I got the chance to talk with Amy Banks, a local musician. This powerhouse singer is asking for help with a unique challenge. Her KickStarter campaign is centered around a performance at the Ware Center in Lancaster which will be recorded live and made into a full album. Her campaign ends very soon on February 25, so let’s give her a hand!
Fine Living Lancaster: Tell me about the process of making singing a career.
Amy Banks: It’s one part talent, one part strategy and one part dumb luck. Oh, and a whole lot of grace along the way. God’s grace, that is.
After working full-time for Disney for three years, there was just no way I could imagine going back to the office. (I had left the Office of Public Affairs and The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia to work for Disney.) So, I guess I figured out how to make it work in theater, and later as a bandleader singing jazz. When I landed here in Central PA I had enough of both skills to be diverse, and that has helped. A friend of mine called it being a “craftsperson”: having enough skills in music, entertainment and acting, for example, to flourish in several realms. So I’ve worked in theatre, television hosting, commercials, print modeling, and voiceovers.
The other element would be being fortunate enough to have something people not only want to hear, but are willing to pay to hear. Having built a fan base during my tenure at American Music Theatre definitely helped me transition. I had a fan base, and I kept in communication with them through monthly newsletters, letting them know where I was and what I was doing. Bringing an audience to your shows is almost as important as being good at what you do.
Lastly, you have to be willing and able to define your value. You can’t give your talent away and make a living at it. You have to figure out what you’re worth and be willing to ask for it. The market will tell you if you’re on point or not, but believe me… I can tell you how many times I asked for a particular fee and the response was, “No, Amy, I think we’ll pay you more than that.” (Said no one, ever.)
FLL: What is the most fun/the most challenging aspect of producing this CD and show?
AB: Being brazen enough to think this big. Since we’re friends now, I can tell you: I’ve noticed the older I get, the easier it is to reach into the bucket of f###-its. That’s right. I decided I really just wanted to do this thing–I don’t even usually perform RnB music! Now I’ve gone off and decided to produce a show, and–hopefully–a CD with a bunch of musicians. Singers whom I LOVE (Adrienne Fishe, Shaleah Adkisson, and Erich Cawalla), who are like, 100 times better than me, and trying to pull off ARETHA?? I think I’ve lost my ever-loving mind. But it just seems RIGHT. I need to talk about how I ended up where I’m at in my life and in love and I need to use this music to do it. I need to do the music RIGHT. I need to talk about my expectations and disappointments and fears and hopes. And I want to laugh about it. And cry about it. And I want you to hear me, and hear a piece of yourself in my story. Then, when it’s all over, we’ll sit back, get shit-faced and laugh about how lucky we are to be alive. Having the COURAGE to try this is the biggest challenge. The rest is pretty easy, probably because I have four recording projects under my belt. I was very fortunate to have great musician friends who previously guided me along and taught me a lot.
FLL: What kind of work are you doing in preparation for the show? Have you been rehearsing with your musicians?
AB: My music director, Andy Mowatt, has completed our charts, and everyone here has been graciously attending rehearsals. It’s a very collaborative effort: the guys are so talented and they all make suggestions around what way to go with the arrangements, instrumentation, voicing, etc. I’m so grateful to a really wonderful, eager group of people to work with. I have also made several trips to NYC to rehearse with Adrienne and Shaleah. Frankly, I’m looking forward to putting the fundraising being behind me so I can concentrate on the show. The last piece will be working with a director to fill in the story, “Everything I Know about Love I Learned from Aretha.” That’s the joy of the cabaret piece: I get to tell you my little story.
FLL: How many people would you like to attend the event in March?
AB: Our cabaret has moved from the salon to the Steinman Hall at the beautiful Ware Center, so obviously I’d love to see a full house. That’s 350, I believe, and we’re actually selling well toward that goal. If people don’t get their VIP seating tickets through the Kickstarter campaign rewards, I highly recommend purchasing tickets in advance.
FLL: Did the Ware choose you, or did you choose the Ware?
AB: I’m eternally grateful to Harvey Owen, former Director at the Ware Center for being VERY persistent in booking me for a cabaret evening. He’s been a big supporter through the years and presented an offer I would be foolish to turn down. Of course, since I hatched this wild plan to record Live at the Ware Center, current Director Laura Kendall and her team (including badass Stacy Rutherford in Marketing), have been abundantly gracious and receptive in helping me foster this show concept. They are an incredible force with whom to work.
FLL: Why did you choose KickStarter, as opposed to something like GoFundMe, to raise the money?
AB: I really respect the accountability KickStarter creates: I need to ask for what I need to do the project and I’m accountable for a specific product upon completion of a successful campaign. The other truth: I didn’t research crowdfunding platforms! My cousin Sarah led a successful campaign a few years ago that I was fortunate enough to back and I just automatically thought of KickStarter to host this project.
FLL: Any other fun information about yourself that we should all know?
AB: 2015 is the year I’ve slated to reinvent myself. I highly recommend reinvention. After this show, God only knows what’s next. I’m truly grateful for all the participation in the project and support I continue to receive. Grateful and humbled by this experience. All of it.