ST. GEORGE — Navigating uncharted waters as a musician making her debut amidst a global pandemic, singer-songwriter and poet Amanda Barrick presents with “Wastelands” a journey many years in the making: one of an artist coming into her own.
“I knew going in that it would be different. I could have chosen not to release the album, but I felt strongly that I wanted to move forward,” she said. “I waited so long to put out this album that I didn’t want to wait any longer.”
Raised in Rexburg, Idaho, Barrick’s early ventures into songwriting were shaped by her experiences coming-of-age as a queer woman within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She was gifted a guitar at age 17 and taught herself how to play but initially made music only for herself as a means of personal expression.
Her high school years and beyond took her to Spokane, Washington and eventually to California. She moved to St. George in 2015 to be closer to her family while her mother battled cancer.
“It’s just been something that I kept in my back pocket,” Barrick said. “I’ve been in a couple of music projects, but never have I pursued music in the way that I decided to in the past year.”
Barrick said that when she started performing in Southern Utah, people would approach her after gigs and ask where they could buy her music. She had no discography, but a friend suggested launching a campaign to produce an album through the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.
She raised slightly more than her $5,000 goal to set “Wastelands” on the path to becoming reality. The album was recorded with local producer Ryan Tilby at Titan Audio Lab and released on July 31.
“Wastelands” showcases Barrick as both a musician and poet. Written over a decade of time and across many locations, each story corresponds to a different chapter in her life.
“There’s breakup songs, political songs, love songs. … What I’m really proud of about it is that it’s quite diverse,” she said. “I hope it makes people think and feel at the same time. I hope people find familiarity, commonalities and comfort in the words and the music.”
Barrick describes “Wastelands” as indie folk-rock with an Americana vibe, heavily influenced by Joan Baez, Ani DiFranco, Indigo Girls and other artists who inspire her. Woven throughout the album’s nine original tracks are themes of religious oppression, spirituality, love and self-acceptance.
“Dancing in the Dark” is the only cover to be found on “Wastelands.” Barrick usually opens her gigs with her acoustic re-imagining of the Bruce Springsteen hit, which she crafted at a pivotal time in her career when she was reconnecting with music. She first performed it at an open mic night in upstate New York during the late summer of 2018.
“I played that song and you could hear a pin drop in the entire bar,” she said. “I just felt very strongly in that moment that I had found something special about myself as a performer, so that song means something to me.”
Barrick delves into beat poetry on two spoken word tracks: “Cool Dad” and “Biochemistry.” She was introduced to spoken word in the early 2000s when her sister gave her a book of poems by Buddy Wakefield. She discovered that Wakefield toured with her own favorite poet, Andrea Gibson.
“I became obsessed with reading poetry out loud, and that eventually translated into writing,” she said. “It just became something that felt really natural, another form of storytelling that I really enjoyed.”
Barrick said she began incorporating her poetry into her live performances because the intimacy and vulnerability of spoken word demands attention from an audience – to hear not only the words, but how they’re being said and the emotion within them.
“Biochemistry” developed while Barrick was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in exercise science at Dixie State University. She was “geeking out on biology homework” and inspired by a close friend with whom she shared a powerful bond.
“We just naturally had this great chemistry and I was thinking to myself, ‘Isn’t it interesting why we’re so attracted to some people and not to others?’” she said. “‘Biochemistry’ is about being connected to another person and open to having their imprint placed upon you, and you take that with you for the rest of your life.”
Barrick was working as a server and bartender to pay the bills until the arrival of COVID-19. In the midst of worldwide lockdowns, she dove into her art and has since been pursuing music full-time “trying to make the hustle real.”
Without the ability to play live gigs to promote “Wastelands,” Barrick has taken things online, connecting with listeners from across the globe as one of many artists participating in the Socially Distant Fest on Facebook. Performing from her home is more like a jam session than a concert, and she appreciates being able to receive feedback from her audiences in real time. However, nothing can replace the energy of a live show.
“I would love more than anything to get out and promote the album on a tour, whether that’s opening for other artists or putting together my own sort of coffee shop tour,” she said. “That’s my biggest goal once I feel safe in doing that.”
During a time when much remains uncertain for artists, Barrick hopes that her debut effort will serve as a foundation to continue pursuing music and spoken word. The existence of “Wastelands” is owed to the small but devoted fan base that has supported her journey and belief in spreading her message of acceptance, individuality and “radical love.”
“I think of the artists that have influenced me and touched my life, and I very much would love to be that for another person,” she said. “I hope it finds the ears and the hearts and the feet of those that will let it land. I really do hope it’s enjoyed.”
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