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tougher than most Amanda St John has been through hell, but she says every setback is an opportunity

Amanda speaks to the Sunday World about the struggles faced by artists during lockdown


Amanda St John

Amanda St John

Amanda St John

Singer Amanda St John has enough material for a lifetime of songs.

The performer has battled back from a near-fatal car crash, bereavement, divorce and vocal damage when doctors warned she would never sing again.

But the 42-year-old has returned to the stage every time with a smile on her face and a song in her heart.

And after almost two years with no work, Amanda is back in action this week at the EastSide Arts Festival.

She believes every setback has been a chance to learn and even the fateful car crash a decade ago, when she plunged 300 feet off a cliff near Ballycastle, was taken as a sign to sing.

“That’s a distant memory now, and I have no memory of the crash itself. I just know that when the fire brigade got to me, I had no pulse,” says Amanda.

“But I remember having a choice and fighting to stay alive and asking ‘what do I need to do to get out of this?’

“As clear as day a voice said ‘sing’. I look back now on those ten years and see how much I’ve achieved and how much I’ve grown as a person.”

Former HR executive Amanda, from Glenariff in the Glens of Antrim, a stayed true to her inner voice.


Amanda St John live

Amanda St John live

Amanda St John live

She’d previously given up singing completely and then returned to perform covers with a wedding band. After the crash she started writing her own songs and released debut album Glow.

Her resilience has been put to the test again in the last three years, but the performer has bounced back every time.

She’s also had career highlights, including an invitation from Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, to sing on St Patrick’s Day for an audience including President Donald Trump.

“He was really personable and polite. I decided to take everyone at face value, and I was there to represent my country. I’m from a one-street village in rural Ireland and I don’t know many people from that background who sang to a President.”

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Following a painful marriage split, Amanda and daughter Sophia, now 13, had moved home to the Glens to live with dad Philip Jamison, who’d had years of treatment for bone cancer.

She had made contacts in Nashville and planned to record her second album there when pal Ben Glover suggested her soulful sound was better suited to the FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

“I instantly went into self-doubt and thought ‘that’s for the big artists, it’s not for me’,” says the singer.

“It’s a bucket list experience. It’s where the soul sounds of the seventies were recorded, songs like Mustang Sally, When a Man Loved a Woman, and artists like Percy Sledge and Etta James. It’s like Abbey Road was for The Beatles.

“I was the first ever independent Irish artist to record there.”

The good news was that The Muscle Shoals Sessions, released last year, won Amanda airtime on Radio 6

Music, on RTE radio and with legends like Radio 2’s Bob Harris. The bad news was that the crowdfunding company which had taken pre-orders for the album and money from the public went bust, leaving her with the bill for getting it finished.

In December 2018 her dad died and a few months later Amanda developed vocal spasms and got the devastating news that she’d never sing again.

“When the doctors told me my first thought was ‘are you kidding me?’

“I was grieving so many losses and it felt like another mountain to climb, but I also knew I hadn’t come this far to not be able to do it,” says the singer.

“I think it was totally emotional. It was my body’s way of telling me to slow down and rest and look after myself. With any other illness I would have pushed through, but my voice and my album were so precious to me.

“I had to do three months of silence and take five months off. I had to isolate myself because if you’re around people you have to speak, but I just had to get on with it.

“I trusted that I would find a way and it took a long time. I worked with a vocal therapist who was very worried about me, but she knew I’m emotionally and mentally very strong.

“My first gig back was my album launch that year and I stood up on that stage not knowing if I’d get to the end of it. I had to dig deep to get through it.”

When Covid hit it crashed her plans for a tour of the US with the Muscle Shoals album, and the singer had to dig deep again. After years of working with young people on personal development she started a coaching business, A Created Life, adjusted to the different singing techniques needed to protect her voice, and stayed put at home with Sophia.

With entertainment opening up again she’s optimistic about the future and ready to share her experience of successful song-writing with other performers this Saturday as part of the EastSide Arts Festival. She’s also back on stage on August 13 for It’s a Marvellous Night — Celtic Soul Play Moondance.

“I have done the song-writing workshops for five years. I love communicating through music in any way and I like to pay it forward and share what I’ve learned along the way.

“I love the workshops because I have lived so much life and I know how to put that into song.

“And I’m in a really good place. I know there have been a lot of challenges to overcome but I’m really committed to keep growing,” says Amanda.

For information about the festival go to eastsidearts.net.


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