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A lot of things seem weird to Amanda Green. The 24-year-old singer/songwriter uses the word a lot to describe, in general, her personal life and, in particular, the confluence of professional events ranging from her first club gig last August (a solo date on the patio of Churchill's Hideaway) to the upcoming release of her debut album and the start of a monthlong East Coast tour.
Her classical training on piano, which started when she was four years old? Weird, Green declares. Ditto for her debut public performance, when as a kindergartner she provided piano accompaniment as her classmates sang about rectangles, triangles, and circles. ("All I know is the piano made me different from everybody else," Green recalls, "because I was always playing piano while everybody else was in the play.") As for the semester she spent studying music composition at Michigan State University? Again, weird. ("Everybody wore Beethoven shirts all the time.")
And so on. That maiden show at Churchill's? Well, you can guess. "I was a little freaked out because I had just learned how to play guitar and I was really doubtful about my ability to communicate anything to anybody," she confesses. Green is also doubtful A for now, at least A about her ability to front a band that includes veteran drummer Derek Murphy (Forget the Name, Sixo, Milk Can) and her boyfriend, bassist Matt Sabatella (who formerly led his own self-named band and played bass with Diane Ward and Brian Franklin). "I'm still at the point where I feel scared to go over something too many times because I don't want to waste their time," she admits. "I haven't reached the point where I'm a very didactic bandleader or anything, and I doubt that I ever really will. I don't know. It's just weird."
Also rating high on Green's weirdometer is the fact that she's been sharing space these past few months at Criteria Recording Studios with arena-rock demigods Aerosmith, who have been in Miami recording their forthcoming album. "It's just very weird because it's your first album and you go in and it's like ... Aerosmith. You can't get a more emblematic, rock and roll type of career-oriented band than Aerosmith. It was just really bizarre." Not that the guys in Aerosmith have been snobs. In fact the band's scarf-flourishing lead singer Steven Tyler played his band's rough mixes for Green between sessions and asked what she thought. "Nothing could have made me feel punier than hearing their songs," she notes. "They just have that sound of gold."
Weird as the notion seems to Green, her work -- an engaging blend of hypnotic rock riffs and quirky pop hooks drenched in a defiantly postmodern attitude -- has the sound of gold to her manager Richard Ulloa, whose knack for spotting and nurturing talent has given him something of a Midas-like aura locally. Ulloa, the owner of Yesterday & Today Records in South Miami, founded the Y&T Music label a few years ago simply to help the then-struggling, now-platinum country act the Mavericks record and release their work. Later, as a manager, he helped Mary Karlzen and For Squirrels find their way to major-label contracts.
Ulloa cues up a rough mix of "I Stay Home," a track from Green's upcoming disc Junk and Stuff, being issued on Ulloa's Y&T label. Over the speakers Green can be heard faintly asking "Now?" and then giggling ever so slightly as she strums the song's opening chords. Bass and drums join in a choppy, midtempo gallop as Green launches into a rambling, deadpan monologue that sounds like an overheard slice of conversation between two jaded models at a South Beach nightclub: "I met this guy he tells me a story/How he met this girl who took him back/To an apartment where they got real high/He could've hit the sack but he didn't try."
The mind races for musical points of reference: Velvet Underground? Liz Phair? "Everyone has a different opinion," Ulloa says. "I've heard Amanda compared to Tori Amos, the B-52's, even Mary Karlzen." So who would he compare her to? None of the above. "This girl has the power, in my opinion, to revolutionize the record business," he gushes. That sort of outcome would no doubt seem weird to Green because, as she sheepishly comments, "I have no idea what I'm doing."
Which is not entirely accurate. Green was something of a musical whiz as a youngster, winning piano competitions and, at the age of nine, earning a soloist spot with the Miami Youth Symphony. She started writing songs a few years later, after her father bought her a Panasonic Double Cassette Recorder with Super Echo, a contraption commonly known to lounge lizards and armchair Sinatras as a karaoke machine. And yet Green wasn't interested in belting out "Old Time Rock & Roll" or chirping along to the backing track of "Wind Beneath My Wings." "I remember specifically telling my dad in the store, 'I don't have to buy the tapes of the background songs,'" she recalls. "I just wanted to use it because it had the microphone input and the headphones and a really big echo."