For someone who is ranked as number five on a list of the “most pretentious local acts” in a 2008 Best of Montreal poll by The Mirror, Amanda Mabro is refreshingly cavalier as she describes her upcoming projects. The Montreal-based singer-songwriter, whose music can best be described as “pop-noir,” has been undergoing several transformations since her 2006 release, Superwoman In The Making.
Mabro began as a jazz performer, influenced largely by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald (her “singing role-model”), selling out venues, and performing in front of 20,000 people at the Montreal Jazz Festival. However, since then, she has undergone a creative reinvention. She recently released two sister EP’s within six months of each other, Wine Flows and Red Rows, which sounds less and less like the jazz standards she used to perform and branch out into the realm of cabaret-pop.
“Jazz was something that happened naturally, not intentional, but in the long run was not what I wanted to do artistically,” she said earnestly. “It was a great incubator for me as an artist, but what was most important for me was to take the raw directness in my vocal styling that was inspired by a lot of jazz singers and combine that with the immediate connection one can experience through a great pop song as a pop artist.”
These are the words of someone who has spent years in careful contemplation of her craft, experimenting with genres and vocally stretching artistic limits. Listening to her smoky alto voice against the backdrop of heavy percussion, bluesy piano, a sometimes playful violin, and a brass instrument here and there, it’s easy to spot many of her varied influences. Her sound draws on Ella Fitzgerald, Rufus Wainwright, Tom Waits, and Tori Amos, with a theatrical touch of cabaret.
“I started out being completely into pop as a kid – Michael Jackson, Madonna. I had a heavy metal phase, but growing up the common thread, and what interested me, were artists who had a universal appeal, no matter what the genre was,” she said. “It was people connecting with people through the music.”
Since the release of Wine Flows and Red Rows she has toured Europe and currently divides her time between Montreal, Toronto, and New York. In between projects she gives private vocal lessons and practices Moksha Yoga. She is the creator and producer of We Are Women Artists, an underground collective of mostly Montreal-based female performers. WAWA is now in its fifth year. What started out as a simple desire to meet other females in the field has turned into a network of artists that range from comediennes, burlesque dancers, musicians, and visual artists.
Later this month, Mabro will be playing with downtempo electronic duo Elsiane (fronted by the ethereally-voiced Elsieanne Caplette) at the Just For Laughs Cabaret, another indication of her genre crossing.
“I think we both have our own unique song writing and production styles, and it’ll be interesting to see the audience crossover,” she said about the upcoming show. “I love shows that have contrast… if you can find two people who have a common thread of strong vocal performance and melodies, I think it’s really cool to put them together and see what happens.”
Catch Amanda Mabro and Elsiane at Cabaret Juste Pour Rire on Nov. 27 at 8pm. Tickets $20 in advance and $25 at the door.