With a voice akin to a plaintive purr or a growl, singer-songwriter Amanda Lee Peers is a compelling force of nature. The permeating pulchritude of her scrambled hair and vibrant smile doesn't hurt either. But I'm telling you, it's that voice and it's dangerous, yet honeyed toned. Peers is the perfect blend of pop hook and sweet stuff from the classic rock book.
Amanda Lee Peers and the Driftwood Sailors was the definitive example of creative push and pull in the rock 'n' roll arena, where butting heads yielded some fantastic music. Song-based through and through, the band's treatment of the music was a source of dispute and its ultimate demise two years ago. Its members splintered into various musical ventures, and Peers hit the stage as a solo artist — little did she know Hollywood would be calling.
Peers had auditioned in the past for "The X Factor," "American Idol," and "The Voice," to no avail. It was when "The Voice" producers saw her homemade video of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" had reached close to 50,000 hits that Peers got the call to audition again. This time she got the call-back for the show's seventh season (which is still airing). She made it through round one thanks to a vote from Gwen Stefani, a judge on the show, only to be unseated by a young man whose weak timbre and puppy dog eyes somehow fooled the judges, and sent Peers home on the adios express.
The young lady is back where she belongs, rocking the stage with her guitar, singing her own songs. And there's talk of putting a new backing band together on her terms. She's considering a move to Nashville and hasn't ruled out more TV entirely; it's just a matter of time. She's going to be a star, this Amanda Lee Peers ... you'll see. An edited transcript of City Newspaper's interview with Peers follows.
City: The Driftwood Sailors broke up two summers ago. Por qué?
Amanda Lee Peers: I initiated it. It was getting to the point that I wanted to go in a different direction. The guys wanted to go the more hard rock route and I was going more of the pop route. And we all had full time jobs, some had families, so it was hard to set up a tour. It was tough, but I finally figured it was time to part ways.
So now you're playing solo out of necessity?
I'd always been doing solo shows around town, just me and my acoustic. You can play just about anywhere. It's kind of out of necessity now, but I would like to get some people to back me because there are some songs I've written that are hard to do just acoustically.
They need that full band punch?
Exactly. But it wouldn't be like before; this time, it would be like I'm hiring studio musicians.
So you'd be the boss. Hasn't that always been the case?
I pretty much made that clear, but when you're playing together and people bring ideas to the table ... I guess I had the final say, but I definitely welcomed people's ideas. On one hand I was saying I had final say, but at the same time it was like I need help doing this stuff. I can't do everything myself. I guess I wanted the best of both worlds. It was tough.
Sometimes this type of conflict renders some good music, don't you think?
I dunno; I got some good songs out of it.
How'd the whole Voice thing happen for you?
They actually contacted me and said they'd seen me on YouTube and would I be willing to come and audition in Philly. They saw my version of "Ain't No Sunshine." I had just recorded it with a crappy camera in my bedroom, forever ago.
You know, as far as everyone around here is concerned, you won.
Taylor was a great singer. I love his voice. But I sang the crap out of that song.
And there was a write-in campaign to get you on Ellen DeGeneres' show?
Because of my story. I grew up in the church; played music in the church. When I was 19, the pastor came to me and said, "I found out you're in a relationship with another woman; we don't believe in that and we can't have you playing with the church band anymore. You can go to counseling and get fixed, and if you are fixed you can be back on the team." So I just left the church at that point.
How did you handle this with "The Voice"?
Originally I had debated whether or not to say anything.
Why was it anyone's business, anyway?
That's been my mindset. Why do I have to talk about it? Do people talk about being straight? That was my big thing and I specifically told the producer, "Look, I know this is my story, but I don't want to be the 'lesbian' on the show, even though it's my truth."
But it has worked out positively?
Yeah. A lot of people have contacted me: "Your story really inspired me; I'm going through the same type of thing." It has been really cool.
When looking for new musicians to play with, what will the ad say?
Just looking for musicians that can jump right in while staying with current music; someone who loves music and just wants to play it.
Would you consider doing more television?
I really, really liked doing TV and would definitely do it again.
How about reality TV?
I can bring the drama. I got a lot of practice from being in the band.