amandastjohnFrom a cover band star to the release of acclaimed, self-penned debut album ‘Grow’, Amanda St John’s transformation owes a lot to a near death experience, one that forced her to reconsider her musical direction and put everything on the line. A lesson in making the best of a bad hand,  results so far include a funded tour and becoming the unlikely star of an Australian advertising campaign. I caught up with the soulful Antrim native ahead of her Dublin gig this weekend…

– You describe a life changing moment that got you performing your own work after years of playing covers. What happened, and how did it change you?

I had a near-death experience in a car accident about 6 years ago when my car went 300ft over the side of a mountain close to where I live. I was unconscious with a bad head injury and no pulse when the emergency services arrived. This sounds very dramatic but I remember a battle within myself to live or die and I fought for my life. I vowed that if I got out of it that I wouldn’t waste another moment and that I’d live my life to the fullest. It changed me in so many ways as it gave me a better perspective and gratitude for life which has liberated me from my negative thinking and the feeling that I’m not good enough that held me back for years. In a funny way it has been a very positive and inspiring experience for me.

– Did you have much of your own music before you had your accident?

I used to write a lot when I was in my teens and early twenties but it was always such a struggle. I used to try so hard to write a song and come up with ideas and I literally thought that they were all rubbish so I lost my confidence and just stopped. I spent the next 15 years singing in cover bands and I had only started writing again shortly before the accident (about 10 years later) but again I was still finding the writing process and completing songs quite difficult. Since the accident I have totally committed to myself for what feels like the first time and the difference is staggering. It’s like someone’s opened the flood gates and I can’t stop the ideas coming now! I had only recorded rough demos too so it’s only since the accident that I’ve pursued it as a career and got proper recordings out there.

in-concertJust a quick post to draw your attention to this book, ‘In Concert, Favourite Gigs of Ireland’s Music Community’, produced by Niall McGuirk and Michael Murphy of Hope Publications, for which I wrote a short article sometime last year.

In it, loads of Irish music folks from the world of journalism, gig promotion and of course bands themselves (myself included) talk about their favourite gig to take place in Ireland. All the profits go to the Irish Red Cross in aid of Syrian refugees.

As Niall wrote ahead of the launch, the book came about as a result of seeing pictures from the town of Aleppo, which as you’re no doubt aware has been absolutely bombarded over the past five years.

I’ve ordered my copy, and was lucky enough to see the book in draft form ahead of publication. It’s a real ‘who’s who’ of people involved in music over here (well, and me!), with over 100 different contributors talking about gigs spread across several decades. It goes without saying, none of us were paid for our contributions (charity being a special case!), and while there’s a number of more obvious contributions (yes, it features U2 several times), you might learn a little bit about some less-publicised Irish acts, too. I wrote about Dropkick Murphy’s – you’ll have to read it to find out why.

Grab a copy at the link above for €15, and you’ll get a great read and be doing a little bit of good along the way…

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