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Amanda Davis Is Getting More Women Of Color Behind The Mixing Board

Amanda Davis 

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Amanda Davis Is Getting More Women Of Color Behind The Mixing Board

Janelle Monáe's Front of House engineer spoke to the Recording Academy about the way she's helping women as young as 16 pursue engineering, working with Monáe, why mentorship is so important to her and more

GRAMMYs/Apr 12, 2019 - 01:33 am

Amanda Davis is on a mission to get women of color behind the mixing board. As the Front of House engineer (FOH) for GRAMMY-nominated superstar musician Janelle Monáe, she's helped deliver the best sonic experiences at live shows across the world. And the Memphis native isn't done there; She's currently also the FOH and production manager for GRAMMY-winning rising star Ella Mai

But Davis didn't always know live sound was the path she wanted to go down in the music industry; even when she did, she maneuvered the road with little guidance. Thanks to her strong faith and some risk-taking, she's become a powerhouse engineer who has Tegan and Sara, Jidenna, Wale and more under her FOH repertoire. 

Now established and knowing the challenges women of color face, she wants to help pave the way for female engineers through a production program called LineCheck! (While all women are welcome to apply, Davis targets women of color as she says they face a particular lack of opportunity in the field.)

Davis spoke to the Recording Academy about the way she's helping young women become engineers through her program and how they can get involved, how she began her career, working with Monáe and why mentorship is so important to her.  

Tell me about yourself, where did you grow up? When did your interest in music begin?

I was born and grew up in Memphis, Tenn. That alone is the best inclination as to where/when my interest in music began. The soul of Memphis is music. I honestly have no idea when/where the interest in music began because that's all I know. I think I started piano lessons when I was between three and five years old. By the time I was in middle school I realized I could sing and started to focus on that until I was about 23, had a real come to Jesus moment with myself (laughs) and concluded that I didn't want to sing anymore. I still wanted and needed to be involved in music. So I took a leap of faith and went to audio school. Put in the time, participated in multiple internships and hustled my butt off in Atlanta. Through many trials and errors, here I am six years into a career. 

How did you begin working with music?

I first started working as a lab tech at SAE Institute. Then I started teaching music theory there. While doing that I was working as a FOH at a church and different clubs around the Atlanta area.  

When did you realize you wanted to be an engineer?

It kind of happened organically. I was just trying to find my way through the industry and where I belonged. Becoming an engineer was something I really started focusing on once I was almost done with my time at SAE.  

How did you begin working with Janelle Monáe?

My friend, Jeff Cohran, who's also Janelle's tour & production manager, called me and explained that Janelle expressed wanting a woman as her FOH. I immediately sent my resume, mind you, I had never toured at this point in my career so the resume wasn't really that long (laughs) and the rest is history.  

Fondest memory in the studio so far?

My second to last internship I got to work with producer Dru Castro. He produced a couple of my favorite songs on an India.Airie album.

Talk to me about the LineCheck! Women In Production program you have going on, what is it?

LineCheck! is a program I initiated to have a small group of young ladies shadow me during sound checks while I'm on tour. These are young ladies who are pursuing and/or interested in live concert production. Whether that be live sound, tour management, production management, production assisting. It's to give exposure to this side of things and show them that these positions are viable careers to pursue. I show them stage set up, how I build my show files, explain load ins and load outs, etc. They sometimes even get the chance to speak with other women who are on tour with me in the aforementioned positions. 

How did this idea come about and what do you hope participants get out of it?

When I got the call to go out on tour with Janelle I realized I had no one to call to ask how to do this. I didn't know how much I should get paid, how to advance, how to build an input list, tune a room....nothing! I had one person I called on, but it wasn't a woman and he hadn't really toured on this level, so, unfortunately, I was really winging it! (laughs) So as I grew as a woman and engineer, I realized that I wanted to help those coming along after me so they wouldn't feel alone and as uneducated as I did starting out on this journey. There are a lot of things I wish someone told me that I just had to learn the hard way. No need for others to go through that way, right?!  

Who is eligible and how can they get involved?

Any young lady 16 years of age and above are welcomed! I will be completely transparent and say I particularly extend this offer to women of color, simply because that demographic is usually deprived of exposure to these types of opportunities, but all are welcome! Email linecheck@earshotagency.com to inquire about dates. 

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Why is this kind of mentorship work important to you? 

Viola Davis said something at the 2017 Emmys I will never forget, I'm abbreviating a bit but she said, "The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity". I'll add exposure to that. These young ladies simply don't know that this career path is even an option for them, I didn't! I want to do my part to let them know this is an option...there aren't any limits! 

What’s the greatest lesson the industry has taught you so far?

Trust God, then yourself.  

What is your advice for young women that want to pursue engineering?

Don't limit yourself to one sector of engineering. There are sooooo many opportunities from mixing live, studio tracking, RF coordinator, patch person, post-production mixing. Much more! It's really endless. Try it all and see what you organically gravitate towards the most. 

What projects are you working on now?

I'm currently on tour with Ella Mai as Production Manager and Front of House engineer. About to go into heavy touring with my time split between Ella and Janelle. 

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Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

Rotimi

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Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'

GRAMMYs/Jul 8, 2019 - 10:04 pm

In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.

"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.

Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.

"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."

Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American. 

"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."

