Chatting With Amanda Kind About “Love Used To Live Here”, The Creative Process, and … Green Day?

Country Artist Amanda Kind

Ontario based singer-songwriter Amanda Kind’s newest single, Love Used To Live Here, dropped last week on all streaming platforms.

I had the chance to speak with Amanda about the songwriting process, her major life changes over the last two years, and plans for the future.

RELATED: Read our feature of Amanda’s single, “Love Used To Live Here”

An Interview With Amanda Kind

Jason: Thank you for joining me on the virtual porch this afternoon. My first question for you is, when did music become an important part of your life? Do you remember there being a moment where you realised this is a thing that I’m passionate about?

Amanda: I can’t say I remember a particular moment because, for me, music was a huge part of my upbringing.

My mom came from a Mennonite family where Grace was sung at the table at meals. And my mom was a really talented recreational piano player, and sang. So we really grew up, singing all the time. My family sang in four part harmony for Christmas carols, I sort of thought that was normal.

Which was a really wonderful way to be introduced to music. You know, I always said, I would tinker around at it. And I took piano lessons. Early in my life, I didn’t go too far in piano, but I definitely played around with it a lot as a kid. And my mom just really used the piano as kind of a calming escape for herself.

So sometimes I would be upstairs, doing homework in high school, and I could hear my mom, you know, playing a sonata on the piano.

It’s just, she really did a great job of exposing us to a lot of music.

My mom really had a variety of tastes growing up. So we listened to everything from old Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks and records to Enya and Paul Simon and the Beatles. And my mom just was constantly listening to different stuff.

My childhood was just full of different types of music, everything from country to classical.

J: Do you remember when you realised music could be just more than a passion for you? When it could become a career?

A: That was a real struggle for me, actually.

I think I was around 16 when I started sort of playing around with writing some of my own things, and I didn’t really do it in a very overt way. I was sort of nervous and timid about it.

I was doing a lot of theatre at that time and really loved it. But my parents, despite being very musical themselves, were a bit nervous about me having a career in music.

There was a lot of talk about what I might study and I did ultimately end up getting a music degree, but I did struggle with what that lifestyle might look like.

And I was always interested in business as well. I sort of really did teeter about what I think I always wanted to do, but I was always aware of how hard it would probably be.

J: You mentioned that your mom played you a lot of different music when you were growing up. Are there any specific artists that are influences for you and your music today?

A: Tons, truly tons.

I mean, I know this is gonna sound strange, given that I’m putting out country music, but Alanis Morissette was a huge influence for me. And I say that because I remember listening to the Jagged Little Pill record and thinking that this was the first time that a woman had said such vulnerable and honest things in this way.

And so that authenticity kind of connected with me.

Obviously, people like Dolly Parton, everything from classics like Jolene to things like 9 to 5, and I’ve even liked the country version of “I Will Always Love You”.

I remember when the bodyguard movie soundtrack came out, we played that back and forth in my house. Listening to the Whitney version of “I Will Always Love You” and other songs off of that record, that big pop stuff, and some of those soaring kinds of 90s country.

So that kind of big stuff really influenced me, I think.

When I was growing up, I was a big Mariah Carey fan. I used to lay in my bed, I feel like I’m gonna feel so old saying this, but I used to have a tape deck set up so that the radio would play a Mariah Carey song and you’d have to press the record button and the play button at the same time if you want to record something off the radio.

And I would record the opening of some of those riffs that Mariah Carey would do. And then I would play them back and lie in my bed and try to mimic them all the time. Which contributes, hopefully, to some of the dexterity that I have now.

But I loved Mariah Carey, I love the Spice Girls, I loved some of that harder rock stuff, some Green Day and Offspring and Weezer and all that.

J: Wow. That’s a wide range!

A: It’s such a wide range!

That’s why I think it took me a while to discover what kind of genre of music I wanted to be in.

I’ve explored many genres, and that’s partially because I just had such an eclectic upbringing, and I love music in general. I would stand in line excited to see Green Day with the same level of excitement as I am to stand in line to see the Chicks.

So I’ve always kind of just loved many kinds of music.

I find it really interesting that I’m landing in country now because I can’t get enough of it.

And I think it’s because there’s just so much harmony, the melodic shape of the songs is just so reminiscent of that stuff. And the way that storytelling is so key. I grew up loving theatre. And I think there’s a funny and interesting connection between theatre and country.

And that story is so central to what the music is, and that speaks to me so much.

So yeah, I know that sounds like a long winded answer. But truly, my inspiration has come from so many places. And sometimes it’s not the sound of it. Something I love about Green Day is the way that those lyrics come across is so conversational.

So I appreciate that element of it.

And I think that I try really hard when I’m writing lyrics to speak them and think about how I’m saying them, and do they sound like they could be part of a conversation between two people.

