Amanda West started singing sometime after she began walking, but before uttering her first words. Or that’s what she’s been told, at least. “My mother says that I sang before I talked,” the Santa Cruz-based singer-songwriter recounts. “I just always loved singing.” When the 11-year-old West picked up a guitar for the first time—a cheap garage-sale find belonging to her “hippy” parents—she says it was more in the interest of having “someone accompany me when I sang” than out of a particular urge to strum. It makes sense when you think about it.
West’s tunes, like most folk music, revolve around the melody and the words. And in West’s case, the words are paramount. “Music can be a very powerful tool for change,” she says. West hopes that the weighty themes she tends to express with her graceful, feather-light voice make an impact on her audience. “To me, it is really important that my music be something positive and helpful in the world.” Through her music, West advocates environmentalism, explores the convoluted nature of gender roles in society and ultimately seeks to empower her listeners at every turn. Although the words will always come first, West says she is branching out on her forthcoming album, titled The Permission Tree—bringing in a full band to flesh out her songs. Where her first full-length studio effort, The Way to the Water, was mostly guitar with light accompaniment, her sophomore LP will feature a bevy of instrumentation. The additions reflect West’s life in a way. Over the past five years, she has toured with her husband and sound engineer, Pete Solomon, performing live versions of her songs with additional accompaniment. And as her touring family has grown, so has her nuclear family. Solomon and West recently had a child, which she sings about on the made-for-Mother’s-Day single, “The Summer I Stayed Home.” “I think I always hear myself as having more going on,” she says of bringing in extra players. Plus, she adds, when she plays with a band, the songs “take on a whole new life. And that’s really fun.”
INFO: 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 10. Don Quixote’s, 6275 Hwy 9, Felton. $12/adv, $15/door. 603-2294.