Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Behind the Music: Amanda Vernon

I had the pleasure of first meeting Amanda and her husband at the National Catholic Youth Conference in 2009 when we were all just a bunch of newlyweds, and I was still working in full time diocesan ministry. Many things have changed since then, but Amanda continues to share her love of Christ through her gift of music.

Amanda's transparent joy is undeniably contagious. She radiates the light of Christ. Now she and her family have hit the road to promote her music ministry and her latest album, Interior Gaze. Amanda was kind enough to take some time to answer the questions of my highly inquisitive mind in the interview below. Please take a moment to read on and learn about her new project, how to support their new endeavor, and why she believes balance is overrated. 

Listening to you perform, it is clear that you are deeply gifted and that music is a definite charism for you. When did you first discover your talent, and was there someone particular who helped you on your path to pursuing your dream? 

Thank you, Rakhi! In order to use the gift of music as a true charism, I need to share it through the Holy Spirit. I’m grateful for your encouragement as I say, “Yes” to this call. I discovered my talent at a very young age. I realized if I sang the alphabet with soul, it sounded much better. Thankfully, my family and faith community applauded my efforts.

I grew up as part of a Catholic Parish in Michigan. We had a unique, almost Pentecostal-type of spirituality, with Gospel music and dynamic preaching. Many members of our community championed me on my path. The parish even financed my very first CD when I was 15. That was my original kickstart.

Much like our family, you are in the early years of marriage with two small children, and now you have hit the road! How do you keep everything in proper perspective and balance?

Ah, life as a newlywed. Now I have a big smile on my face. Add in the two toddlers, and we have a practically ‘round-the-clock party! In all seriousness, our travels have been very blessed, and for the most part, peaceful.

To keep things in proper perspective, I pray. My spiritual director reminded me that what I have to offer people is not my musical talent, but my personal prayer life. I think balance is overrated, though. No, really. Jesus never asked me to be balanced. He gave me His Spirit, told me to not be afraid, and then sent me to make disciples of all nations. Living in God’s will does not always mean balance, but it is always peaceful.

It is such a joy to spend time with you and your husband David and witness the clear love you have for each other. Do you have any secrets to keeping your marriage strong, especially in the midst of what might seem like chaos? 

I appreciate that you enjoy spending time with us. We like you, too, Rakhi! When David and I started dating, we prayed that God would use our relationship to point others to Him. When you see our love for each other, I know you are seeing Christ in us.

How do we keep a strong marriage? It would take an entire book to sum it up. To keep it brief, I'll explain one particularly helpful practice. Borrowing wisdom from speaker/author Matthew Kelly, we routinely share “Care Free Timelessness.” We affectionately term it, “CFT.”

This is our time to find joy in each other’s company without an agenda. Sometimes our weekly “CFT” is simply talking outside on a friend’s patio, with the sound of our baby monitor in the background. CFT calls for more creativity while we are on tour, but in the words of St. Vincent de paul, “Love is endlessly inventive.”

How did you develop the concept behind your latest album, Interior Gaze?

The concept of my latest album came together as I wrote the various songs. The process transpired over five years, beginning when I was 20. In that span, I transitioned from the light-hearted single life, to marrying my best friend and becoming a mother of two.

As I reflected on life and love as a young wife and mom, I developed a deeper appreciation of Blessed John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body.” This marvelous teaching helped me navigate through pivotal changes. It opened my eyes to the significance of my Vocation, and inspired me to express my spirituality through writing new music.

Given the circumstance of my life now, my hands down favorite track on your album is Cleaning and Scrubbing. Is there a particular song on the CD that speaks to your life right now more than the others (and what is the story behind it if you do)?

I’m so glad you like, “Cleaning and Scrubbing!” We have received a lot of positive feedback about that track. It even won the Pop/Electronic genre of ArtPrize (an international art competition) this year. But the song that speaks to my life most now is the title track. 

I wrote “Interior Gaze” for David when we were engaged. In the Theology of the Body, Blessed John Paul II wrote about the moment when Adam and Eve first met. He said, “They see and know each other with all the peace of the interior gaze...” That's how David looks at me. 

Little did I know the lyrics of this song would be so meaningful during our tour. Here is the chorus:
There’s no need to look away
Turn my eyes or hide my face

Underneath your gaze I know
I’m safe, I’m free, I’m home
I’m safe, I’m free, I’m home
We rented out our house for the year to make this journey. So we are technically always away from home. At the same time, I feel safe and free traveling with David and our family. The comfort of home is always with me, as long as we are together.

Do you have a favorite moment on the road so far? How about a favorite musician you have met?

I loved playing at Lifest, a huge Christian music festival in Wisconsin. My “people” came with me: David Shaheen (agent/husband), Deanna Rae (my sister/photographer) and Adam Xavier Vernon (brother/drummer). The highlight was seeing my 21-year-old brother watch Skillet, his favorite band, play their high-energy, hydraulic-powered outdoor show... from backstage! 

A favorite musician I have met was Matt Maher. We both played at a diocesan youth conference in Saginaw, Michigan this summer. I didn’t realize how much of a fan I was until I actually talked with him. According to my husband, I was starstruck. Who knows how it actually transpired; I was too excited to remember much about it.

Now onto bigger and better things – what is your latest project and how can people get involved in it?

My heart rate quickened over this question. I’m thrilled and nervous about my latest project! “Behind the Music” is a my new funding campaign to produce two new music videos and the, “Interior Gaze Story and Song Book.”

We need to raise $24,000 by November 24 to succeed!

My aim is to provide excellent new content for our fan base, while at the same time making our career more sustainable. Being on tour is exciting, but we won’t be able to maintain this lifestyle forever (surprise)! Through these new offerings, people will be able to experience the message behind my music, without actually seeing me in a live concert. 

Your readers can get involved by watching our Kickstarter campaign video.

Then, they can help in any of these three ways:

1. Pray for my family’s success in this endeavor!
2. Back the project. If we are successful, their account will be charged shortly after November 24th. They will also receive exclusive rewards. (Christmas presents, anyone?)  If we do not meet our goal, their account will not be charged, and we will not move forward with our projects. 
3. Share the video, especially through social media.

Lastly, if someone were to read this and want you to visit their parish or community, how would they go about booking you?

I give concert/keynote presentations for all age groups, and love to tailor my songs and stories to best suit any community. The best way to begin the process is to contact us through my website, Our team will ask some preliminary questions, and then create a proposal to work within their needs and budget.

Thanks, Amanda for taking time from life on the road to share more about your music, life and latest project! I am so thrilled to be able to share your music with readers, and to see so many young artists adding to the Catholic music scene. It is a different world than when I first started listening many years ago! Check out Amanda's website for more information, and visit iTunes to purchase her latest album, Interior Gaze. Busy mamas out there, if you haven't taken a listen to Cleaning and Scrubbing, I highly recommend you do!

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