J: Yeah, I think that definitely shines on this newest single. I don’t know if it’ll surprise you to learn that you’re the first artist I’ve ever talked to, to bring up bands like Weezer and Green Day. So clearly you have a wide range going on. Do you think that that wide range of inspirations helps you stand out in the modern country music scene?

A: Maybe. I mean, I would hope so!

You want to stand out for sure. I definitely think it gives me a different lens. Whenever I’m writing, I always hope that, melodically especially, I have so much influence from other genres. But sometimes I have to ask myself whether that sounds country enough or, if it suits the lyric, does that even matter?

I’m always looking for a story first. We rewrote “Love Used To Live Here” three times, and the hook of that song didn’t actually happen until the third rewrite.

I remember chatting in the “Zoom Room” with Carrie DeMaeyer and Matt Koebel, who wrote the song with me, and we were just not quite happy with the hook. And I remember saying to Matt, you know, really, the essence of this song is that love used to live in this house, and it doesn’t anymore. It’s love used to live here. And he was like, wow, that’s the hook.

We were scrambling around looking for a guitar or a piano, because just the cadence of saying those words lent themselves to those notes. And I can hear pop influencing that, and even a little bit of rock influence in that. I hope the background I have gives me many tools to write, I guess is what I’m trying to say.

J: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. And I’m glad you brought up the single specifically, because I do want to jump into that.

I’m gonna ask you a question, and I hope you take it in the way that it’s meant because I think everyone who listens to the song is going to have the same question.

You okay? Everything good?

A: (laughs) You know what, thank you for saying that.

This song is an amalgamation of many experiences. I’m friends with so many couples, and during the pandemic, it felt like people either became stronger than they’ve ever been, or they separated.

And at my age, in your early 40s, when they’re separating from someone, they’re pulling a home apart.

There were a lot of divorces around me, and separating a life from someone else, when you built it and expected to have that life be a forever life… It’s a big, big thing to tear down. And walking through a house that is filled with memories of somebody who you had many great moments with is a weird experience.

J: Do you find it hard to write about these kinds of complex emotions, like a bad breakup? Is it a thing that you have to kind of push yourself through? Or does it come naturally to you?

A: I think it comes naturally.

To me, I’m all about authentic stories. What I struggle to write about is stuff that doesn’t feel rooted in something really real.

I think that’s why I’m building an EP right now. I think every one of the songs on it leans a little more serious than maybe I would have thought.

I think it’s because when I’m writing songs, a lot of times I’m writing a story. I’d have to look at it and say, “could this be a monologue? Can I talk about this in a way that  feels like I’m conveying something broader than just just a moment in time?” You write so many songs when you’re building an EP, and when it came to the selection process, I just gravitated toward the songs that felt like they were a snapshot of a bigger story.

J: Speaking of that creative process, you didn’t write this alone. So what was it like working with Carrie and Matt on this track?

A: I mean, Carrie’s a hugely talented songwriter who’s written with many people.

It’s funny because the first time that I wrote with her was at the beginning of 2021. She was in a songwriting group that I was a part of. And I collaborated with her and Matt and James Downham on a duet that we put out last year.

And I remember the first time being in the room with her, being a bit intimidated, because I knew how many songs that she had written that had been on the radio, and she’s had a lot of success.

I think this never fails to surprise me, but these people who have had quite a bit of success, they always end up being the most humble, welcoming, kind people. And she just created a really safe environment for people to explore ideas.

And the experience I had writing with her on that duet, felt so safe, that when it came time for me to start writing stuff for a solo project, she was the first person that I reached out to.

Matt brings something so special to the table and that he really musically hears things right away in many layers.

Anybody who’s written with him or done demos with him will tell you, you can be in a write with him, and an hour into the write, he kind of suddenly disappears from the room for a second? And he’s gone for maybe 15 minutes, and then when he comes back, he might join the call again and he’s got a bed track sort of already started.

His brain just works in such a way that all of a sudden there’s a groove in the mix, he can hear things, and he’s already building a demo in real time. He’s such an incredible musical brain. And what I love about both of them is we sort of all align in wanting the song to speak to us on a pretty visceral level.

Like I said before, this song went through three rewrites. We wrote this song, it had a different title, the vibe was the same. And some of the lyrics were the same, but we kind of knew that it wasn’t quite as strong as it could be.

And if everybody in the room had had a big ego, we could have left it at that and said, “this is the song it is what it is.” But instead, you know, we kind of sat with it for a couple of weeks, and then the conversation kind of picked up again over messenger.

And we all kind of admitted that this wasn’t as strong as it could be, and we should maybe have a relook at it.

So we looked at it again, did another rewrite, sat with it for a bit. And the same thing happened again. But by the time we got to the third iteration of the song, all of a sudden, this new hook came into play. And you know how you just get that excited feeling, like there’s something special about what’s how this has evolved.

