I think we got it just right on this one. So, yeah, if these songs are any good, it's because I let my heroes sneak into the studio...
MR: You raised a couple of kids over the last few years, which put your recording career on hiatus. What motivated you to return to the studio and how did it feel to be back'
AK: My motivation to get my ass in gear was the sudden onset of debilitating, infuriating panic attacks. Diagnosis' A blocked musical artery. I literally felt like I was choking, couldn't leave my apartment. Then I started singing and writing and was revived. Working with a band and being back in the studio felt like diving into the ocean--after escaping a burning building. Being a wife and a mother was and is fulfilling and delicious. But it has nothing to do with standing in front of a kick drum and belting it out. Dancers need to dance, and I guess Amanda needs to sing. Pardon the cliché, but I actually feel "whole" again. So, I really do see this as the beginning of my "second chance" as they say. But from a more substantive starting point--I've lived a fuller life.
MR: If you compare your last album with this one, what would you say are the ways your music has changed or evolved'
AK: These songs flow more easily, at least to me. I don't hear myself "trying" when I listen to them, they just get to the point. Now that I'm an adult--at least chronologically! And not wrapped up in trying to be "clever" or "sound articulate," I feel an ease, a fluency I never had. That old paralyzing need to please everyone, whether it was radio promoters, A&R people, management, publishers, even family members, became a prison. I like that I can keep it simple, when it works.
MR: How did it come together, the writing and recording, creatively'
AK: "Somebody Else Is Driving": This one was written a while back with Richie Supa. I always liked it and it's fun to play live. So every time I performed it--now and then I'd play a song or two at a songwriter's showcase for BMI, etc.--people kept asking me when I was going to record it, and so we finally did it for AK. And the lyrics certainly describe the way I feel about life today.
"Not Myself Today": My husband was out-of-town for a night and I "took to bed," which is what I call sleeping with my guitar. I used to love that about being on the road and dreadful motel rooms; the only vibrations in the room came from me, the human, the leaky faucet or (ideally) from a guitar string. The bridge to "Not Myself Today" came in the middle of that night, and the next day the rest of the song fell together, kind of as I was playing it for my husband. There's a herky-jerky thing going on in that song that sort of feels like a panic attack, if you know what I mean.
MR: Did any of these recordings invent itself, the recording and writing process almost coming too smoothly'
AK: The lyric "Calibrate The Universe" fell into my mind one night while reading a book to my kids, and the song, "I Could Tell You I Don't Love You," came together the next morning at the piano. Then I met with Max and played it for him, and we added it to the list of songs to track that week. But it usually makes me nervous, if something's "too easy." Ha--I worry that if something sounds really good, with no bells and whistles, with just a vocal and an instrument, that then I'll try too hard, and I'll blow it in the studio. Do you get the feeling I'm a little anxious' The caliber of musicians and producers I get to work with now, I pinch myself, they're monsters with no egos. They keep me in check. No way my band or my producer would let me over-record or over-embellish things these days. We've all done it, and hopefully come out the other side. You know, the best musicians know how to play "space"--meaning nothing. That's the hard part. Any idiot can play too much, it takes a class act to let a pause breathe or expand. Same with singers, I think.
MR: Any problem children on the EP that eventually got sorted out'
AK: I had such trouble with "Not Myself Today," which is an ode to my bout with panic attacks and taking medication, etc. "Saturday was Klonopin, it didn't work like vodka did," was a joke I threw in, like a rough draft. Well, it was true. But I didn't think you could actually say that in a song. Then I remembered that this is me, Amanda Kravat 2.0 and I actually can say that if I want to, so I just said it.
MR: What are you looking at music career-wise from this point on'
AK: The Amanda goal' Make music, make music, make music. Knock your socks off, then make some more music. I get the feeling Viper wants to do it the old-fashioned way: develop artists--slow and steady. And so I finally have a real partnership with a label, and that's a new experience for me that I want to cultivate in a meaningful way. I really believe everyone deserves the "second chance" I mentioned earlier, and I aim to work my tail off to see this through. My goal is to make another EP or a full-length album in 2015, get back in front of live audiences, respect the process, and stay on budget. We run a tight ship and we put the money into the music, not into wining and dining. Not yet, at least.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists'
AK: One of the worst things we can do, as humans I think, is bore each other. Happens when you spend too much time staring in the mirror. So why not work with people you can learn from' Listen to Mozart and Prince. Then read other people's gorgeous words, for me, Ondaatje or Colum McCann. Anything really. Just don't let your own voice be the loudest one in your head. And then write a song.
MR: Is there any advice you should have or maybe did follow when you started out'
AK: I finally understand the bit about the journey, not the destination. I blew off my chance to see Nirvana play in New York because I had a photo shoot the next day and I didn't want to be criticized for looking tired. I was lucky enough to be in Paris four times yet I never insisted that we make time to visit the Louvre. Fear stopped me from enjoying so much of the ridiculously wonderful trip I've been on. I should have done more. As long as drugs and alcohol aren't leading the charge, hell, sleep when you're dead.
MR: Do you feel like a new artist yourself with AK'
AK: Ha! Great question. I feel like a new everything. Yes. I'm back to thinking of music as music, not "product." If someone buys it, spectacular! If they don't' Well, it's only rock 'n roll.
MR: What are the plans for the foreseeable future'
AK: Write, write, write, record, record, record, play, play, play. Upside down and sideways too.

