Though only twenty-eight years old, Amanda Richards has garnered a lifetime’s worth of experience. She has released three studio albums, one live album, and has written over two hundred songs. She has headlined at Portland’s historic Aladdin Theater, with over five hundred in attendance, and has appeared, in an hour-long interview, on NPR’s River City Folk. Her music has earned her six Grammy nominations, for Song of the Year, Best Female Country Performance, two nominations for Record of the Year, and two nominations for Best Country Song. And somehow there are still a few people who are not yet acquainted with Amanda Richards.
Originally from Modjeska Canyon, California, in the hills of old Orange County, Amanda was born into country music, as the granddaughter of Rusty Richards, an 18 year member of the legendary Sons of the Pioneers. After gaining some very early experience, sharing the stage with her family of musicians, Amanda relocated to Oregon, where she hitchhiked, busked on street corners, or lived in her car, all while honing her skills and crafting her unique style of music, which she calls, appropriately, “bohemian country.”
Influenced in equal measure by Joni Mitchell, Hank Williams, and Tom Waits, Amanda’s music covers a wide and diverse field—from sensuous ballads to old-school rockabilly; soulful bossa nova to laugh-out-loud country satire. Her live shows are a journey through many different styles and moods, but no matter what song she sings or what audience she plays for, she has everyone hanging on every word.
Amanda’s first album, Not Always Sexy (2004), was released when she was just twenty-one years old. She followed with Live at Mississippi Studios (2006), which caused the Portland Tribune to hail Amanda as “spellbinding across the spectrum, and a standout whose star is on the rise.” Amanda then released Who Has Your Heart (2009), also to great acclaim. Her latest studio album, the post-apocalyptic, zombie-themed Play Dead (2010), was praised by the Portland Mercury as “sweet and enduring, despite Richards’s bloody lyrical content. The end of days never sounded so sweet.” Always willing to push limits and experiment with new projects, Amanda is currently working on the soundtrack for Washed Ashore, a documentary film about a non-profit group that organizes beach clean-ups, and makes large marine life sculptures from collected plastic debris. And demonstrating that she may in fact be the hardest-working woman in show business, Amanda is also recording her fifth studio album, to be released in 2012.
Though she is skilled in the recording studio—behind either the microphone or the mixing board—and her albums are beautifully realized, delicately crafted, and highly regarded, Amanda’s true calling remains the live performance, where she proves, night after night, that she was indeed born for the stage.