J: It’s that moment where everything clicks into place, and you realise you’re just missing that one little thing. It all just kind of comes together.

A: Yeah! And Carrie is kind of known for poking holes at things and looking for the best work. And I knew that and so anytime Carrie says, you know, I think we should relook at the second verse or this last word in the bridge, I have no ego about that. I just know that she’s sussing out this sheet.

There’s an energy there where she knows that there’s probably a better choice there

J: I think that creative process really shines through on the track.

A: Matt, I mean, it’s the same way for him, especially musically. He just is constantly layering stuff on there. And it’s such a collaborative process to which I love.

I’ve worked in a lot of musical settings over the course of my career, and those two people in particular are terrific collaborators, they come into the room, confident about their skills, but with no ego.

J: That’s fantastic. That’s what you want, someone that knows what they’re doing, but is willing to hear out like every idea in the room.

I want to talk about the way the song came together.

I know we’ve been talking about the creative process. Obviously, the themes of the song are very sad. But the song itself kind of pushes forward with his power. I think it’s fair to say that this is more of an anthem than it is a ballad.

J: So I want to know: what was important to you to make this kind of thematically sad song more of an anthem than a ballad?

A: That’s such a great question. Thank you for asking.

I think that when you’ve put that much time into a relationship, you have to honour it. Sometimes people are in your life for just a part of your life. They’re meant to teach you something. We can mourn the change or the ending of something. But we also have to celebrate what was good.

The verses have this kind of melancholic idea.

The day we moved in, we painted the front door red, that’s a positive thing. Like we’re making this house, our home, a pizza on the floor, put together the bed, we made this space special to us. We had all these dreams for our life together.

And then you go into that second verse, and you get this image of walking around the house and having it feel empty. And that’s also sad. But then you go back, relate to the back hook again.

And you’re still acknowledging that the best space was filled with love at one time. And just because love doesn’t last forever, doesn’t mean it wasn’t special or important.

J: Is that the lesson you want the audience to take from this song?

A: Yeah, I think it’s about honouring love in all forms that it exists. Sometimes, it’s a great love for a short period of time.

J: Looking forward, what would success for this song mean to you?

A: I’ve had a hard time defining what that looks like for almost all my songs.

You want people to hear it, obviously. Music is a shared experience. For me, success has already kind of happened in that I just wanted to create music again, because I didn’t for a long time. So just the act of writing, and building a record, for me is the success. So the moment that the track became live on Spotify, Apple Music, whatever, that is a major benchmark.

So the next step for me is just, hopefully people listen to it meaningfully, and care.

Care enough to maybe listen to it a second time. I’m sort of slowly coming back to being an artist after not being one for a long time. I feel like I’m doing a strange comeback. And I guess this is gonna sound so un-strategic, but… I have a plan, but I also don’t.

I’m trying to follow my gut.

We can make a plan, but this industry is so malleable. You can’t predict what’s going to happen. You can’t predict what people will like. I’ve taught as a voice teacher for a long time for many other artists, and one of the things I’ve learned from being a voice coach is that we can never predict where an audience exists.

I’ve seen entire styles of music develop that I never would have predicted would have had such a huge following. So I’ve come to understand that music is evolving in a way that no one person can control. So you just kind of have to do the music that you love.

J: You mentioned this is the first single off of an EP that’s gonna be coming out next year. Is that that’s where your main focus is right now, or do you have other things going on at the moment?

A: I always have many irons in the fire. I mean the EP is obviously a big focus. I’m coaching full time, so I’m teaching a lot of other artists.

I’m also looking at what single will come out next, and it’s really funny because I’ve started to do more live gigs and I kind of had a plan in place for what songs should roll out in what order and I love the fact that after doing five or six gigs in the last six weeks, and that’s completely changed the plan because obviously the audience reaction to certain songs has been quite different than I would have expected.

I love that I had a plan and that it’s been completely blown up by other people’s reaction to other songs.

I live in sort of four week cycles at this point, like, I’m always looking kind of four weeks ahead. I don’t know that I can look further ahead than that right now because I have so many things I’m trying to work on and, and I’ve done a major kind of career and life shift over the past couple of years.

I’ve only recently come back to performing. So as I’m shifting my life and my schedule to make room to sing and perform, that’s adjusting my whole life in many ways.

J: Well, I know that on the Front Porch, we’re definitely looking forward to seeing what’s next.

I really appreciate you taking the time out to do this. Thanks again for joining us here on the Front Porch.

A: Thanks so much for having me, I really appreciate it.

You can stream “Love Used To Live Here” below, and you can keep up with Amanda by following her instagram @missakind.

Jason Saunders From Front Porch Music
Jason Saunders

Jason Saunders is a graduate from both the English Literature program at Trent University and the Journalism program and Seneca College. He has a passion for music, writing, and all things creative.

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