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Rosalía Announces First Solo North American Tour

Rosalía 

Photo: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

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Rosalía Announces First Solo North American Tour

El Mal Querer Tour, named after the Spanish pop star's latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances

GRAMMYs/Mar 20, 2019 - 12:25 am

Rosalía is set to perform at some of the most popular music festivals around the globe, including Primavera Sound in Spain, Lollapalooza (Argentina and Chile) and Coachella, but the Spanish pop star isn't stopping there when she gets to the States. Now, she has announced her first solo North American Tour with a string of dates that will bring her to select cities in the U.S. and Canada.

El Mal Querer Tour, named after her latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances. Then she'll play San Francisco on April 22, New York on April 30 and close out in Toronto on May 2.

 

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"I’m so happy to announce my first solo North American tour dates," the singer tweeted.

Rosalía won Best Alternative Song and Best Fusion/ Urban Interpretation at the 19th Latin GRAMMY Awards in November and has been praised for bringing flamenco to the limelight with her hip-hop and pop beats. During her acceptance speech she gave a special shout-out to female artists who came before her, including Lauryn Hill and Bjork. 

Rosalía has been getting some love herself lately, most notably from Alicia Keys, who gave the Spanish star a shout-out during an acceptance speech, and Madonna, who featured her on her Spotify International Women's Day Playlist. 

Tickets for the tour go on sale March 22. For more tour dates, visit Rosalía's website.

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Walk, Don't Run: 60 Years Of The Ventures Exhibit Will Showcase The Surf-Rock Icons' Impact On Pop Culture

The Ventures

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Walk, Don't Run: 60 Years Of The Ventures Exhibit Will Showcase The Surf-Rock Icons' Impact On Pop Culture

The exhibit, opening Dec. 7, will feature late band member Mel Taylor's Gretsch snare drum, a 1965 Ventures model Mosrite electric guitar, the original 45 rpm of "Walk Don't Run" and more

GRAMMYs/Nov 22, 2019 - 01:44 am

Influential instrumental rock band The Ventures are getting their own exhibit at the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles that will showcase the band's impact on pop culture since the release of their massive hit "Walk, Don't Run" 60 years ago. 

The Rock Hall of Fame inductees and Billboard chart-toppers have become especially iconic in the surf-rock world, known for its reverb-loaded guitar sound, for songs like "Wipeout," "Hawaii Five-O" and "Walk, Don't Run." The Walk, Don't Run: 60 Years Of The Ventures exhibit opening Dec. 7 will feature late band member Mel Taylor's Gretsch snare drum, a 1965 Ventures model Mosrite electric guitar, the original 45 rpm of "Walk Don't Run," a Fender Limited Edition Ventures Signature guitars, rare photos and other items from their career spanning six decades and 250 albums. 

“It’s such an honor to have an exhibit dedicated to The Ventures at the GRAMMY Museum and be recognized for our impact on music history,” said Don Wilson, a founding member of the band, in a statement. "I like to think that, because we ‘Venturized’ the music we recorded and played, we made it instantly recognizable as being The Ventures. We continue to do that, even today."

Don Wilson, Gerry McGee, Bob Spalding, and Leon Taylor are current band members. On Jan. 9, Taylor's widow and former Fiona Taylor, Ventures associated musician Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and others will be in conversation with GRAMMY Museum Artistic Director Scott Goldman about the band's journey into becoming the most successful instrumental rock band in history at the Clive Davis Theater. 

"The Ventures have inspired generations of musicians during their storied six-decade career, motivating many artists to follow in their footsteps and start their own projects," said Michael Sticka, GRAMMY Museum President. "As a music museum, we aim to shine a light on music education, and we applaud the Ventures for earning their honorary title of 'the band that launched a thousand bands.' Many thanks to the Ventures and their families for letting us feature items from this important era in music history."

The exhibit will run Dec. 7–Aug. 3, 2020 at the GRAMMY Museum

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Alicia Keys Unveils Dates For New Storytelling Series

Alicia Keys

Photo by Isabel Infantes/PA Images via Getty Images

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Alicia Keys Unveils Dates For New Storytelling Series

The artist will take her upcoming 'More Myself: A Journey' biography on a four-city book tour

GRAMMYs/Mar 5, 2020 - 04:07 am

After performing her powerhouse piano medley at the 62nd Annual GRAMMYs, R&B superstar, GRAMMY-winning artist and former GRAMMY’s host Alicia Keys has revealed that she will set out on a four-stop book tour next month. The storytelling tour will support her forthcoming book More Myself: A Journey, which is slated for a March 31 release via Flatiron Books and is reported to feature stories and music from the book, told and performed by Alicia and her piano, according to a statement.

Part autobiography, part narrative documentary, Keys' title is dubbed in its description as an "intimate, revealing look at one artist’s journey from self-censorship to full expression."  You can pre-order the title here.

The book tour will kick off with a March 31 Brooklyn stop at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. From there, Keys will visit Atlanta’s Symphony Hall on April 5 and Chicago’s Thalia Hall with Chicago Ideas the following day, April 6. The short-run will culminate on April 7 in Los Angeles at the Theatre at Ace Hotel.

Pre-sales for the tour are underway and public on-sale will begin on Friday, March 6 at 12 p.m. Eastern Time. Tickets for the intimate dates and full release dates and times are available here.

Keys won her first five career awards at the 44th Annual GRAMMYs in 2002. On the night, she received awards in the Best New Artists, Song of the Year, Best R&B Song, Best R&B Album and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance categories respectively. She has received a total of 29 nominations and 15 GRAMMYs in her career.

This year, Keys will also embark on a world tour in support of Alicia, the artist’s upcoming seventh studio album and the follow up of 2016’s Here, due out March 20 via RCA Records.