An interview with musician and artist extraordinaire, Mandy Sloan.
So Mandy, tell me your story. How did you get into writing music?
Well, I’d contribute my love for music and writing to my very bizarre family full or artists and performers. My dad was a worship pastor, who loved playing John Denver on his guild guitar, and my mom taught piano and vocal lessons. They were constantly inspiring me and my siblings to dive into the arts and really encouraged us to live out of creativity and passion.
It was when I was in seventh grade that my older brother decided he wanted to play guitar, and I just remembering waking my sleeping parents up to tell them that I wanted to play too.
I was most certainly, that girl that wanted to be just like her older brother.
However, my brother stuck with guitar for about a month (his knack has always been comedy) and I fell in love with guitar- jamming out to No Doubt’s, “I’m Just A Girl,” and recording videos of my best friend and I dramatically singing, Green Day’s “Time of Your Life.”
And from there, I simply continued covering other artists.
It wasn’t until about the age 15 that I started writing music. It came about when my parents decided to move from Lincoln, NE to St. Augustine, FL. The move was really rough for me. I didn’t know how to handle it, and began journaling every night. Over time the journal entries turned into lyrics and I wrote my first song about moving.
Was there ever a moment where you knew that music was what you wanted to do more than anything else?
I think that’s always been a tough question and even tough decision for me. I would say, “yes mostly,” with a little “no.”
Yes in that, there are many moments where I’m writing music in my room and time no longer exists. It’s always a magical feeling, and I can confidently say there’s nothing more I could want to do.
I remember especially when I lived with my parents having this ridiculous excitement when I was creating. My poor parents, I would actually have to stop them at whatever they were doing, and force them to listen to the new song I wrote. It’s those moments that I know writing music produces a level of joy in me, I rarely find elsewhere.
But I will say there’s a little no lingering in my statement. I’ve definitely found life works best for me in balance. I think I want to do music more than anything else, but I still have to ebb and flow in the process. I go through periods where I’m working on an album and music is all I want to do. And then out of nowhere I will bottom out a bit, and have to focus my energies elsewhere in nannying, spending time with my loved ones, and other creative outlets (like painting and drawing.)
What does a normal day look like for you? What is your creative process?
I don’t even know! My days are always different it seems. For me, writing and creativity comes best in spontaneity. Sometimes the songs begin when I’m on a walk, driving in the car, but for the most part when I’m strumming a guitar in my room.
From there, I take the songs and begin talking them over with my sound engineer.
I’ve been really blessed to work on my albums with a great friend, Drew Millay. Our creative process usually starts with me showing the songs I’ve written, we record the scratch tracks and then just begin experimenting. Sometimes, it’s a little too unplanned, but I sort of love it that way. Especially on my newest album Whispers & Dreams, we found that experimenting and messing with keyboards sounds and vocals allowed us to come up with sounds I wouldn’t have normally produced on the song. It was so fun to see some of the songs take another direction when we started adding in layers, and I’m constantly learning to be open with my songs.
What do you believe music uniquely adds to the life of a person?
From what I’ve experienced personally, I truly believe music is therapeutic. It has the ability to heal, and to even take us back to old memories and times we’ve forgotten. There are these moments in my car where I’ve just clicked on an album that reverts me back to high school, or to that time my brother and I trekked down to Anastasia beach. And it’s then that suddenly I’m remembering, I’m feeling, I’m processing, and I’m experiencing life again in a very beautiful and poetic way.
I truly believe music is therapeutic. It has the ability to heal, and to even take us back to old memories and times we’ve forgotten.
I’d like to think that creating music in some small way helps others experience life in that same beautiful way – whether they are remembering an old memory, working through a new emotion, or even just feeling reassured that they aren’t the only ones feeling this way. That there is someone else in this world who feels the same way, and even had to write a song about it to get through it all.
Who are your influences?
All living beings.
I guess mostly Feist, Death Cab for Cutie, Maria Taylor, Regina Spektor, Dr. Dog, Ingrid Michaelson, Vampire Weekend, Angel Olson, Fleet Foxes, and Sara Jaffe.
What are you listening to right now?
Right now, I’m currently in love with Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olson, and First Aid Kit. I saw First Aid Kit at Bonaroo this year and cried. Truly cried. They are such strong, beautiful musicians and it shows in their performance.
Where do you go when you need to recharge?
I often like to recharge through art. Playing guitar, painting, reading, and writing, it all helps. I also recharge through friends and family. Traveling helps too. I got to drive to Albuquerque this month to see family, and the drive there was very relaxing. I couldn’t get over the how gorgeous the mountains are. I actually pulled over on the side of the road to take a picture of them… twisted my ankle in an excited run back to the car…but it was all completely worth it.
I guess to sum that scattered statement up, I recharge rom new places, loved ones, and art.
What’s the weirdest thing a fan has ever said to you?
That’s a hard one. There really haven’t been a lot of weird statements from fans. One time a fan wanted to take me on a carriage ride in St. Augustine. I had always stared at the carriage rides downtown, but had never taken a ride, so I totally took up the offer.
It was a pleasant experience, completely random, but I was very thankful for it.
Joseph is a featured Humane Pursuits columnist. He works as a marketer in West Chester, PA, and writes music, articles, and the occasional short story.