Kravat recalls her early years in the music business: "I had a dash of the spotlight in my twenties. I'd worked my tail off to pay a band, record demos, and like every other band around then, we all chased the million dollar record deal. People called it ‘ambition' - But I was more like a starving, chained Rottweiler, just a foot shy of a bloody carcass. At one point I was working five day jobs while prancing and dancing and doing the monkey show. I would be sitting in A&R people's offices because my attorney asked them to meet me, feeling like the smallest spec in Whoville. But I kept at it, didn't occur to me not to. Along the way I found myself with a great band of musicians who could really sing (I'm a Beatles girl, who isn't',) and learned how to rip through a strong set. Anyhow, when I finally wrote a good song, the doors opened. I was one of the lucky ones."  Amanda was signed to Sony Music and got all the attention that goes with a major label deal. "I worked with my idols (Steven Tyler flipped over a song he overheard Kravat singing in a studio one day and recorded it with her, and even took her band out on tour with Aerosmith,) - and wouldn't you say that's ‘dream-worthy''"

Things happened fast: VH-1 spent a year filming Amanda and her (then) band Marry Me Jane, for a show that never aired, ‘Making the Band'. Little did Kravat know at the time that it was an early version of the ‘Reality TV' phenomenon that would saturate American culture in years to follow; Tommy Hilfiger custom-made a line of stage clothing for her; she was cast in movies; Billboard featured her on its cover. It was heady stuff, buzzworthy for sure, even as the band chased the elusive ‘hit single'.  Yet there was a heartbreaking element to it as well...the TV show you work on for a year doesn't air; the album everyone says is radio-friendly doesn't find its breakthrough song.  Amanda needed to be resilient.

Already sober, she didn't exactly burn out in the spotlight - but things got a bit ungrounded, and she pulled back from the business. "I'm not suggesting that I was a "success" by most people's imaginations, but for me at that time, there was no version of living life on the road, at that level, while staying sober. I knew how fortunate I was, but I was approaching a dangerous place - for me. So I jumped ship, to keep from losing it all."

"Then the life raft drifted my way...I met my dream boat and had a taste of what ‘home' might feel like.  So I hung around, started working with people who were easier for me to deal with, and had kids, delicious ones. Ran a few marathons, thought of myself as "on vacation from having the industry run my life," but then -- after discovering I wanted to jump out of a window when I'm not actively making/playing/singing music -- this EP happened.  Drunk, sober, happy, neurotic, demons or no - I can't NOT have music in my life.  When my father died, I began to slow-motion tumble down into a scary place.  All the therapy in the world does not take the place of doing whatever you do - like an exorcism of a sort - to shed whatever inner splinters you're trying to heal. So I put those splinters - panic attacks, pain, new-found faith, self-acceptance -- into these songs. I sing about Klonopin, vodka, how nothing's working - this is not a kid's CD."

With a cinematic songwriting style, it's not surprising that numerous tracks by Kravat have been featured in motion pictures (including in films starring Ben Stiller, Jill Clayburgh, Sarah Jessica Parker and more).  In fact, one of her ballads, the lush, dramatic "Green (You Can't Touch Me)," caused a bit of an internet stir after it appeared in the closing titles of an independent film, years ago. Fans were so impacted by the song (listen to it here:


that they rented the film (on VHS at the time,) and recorded the track, with overlapping movie dialogue, and posted/shared it online, using the then-cutting-edge service, Limewire. Once on the web, the song took on a life of its own, and ultimately lead Amanda to release it officially, as part of an indie compilation project.

