By Sean Farragher, Contributing Writer
Amanda Munro is a queer musician and a self-described rambler who recently moved to Denver. While her songs may lead you to believe she will leave you in a cloud of her dust, she promises to always sing the truth. “As a queer woman trying to make sense of the injustice and beauty in the world, music is my primary source of catharsis,” she says.
Amanda sat down with me (over Zoom) to discuss her debut EP Clean Slate, being a female artist, ghosts – and if she’ll ever write a song about her dog.
When it comes to your musical identity, do you want to be seen as queer, a female musician or a musician who happens to be a queer female?
For me, I like that to be at the forefront. I was just speaking to a friend recently about how it wasn’t possible until very recently to be out in a very public way and be a musician in any genre, but especially country. I was watching some of Brandi Carlile’s old videos and they’re very… vague… and show her with a lot of male figures. That was not that long ago. I think we’re entering a new era where musicians can be themselves more, and I think people are hungry for music that talks about the queer experience. It’s a big part of what I write.
The first track on the EP is the title track, Clean Slate, and it deals with your dating history. When you sit down to write a song like that, are you sharing true stories from your own experiences or do you pull from things you’ve heard from other people? Or just make things up altogether?
I draw very heavily on my own personal experiences. I don’t know what else I would write music about, to be honest. (Chuckles.) On Clean Slate, I do talk about three exes but the majority of the EP is focused on one of them. The most recent.
Would you change anything in your past or are you happy with who those negative experiences formed you into?
I don’t think I would take back any of the negative experiences. I know its cliché to say, but I did learn from them all. My sexuality and perspective have evolved quite a bit over time so it’s interesting to look back at the person I was then. As I said 85% of the album is about one ex, bless her heart; she is someone who I loved very much and that relationship taught me a lot about boundaries and what a healthy relationship looks like because it was so unhealthy.
So, all that goes down and you hit the road. Is that your ongoing philosophy on dealing with hardships or was that merely a moment-in-time viewpoint?
That’s a good question. I don’t know if it’s something I will do my entire life but up until this point it’s pretty much been my experience, yeah. (Chuckles.) I grew up moving around a lot so when things aren’t working out for me, I relocate and kind of rediscover myself during new experiences.
You’re a very perceptive lyricist.
I mean it! You paint very vivid pictures of very vivid memories, most notably in The Sound of Heartbreak and The Ghost. Do you write while the emotions and experiences are fresh, or do you prefer to give it some time and reflect back?
Those two songs I wrote at the time it was all happening. That was a rough time. The Ghost was right after I broke up with my ex of two years and that was a very toxic, codependent relationship. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I just knew I needed to do it because I was not a healthy person anymore. She only took a single bag of clothes and left me alone in this house with most of her stuff still there. She was gone but it felt like she was still there. Like a ghost. So, I sat on my couch and cried and wrote this song and shoved it in a notebook and didn’t think about it again for months.
In The Ghost you mention drowning a lot. Would you rather drown at sea or get burned alive?
(Long exhale.) Drown at sea because I love the ocean.
It’s weird how romanticized drowning is in art.
In my song I don’t really see it that way because, like you said, my lyrics are very on-the-head. (Brief pause.) Which is actually something I am insecure about. Everyone else writes these beautiful metaphors, and I’m just like THIS-IS-WHAT-HAPPENED. Anyway, I remember crying so hard that I was unable to breath and that’s where the drowning sensation came from.
Do you believe in ghosts?
Ghosts are one of my worst fears. There’s no evidence they do exist but there’s also no evidence that they don’t. I don’t WANT to believe in them but who am I to say otherwise. That sliver of uncertainty is enough to terrify me.
Is it ever awkward with your current partner when you sing such specific songs about your former partners?
(Laughs.) No, she likes them! That’s another benefit of being in a healthy relationship. You can talk about your exes and not have it turn into a jealousy thing.
Do you play every instrument on the album or did you have some studio musicians?
Oh yeah, studio musicians. I just play the guitar and piano and they are all much better than me sooo…
People don’t give studio musicians enough credit. That solo in The Ghost rips.
They’re unsung heroes and AMAZING.
So, the last song on the EP is a bit of a departure.
It’s a country song. The other three could fit anywhere in the Americana, Folk, Indie realm but this one is COUNTRY. I’m just curious how that one came to be.
Yeah. Um. (Laughs.) Great question. When I play it myself it obviously sounds more folksy but when the studio musicians heard it they were just super inspired and ran with it. I loved it. If we could ever do a music video this would be the one with a giant line dance in the desert. It would be fucking awesome.
Not just the sound but the lyrics are very country.
A lot of times when I get an idea I will sing it into voice memo on my phone and forget about it for, like, a year. (Laughs.) Then I will come back to it and be like ‘Oh yeah, I want to do something with this!’ The first lyric of that song was one of those and it kept coming back to me.
“Breeze in my hair as you drive through town, the jagged peaks turn red when the sun goes down.”
Yep. I was living in Las Cruces and the stunning Organ Mountains really do turn red when the sun goes down because they’re made out of all rhyolite. So finally, I just sat down to write it and it just came out that way.
(Nods and pretends to know what rhyolite is.) It fits perfectly as the final track.
We had a lot of fun with that one.
What’s one question no one ever asks you that you wish they would?
I am a person with many interests and music is just a part of it. Another part is conservation, which is part of what that song is about. I worked at a wildlife nonprofit while I was in New Mexico. Music is amazing and is a great way to talk about the human experience but there’s so much more to everyone than we give them credit for. We often put people in these little boxes. It’s like genres! I hate that.
Will you ever write a song about your dog?
(Laughs.) I’ve thought about it!
Exes are great to write about and all, but dogs…
They deserve it. A dog will never leave you.
Clean Slate is available now on all services. Order the EP here.