People

Top of the world

Amanda Marshall's own, personally revealing, songs grace her second album

Nicholas Jennings May 24 1999
People

Top of the world

Amanda Marshall's own, personally revealing, songs grace her second album

Nicholas Jennings May 24 1999

Top of the world

Amanda Marshall's own, personally revealing, songs grace her second album

People

How’s this for youthful confidence? “The best discovery I made about myself was that a lot of the things that I thought I couldn’t do were really just things that I hadn’t got around to yet.” So says singer Amanda Marshall, who found she was able to co-write nearly all of the 13 songs on her second album, Tuesdays Child, including one with legendary singer-songwriter Carole King. “There was nothing,” says Marshall, “that was really out of my reach.”

It’s that easy when, at 26, you’re sitting on top of the world. Marshall, she of the Medusian hair and Amazonian voice, enjoys an enviable position in pop music. The Toronto native first gained attention as a teenager singing in local bars, where her big, bluesy voice prompted one critic to call her “the love child of Joe Cocker and Janis Joplin.” After signing with Sony Music, Marshall spent two years touring four continents and watched as her 1996 eponymous debut album produced six Top 10 singles in Canada and sold more than two million copies worldwide.

Marshall’s own songs, she admits, are “more personal, less anonymous” than those on her debut album. Many evoke a feeling of regret or dissatisfaction with the fleeting relationships that she says are an occupational hazard. “There’s a real sense of immediate intimacy that’s created when you do this for a living,” says Marshall, “because you’re constantly bringing people into your life and then letting them go quickly. It’s very easy to become isolated.”

While on the road, Marshall noticed that the songs that drew the strongest reaction were often the three that she either wrote or co-wrote on her first album. From then on, she kept a notebook in which she wrote anything that struck her fancy: bits of poetry, snatches of melody, sometimes just a phrase she

thought might make a promising song title. For Tuesdays Child, Marshall contacted Eric Bazilian, composer of Joan Osborne’s massive 1995 hit One of Us. Marshall and Bazilian co-wrote 10 of the songs on her new CD, using her notebook jottings as a springboard. Emboldened by the breakthrough, Marshall called up King, one of pop’s most prolific songwriters in the 1960s, whose 1971 album, Tapestry, sold 15 million copies. Together, they wrote the album’s mid-tempo ballad Right Here All Along. “We connected right away,” says Marshall, who flew to Los Angeles to work with the 57-year-old musician. “I think she saw in me a little bit of where she was when she first started out. It was neat to sit and see ourselves sort of reflected in each other.”

One of the strongest songs on Tuesdays Child is also the album’s most explicitly autobiographical. Shades of Grey deals with Marshall’s life as a child of a biracial marriage. Her Trinidadian mother is black, and her father is white. Marshall sings that when her paternal grand-

mother held her for the first time, she “thanked God I looked like my daddy.” She adds that there was never any overt racism, just an unspoken distinction. But by Marshall’s own account, her childhood was happy. Her parents doted on their only child, and enrolled her at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music when she was 3.

Marshall is loath to discuss her personal life. Her boyfriend of several years is also a member of her band, but she refuses to provide any details. Nor does she like being lumped in with other divas, Canadian or otherwise. “I really don’t know any of them,” she says, adding, “it’s ridiculous to think that I would feel connected to Sheryl Crow by virtue of the fact that we’re both female and have curly hair. We’re all pop singers. We have that much in common. But it diminishes the value of what we do individually to think that we all feel the same way or share any kind of sisterhood.” Lilith Fair, take note.

Nicholas Jennings