A Mellower Marshall
Thursday, December 06, 2001
Everybody's got a story, and here's Amanda Marshall's: she has a sense of humour.
Marshall's 1996 self-titled debut and its 1999 follow-up, Tuesday's Child, crowned the Toronto singer heir to the Canadian pop'n'soul throne abdicated by Alannah Myles, and yielded a total of 10 hits. But those albums weren't exactly a barrel of laughs. "That ain't the picture, it's just a part," Marshall sings on the title track to her third CD, Everybody's Got a Story, and the point's taken long before Sunday Morning After, a tongue in cheek rocker about a hedonistic night out that never would have been considered for one of her earlier albums.
"I think I'm probably perceived - and rightly so, based on the work I've done - as a little more serious than I really am, and perhaps not as aware of my surroundings as I really am," Marshall said during a promotional stop in Montreal last week.
Any perceptions of Marshall as solemn are wiped out when sitting two feet from the singer, who gesticulates wildly to emphasize her points and has a cheshire-cat grin glued to her face. To call Marshall extroversion personified would be painting her with the same broad strokes some critics have used to dismiss her as a dour soul-searcher, but the messages of empowerment on Everybody's Got a Story couldn't come from a shrinking violet. The lyric "lift the veil and let your true self breathe" is scribbled prominently in the liner notes as if it was a mantra for the recording sessions.
"I think it's up to you as the artist (to decide) how much you want to be open with people and how much you want to talk about (personal) stuff. I've always been a little bit leery of that, mainly because I am by nature a fairly private person and I think if you want to keep a portion of your life private, shut up and don't talk about it. ... I think, though, that I've become a lot less uptight over the years."
Marshall is too self-assured to let it be a cross to bear, but a tiny bit of that former uptightness might stem from the cynical reaction to her rapid success. Marshall's debut is one of a handful of Canadian albums to sell more than one million copies at home, and many viewed the good fortune of a teenage barroom belter discovered by Jeff Healey and taken under the wing of Sony Music with a little suspicion.
"I got a really big break," said Marshall, 29. "I'm a regular girl who has gotten the opportunity to do some really extraordinary things with this short time that I've been on the planet. I think that that probably figures into a lot of those (critical) preconceptions, and I would probably think that, too. When you stack the will and perceived intelligence of a 19- or 20-year-old against that of a corporation, it's easy to think that there's an imbalance in the power structure or that I'm making certain types of records because people are telling me to. But it's the music business - you do the best that you can. On the first record I was happy to be guided, because that's what you do when you don't know - you ask questions."
Marshall has gone from three writing credits on her first album to having a role in the creation of every song on Everybody's Got a Story. It's also Marshall's most contemporary-sounding album - odd, since it was produced by Peter Asher and Billy Mann, whose resumés include work with James Taylor and Art Garfunkel. Whatever that recipe lacks in modernity was complemented by contributions from Bronx DJ Molecules.
"I wanted to make a record that people who use loops and beats (regularly) could listen to and feel like even if they weren't getting the whole full DMX picture, at least the kick drum was right," Marshall said with a laugh.
"I wanted to use fresh stuff and start from scratch, so we got Molecules. (Molecules) is the guy who sits in his basement with gear and he doesn't know the names of his stuff, but he knows when it (sounds) right."
- Everybody's Got a Story is in stores now. Amanda Marshall plans to tour in January and February.
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