The day before her first stint opening for Tears For Fears, Canadian singer Amanda Marshall is calm as a cucumber even after a fire in her Miami hotel knocked out electricity and telephone service and forced her to new accommodations.
Some would see that as a bad omen, but not Marshall, who at 23 is remarkably conditioned for the unexpected. It comes from confidence in herself and her powerful voice, discovered by Jeff Healey at a club in Toronto when she was 17.
“I went down to Grossman’s blues club on the advice of Jeff,” Marshall said recently. “I met him the night before, and he invited me up to jam with them the next day. It was a natural progression for me from there, I was always involved in music.”
Soon, Marshall was signed to Columbia, but they parted ways before an album was made.
“The Columbia deal came and went quickly, three months,” she said. “I was really young. I had no clear perspective, no game plan. Had I stuck it out, the record wouldn’t have been bad, but I probably wouldn’t have been happy with it.”
Good thing she waited: She later signed with Sony Music Canada, teamed with songwriters Christopher Ward, Marc Jordan and David Tyson and recorded her self-titled debut album at Tyson’s studio in Los Angeles. The LP became an instant hit back home, earning her a Juno Award nomination for best new artist (Ashley MacIsaac was the victor). Her latest single, “Birmingham,” peaked at No. 3 in Canada earlier this month.
Now she’s taking on the states, where the album (on Epic here) will be out May 7.
Some critics have likened her booming style to Janis Joplin, but she has more in common with Sheryl Crow and Melissa Etheridge.
“It’s flattering to be compared to them,” Marshall said. “I take it for what it’s worth. It’s a tool for people to use because I’m a new name … and I’m also really loud, more so live than in the studio. If you’re quiet, I guess you don’t get noticed as much.”
Marshall doesn’t want to fret about the prospects of joining the ranks of Crow, Joan Osborne and fellow Canadian Jann Arden. “All I know is,” she said, “is that I just want to do this for the long haul.”
BWF (before we forget): Even though her album failed to chart in the United States, Marshall had a 20-week ride with “Birmingham” on Billboard’s pop singles chart, peaking at No. 43 in the fall of 1996.