Discovery: Amanda Mair

Yes, Amanda Mair was signed to her first record label at the age most of us were navigating the pitfalls of bad skin, first loves, and driver’s licenses. But even when the novelty of her early entrance into the music world is stripped away, there’s still much to be said about the young artist. Possessing preternatural poise, bittersweet musicality, and a voice that has drawn comparisons to the likes of Dusty Springfield and Kate Bush, it’s difficult to believe that the phrase “old soul” wasn’t coined specifically to discuss Mair. Well, that is until she laughingly admits that she didn’t really know who Kate Bush was until her first reviews. Ah, youth…

We recently joined Mair in Stockholm, and she took time out from her last week of summer vacation to tell us about the shock of being “discovered,” support from her family, and the best part of her job. She also provided us with the debut of the acoustic version of her album track, “Doubt.”

AGE: 18

HOMETOWN: Lidingö, Sweden

CURRENT CITY: Stockholm, Sweden

LEAVING HOME: On the island where I grew up, all the people know each other. There are two high schools. I thought that I wanted to do something else and meet new people. I wanted to go to a music school. I wasn’t thinking about recording an album or being signed. I wasn’t thinking anything about that. I wanted to play music and do music.

ALL IN THE FAMILY: I have two older sisters. They were both singing and playing piano and different instruments. I think that was why I started. They influenced me. None of my parents played any instruments or do music, as I do or my sisters did. My mom always thought that her daughters had to play some instrument. I think she thinks that way because she didn’t. Maybe she regrets it.

SISTERLY BONDING: When I was younger, it became natural to listen to what they listen to. Maybe sometimes it was like, “Oh that’s not cool, you can’t listen to that.” But yeah, my sisters, they both influenced me very much. They love [my album]. They think it’s really cool. Now they don’t do music at all. One of them studies psychology, the other one is becoming an architect. It feels good to have them be my friends.


HER BIGGEST FAN: My mom told me once, when I was really young, I was dancing and singing to a song, and she thought, “Yeah, that’s what she’s going to do.” My parents, they have a bakery. That’s also very different from music. So we’re all doing different things.

ON BEING DISCOVERED AT 14 AND SIGNED TO LABRADOR RECORDS AT 16: My mom asked me one day if I wanted to record a few songs just for fun. Her plan was to send it to my grandmother and my cousins. I was like, “Yeah, okay, that sounds like a fun thing to do.” But I was like, “I don’t know how to do it.” I had never recorded a song before. So we started looking for someone who had a studio and could record songs.

We found Tom, who was the drummer for Club 8. We found Tom through my sister’s boyfriend, because he recorded with Tom earlier. So we recorded the songs. It was “Hallelujah,” the Jeff Buckley one, and “Your Song,” by Elton John, and “Samson,” by Regina Spektor. Those were my favorite songs at the moment. So we recorded the three songs. After that it was nothing more. Just, “Okay, goodbye!” I didn’t really listen to the songs. I didn’t like them, I think! I didn’t hear about Tom or the songs after that.

Then two years later, when I was 16, he called me and he said, “Hello, Amanda do you remember me? I’m Tom, we recorded a few songs two years ago.” I was like “Yeah, of course I remember you.” I was really surprised that he was calling. He told me that he played the songs for [Labrador Records owner Johan Angergård], and that Johan really wanted to meet me and was interested. I was shopping with my mom and my sister. I just stood there! My sister was like, “What’s happening, what’s going on?” I was like, “Okay, yeah, of course, I want to meet him.” I didn’t have any expectations. It seemed cool. I met Johan one month later. Johan asked me if I had written any songs. I hadn’t. He said, “I can send you some demos, and if you like any of the songs, maybe we can try to record them if you want.” So I listened to the songs and there were a lot of songs that I really liked. Some of the songs weren’t ready at all, or had lyrics. So I was in the process from the beginning with the songs, even though I haven’t written the songs. That’s very important.

ON OWNING SONGS SHE DIDN’T WRITE: I’ve changed the lyrics. A lot in some songs. It’s important to feel like you can stand for it, and build up your own picture. Some songs, they fit me very well, and I just changed one or two sentences, so that I could feel that I liked it.

ON BEING COMPARED TO KATE BUSH: I had heard of her. I heard one song or something. It was really, like, okay, now I have to listen to her and find out why people think that she’s similar. But I can’t really hear it. Maybe it’s like the melancholic feeling in songs. Maybe some melodies.

WHAT’S NEXT?: I really want to write my own songs. That’s my goal, my dream—to have some songs written by myself. I just started writing with Tom, the drummer. I hope it will be something that I can do. I would be glad if I knew what I wanted to write. But I don’t know. There are so many things that you can choose. It’s very new for me, everything. I’m still in this process where you discover your music.

BALANCING WORK AND SCHOOL: I have one year left. It’s a really good school when you want to be a musician and you want to play music and write your own. Now I have summer break. I try to do as much as I have time for, right now. I think it won’t be easy this year in school. I will be touring around a lot and not be in school. But the teachers, it’s not very new for them since it’s a music school… The problem is the math teacher, and all the other subjects that you don’t do music in. I will have to do my homework while touring.

THE BEST PART: Performing live is the thing that I really love. I really like to see the audience and to see them there. It’s very cool to know that people listen to your music, but to see them listen to it, it makes me happy. When you’re on stage, I’m in another world, a music world. I’m really happy when I’m up there. I can’t really say it’s a job. It’s more fun than a job.