Her decision to sign with Viper Records (an ambitious, socially-active NY-based indie with a 14-year track record of pop, rock and Hip Hop releases,) after years of not seeking a return to the business, was rooted in the appeal of label head Jonathan Stuart, and what Amanda praises as his "uber-cool, low key, always supportive vibe." She was talking to Stuart and mentioned missing the feel of recording on 2" tape, with flying faders and the whole deal - and he said, "Hey, I know this analog whiz kid, Max Coane, who loves the retro stuff, he can produce it and we can record you at The Magic Shop, etc." Kravat was hooked, and was fortunate to have her working band of top NY musicians, anchored by drummer Rich Mercurio, to make the EP with.
She comments on why she prefers being in a band to considering herself a solo artist:  "A great song is a great song, and probably should work well in the shower, A cappella - but there's a whole different animal that happens when you stand in the middle of a killer rock band.  A meteor shower goes off in my brain.  I really prefer to write and play surrounded by that magic rather than just write self-involved love songs on an acoustic guitar (maybe I'm just not that good at it). It's hard for me to stand in the audience at a New Pornographers concert and not want hurl myself into the kick drum. It's like an Amanda-magnet. Funny, when my daughter was three, I found her standing stiffly, smashed up against the front of the stereo speaker, thrice her size, listening to ‘Nowhere Man'.  I asked her what she was doing and she said, "I want to go inside the music, Mama" - ha!  High five, little weasel."

Referencing ‘Not Myself Today,' she reveals: "A few years ago I started having panic attacks, debilitating, couldn't take a subway without an elephant dart, that kind.  My father had died, my youngest baby abruptly stopped nursing and I wasn't making music, which felt like the equivalent of having my head in a ziplock. I had already put in my decade of altering my mood with legal (and not so legal) substances, that lifetime ago, so that wasn't a desirable option. A good shrink (or three) later, I figured out how to write songs again, without chain smoking and seedy motel rooms..."

As for the EP's standout ballad, ‘I Could Tell You I Don't Love You,' Kravat puts the track in a broader context: "Grown-up life is wonder-filled, raising kids is a little like a carnival (and I mean the goosebump kind with the tiger ladies and the scary rides,) plus I happen to have a small zoo at home (let's just say we like animals).  But every now and then, despite the goodies, you get to the "what ifs" of your life. And as a human being -- or maybe it's just the former addict in me -- something gets a little stirred up and it aches like a M.F. -- This song lives in that pain."

Kravat talks about ‘Somebody Else Is Driving':
"Subtitle: "DUH". It just takes some of us morons longer than others to realize it. Wrote this a bunch of years ago with Richie Supa (I bow!) soon after I got married. I met him and Steven Tyler together, those knuckleheads.  Richie and I joked about life, how out of nowhere, if you're lucky, you get everything you need, and how after all of our machinations, intentions and useless running on a treadmill and getting nowhere...suddenly ‘The Universe' takes over and delivers the goods. I had been like a cat, with laser beam focus, sitting 24/7 ready to pounce on the mouse hole, sweating. I was so damned certain I knew exactly what I needed and I was the only one able to get it, that I almost missed the plate of Friskie's Buffet a foot to my left. My version of running the show up until then' Not so good: I was a truant, I was ‘clever', I was gay, I was straight, I was a geeky kid with a blond afro, a red-headed vixen, etc. Had a nice-sized record deal with Sony, songs in movies, but nothing was really gelling. Then one day (referenced above) I was in a studio meeting a friend, strumming him a new song I'd written, and no joke, Steven Tyler starts singing along. A swoop of a melody and sneaky little words are like a dangling worm to a hungry trout to that man. He ended up singing on the record, brought me and the band out on tour, truly a fairy tale.

Anyhow, the Moral of my story - the tombstone inscription for me, should definitely say: "Luckily, She Knew Nothing. And When She Knew This, She Chilled and Got Happy"."

More about Amanda Kravat:
NY-based songwriter/performer/rocker-chick Kravat is a jack-of-many-trades who has toured with Aerosmith (opening for the rock legends with her former band Marry Me Jane). She is an established artist who has written the music for five motion pictures, and released two albums on Sony/550 with her band MMJ, before going solo with her indie debut Wrong All Day (which ranked #1 on five different Amazon charts upon its release.) Critics have said she "recalls the likes of Sheryl Crow, Aimee Mann and Tori Amos," and over the years she has been featured on the cover of Billboard Magazine, on CNN, in The Village Voice, NY Daily News and scores of other outlets. Recently signed to Indie Rock, Pop and Hip Hop label Viper Records (their first female act,) Kravat looks forward to making a renewed impact with her songwriting in the months and years ahead.  

Tour dates will be announced soon.

Visit: http://www.Amandakravat.c...
Visit: http://www.viperrecords.c...
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/...
Twitter: @amanda_kravat https://twitter.com/Amand...

Viper Records is distributed via INgrooves/Fontana (UMG).   

More Information: http://www.Amandakravat.com/

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