Amanda Rose Riley doesn’t believe in waiting for the right time to pursue a dream. When she has new songs but no money for studio time, she sets about recording acoustic albums in her bedroom (on gear that only cost a few hundred dollars) without missing a beat. When she can’t fill a tour date with a venue booking, she enthusiastically organizes a house show, busks for tips in a public place, or finds a local open mic and makes some new friends. And perhaps most impressively, for four years in a row she lugged her guitar onto an annual punk cruise to entertain guests informally – each time uninvited and unpaid, at her own expense. That is a testament both to her belief in the pure value of music and to just how much she itches to provide that value.
Her tendency to act without waiting for permission or perfection has led to some incredible opportunities. She has performed with the Bouncing Souls at the legendary Stone Pony, and with her favorite artist, Frank Turner, on multiple occasions, not to mention a wide variety of other performances from New Jersey to Boston to the middle of England.
The year 2020 has not slowed down her progress as an artist. Ever since the first week of shutdowns wiped out most of her performance schedule in March, Amanda has done a weekly Facebook Live performance every Wednesday without fail, often surpassing two hours and occasionally ending abruptly when her phone dies. Aside from that, she writes constantly and participates in songwriting challenges such as 50 songs in 90 days. Even in her spare time, she enjoys reading books and watching videos about songwriting and the music business. During quarantine, she even took up the drums, mainly to improve her understanding of music.
The hard work seems to be paying off as her songs, understated voice, and raw authenticity are resonating with a growing number of online followers who purchase her music and tip for her live streams. Unsurprisingly, she sees her fans as friends who are helping her build something mutually gratifying, rather than customers to generate profit. When asked what her ultimate dream is, she doesn’t even mention money, fame, or industry recognition. “I want people to connect with me and with each other through my songs and performances… I want to establish a real community, like my favorite artists have done.” And what would be tangible proof of achieving that goal? “I think the perfect compliment would be if someone met the love of their life by bonding over my music or at one of my shows. I’m also looking forward to seeing my first fan tattoos someday soon,” she adds with a laugh.
She has eclectic influences – everything from the unapologetic honesty of punk rock to the catchy hooks of pop. But mostly, she is just herself. There is a quirkiness to her deeply personal songs that seem to simply address whatever she is thinking, feeling, or experiencing. She is not writing for an audience but for herself, hoping it will ultimately connect with others. Her newest EP, March On, is a collection of songs she’s written about remaining optimistic and motivated through a year of pandemic and lockdown, though she admits it wasn’t always easy for her. The digital-only EP will be out on all platforms on December 18th.
The camaraderie in Amanda’s live streams is tangible among everyone present, new and old viewers alike. After nearly every song, she greets newcomers, answers comments, and makes self-deprecating jokes. A recent critic lamented that it felt more like “a set in her bedroom” than a virtual professional concert. But a growing number of people stuck at home with nothing to do and little hope are beginning to crave authenticity and genuine human connection above polished, would-be chart music, so for them… that’s kind of the whole point. One of the most frequent comments at the end of the live streams is simply, “Thank you.”
It is not very difficult for an aspiring artist to save up for an expensive rig for their live streams or a well-known producer for their albums. But not many start with such a strong vision of the community they want to build and then back it up firmly with the right collaborative attitude and work ethic. It would seem unwise to bet against one who does.