When Bitter Met Sweet
By Peggy Ratusz
To discover Amanda Anne Platt, who she is, where she came from and where she’s going, you just have to listen to her songs to find some of the answers. I concentrated on the inside and some of the outside scope during a phone interview on a rainy day recently with this grounded, wise, generous and precious singer/songwriter girl. I’ve known her somewhere between acquaintance and friend over a few years’ time, and when we finished I felt honored to glean this much more about someone Martin Anderson, programing director of WNCW calls “one of the best songwriters coming out of WNC these days.”
I find myself surprised, like many others, that she hails from a small town outside of New York City. From her voice, her song lyrics and arrangements I could have sworn she came from somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line. You see she’s got this knack for setting a listener back in time to when country music was pure and simple, unaffected, minimally produced and you could easily read between the lines.
When we talked, she was in Greenville, South Carolina, waiting for sound check because that night The Honeycutters, her band since 2007 would open for The Infamous String Dusters at the Handlebar. They’d just driven in from Atlanta where they played at Schmidt’s Old Bar the night before. On this current tour, she’s accompanied by her friends Pete James on lead guitar and backing vocals, Tal Taylor on mandolin, Rick Cooper on bass and Josh Milligan on drums.
All the good news, low down, and answers to my questions begins with true gratitude from Amanda for how the touring for these past few years is reaping increased ticket and CD sales. She credits not only her incredible backing band both in and out of the studio, but the efforts of her booking agents at Keith Case and Associates for the incremental climb in recognition.
She tells me that before moving to WNC in 2007, she had officially unenrolled herself from college and was looking to continue and follow her songwriting and performing desires. She hit the open mic ground running once she arrived and showed up at Westville Pub’s Monday night sessions. She met Pete there and after hearing each other play, they began an enduring musical partnership.
Before we expound on what she’s doing now, know that she was born in 1986 and raised in Hastings-On-Hudson, NY that has a population of less than 8,000 where her family was steeped in playing, supporting, appreciating or listening to music. Her father and two brothers are musicians, and growing up hearing her dad play his music as well as the artists from his expansive and diverse record collection provided that lighter for her sparkler.
Her first open mic experience was so “awful” that she vowed to overcome the obstacles that made it so. She explains to me that after she went home that night, she remembers actually envisioning herself recounting the dreadful night in a future music interview one day. Prophecy fulfilled right now, and testimony to her quiet and determined will to persevere and follow her bliss, making triumph out of tragedy and creating her own history in her mind before it’s happened.
Lonely and seeking connection in Saratoga Springs, New York where she attended collage at Skidmore, she passed a music store window where a banjo on display called out to her. She purchased the banjo and took some lessons. Soon after, she met a few girls also interested in putting together a sound and a band. She was drawn to their Old Time vibe and started writing songs for that project. At one point they called themselves Bugs Meaney & the Tigers and they did some home recordings, open mics and gigs. This was her first official band.
For songwriters the caliber of Amanda Anne Platt, it’s even more compelling to discover their process. Her philosophy when diving in is as simple and easy, really, as the songs themselves come out. She doesn’t allow herself to get caught in a web or a minefield or obstacle course. Her relaxed demeanor and openness as a person is mirrored in the way she devises the themes and content. The gems that end up on paper and into chord progressions are not labored. This is true even for all the melancholy, angst, joy, passion and everything. She’s refined and exudes this easy disciplined approach to the art of writing songs.
“I honestly, can’t stop,” she explains when it comes to writing down ideas. “I hear things all the time and use the back of receipts or napkins or my dedicated notebook to jot them down. I feel like my brain automatically puts the right words and themes and rhymes together.” From her first studio album Irene, recorded and co-produced by Peter James at Aaron Price’s Collapsible Studios, she put a lot of the right things together indeed. From her song entitled Automatic the chorus is “I wanna be your automatic, honey turn me on. We’ll never know how good we had it, until it’s gone. I wanna be your favorite record, the top of the stack. I promise I can make it better. Don’t put me back, don’t put me back.” What you hear is what you get: The marriage of her unaffected, warm and true, honey-soaked drawl, to the prowess and musicianship of the players supporting her on any given show or record is a happy one. The instrumentals and fills are evidence that her players are listening, compelled and as riveted as we are.
I feel like this whole feature could contain excerpts from her lyrics and completely satisfy the reader. From The Honeycutter’s new release, When Bitter Met Sweet, Mother’s Favorite Son is song-confessional, pointing a finger of shame at the face in the mirror: “So look at what you’ve done, I guess you’re not so kind, as he’s been telling everyone. Look at what you’ve done, to his mother’s favorite son. Now you pretend like you don’t know him, when you see him on the street, and I guess you really showed him, ‘cause he smokes three packs a day and he don’t sleep, and he don’t eat.”
Getting Good at Waiting from that same release, possesses another strong chorus: “but you just can’t stop the sun, when the time is right the night will come, a storm rolls in and turns the sky to black, but I’m getting good at waiting on the clouds to pass.” From the song Josephine, she skillfully constructs: “When a dream comes true, suddenly you got something to lose. Worried blues and debts to pay, so you drink hard liquor, make your skin grow thicker, but you’re praying to be broken every day.” If you’ll do yourself a favor and listen to especially these and one more called For Eleanora about a washed up singer junkie where the 2nd chorus advises: What’cha drinking, Eleanora? Got your eye on the top shelf? Hell, I’ll do what I can for you, but you should learn to help yourself,” you’ll be glad I sent you. Know for sure, that all the songs from both The Honeycutters releases, penned by AAP, will make you a firm believer in… well… something.
Sweet Claudette is an all-female group side project for Platt along with cellist, singer-songwriter Melissa Hyman (The Moon & You and Ten Cent Poetry), multiinstrumentalist and singer songwriter Dulci Ellenberger (featured in WNC Woman, Dec 2012 issue) and hand percussionist and singer Amber Lyle-Sims. They don’t play very often, so when you see them on a schedule, don’t miss this delectable Motown/Country acoustic music treat.
Amanda Anne Platt is a dear heart of a person, an approachable and lovely young woman who deserves all these past and future accolades in spades. I urge you to catch one of her shows coming up. On Thursday, February 14th she and The Honeycutters will be at Barley’s in Knoxville starting at 8:30p.m. and on Sunday Feb 24th, starting at 7p.m., they’ll be at The Purple Onion in Saluda.
PeggyRatusz is a writer, songstress & vocal coach; email@example.com www.reverbnation.com/peggyratusz