Ask singer Amanda Mackintosh what it’s like to experience the stage lights of Nashville and she immediately radiates a huge smile. Fame is clearly fun it seems. But listen to the words in her songs you’ll hear the unmistakable voice of a young woman who is still torn by what she left behind in Virginia on the way to Tennessee.
Mackintosh, a graduate of Clarke County High School, and three other musicians packed the grandstand Wednesday night at the Clarke County Fair in Berryville, Virginia. The group has been performing together since meeting as students at Nashville’s Belmont University, a small liberal arts school that has turned out many musical talents including Brad Paisley, Trisha Yearwood, and Melinda Doolittle of “American Idol” fame.
“Going to school at Belmont really helped me get started because everyone there is so well connected to the music scene in Nashville,” Mackintosh said.
Mackintosh graduated from Belmont University with a commercial vocal performance degree. Her studies also focused on the music business and have enabled her to produce her first album and launch a performance career that is already yielding success.
“Hearing my voice singing on WMZQ was pretty cool,” Macintosh said after her performance last night. WMZQ-FM, Washington, D.C.’s popular country radio station, has played the title track from Macintosh’s premiere album, “Shenandoah”, over 570 times. The album is Macintosh’s homage to her native Shenandoah Valley and the pain of leaving home:
I’m leaving in the morning
To sing my songs in Tennessee
It’s a story that’s been told before
But I think that they could use one more
From a girl like me who’s not afraid to dream
A girl like me who’s not afraid to dream
At last night’s fair Mackintosh delivered a strong performance to hundreds of fair-goers despite environmental challenges that are a rite of passage for most up-and-coming performers.
“I hope that you are all enjoying the show,” Mackintosh told the crowd. “But it sure is hot up here, I’m sweating up a storm!”
Throughout the concert Mackintosh’s voice was pure and beautiful even as she competed with the roar of nearby truck engines warming up for the evening’s truck pull event. Several times during the performance Mackintosh signaled to long time friend and sound engineer, Ken Moulden to increase the volume of the stage amplifiers.
“Could you put it up a little more?” Mackintosh asked Moulden as she motioned to the parking area behind the stage.
During Mackintosh’s soulful performance of the Star Spangled Banner the background noise from the truck engines could have easily been mistaken for the sounds of the military bombardment that originally inspired Francis Scott Key to write the anthem.
Mackintosh said that while she loves singing and working in Nashville, competition in the county music capital is very tough.
“Being successful there takes a lot of heart. You’ve got to really want it bad.”
And although she loves Berryville Mackintosh has no plan soon to move back home despite the highs and lows of a performance career.
“I love it here but I will not give up,” she said. “Never.”
Still, in “Man I Call Home”, a song that Mackintosh composed earlier this summer, the listener feels the hint of Mackintosh’s anguish in transitioning from one phase of life to another:
Can’t make up my mind where I belong
My only choice is to travel on
I feel tears on my cheeks falling down
Oh how I miss my one-horse town
Similarly in “Shenandoah”, the title track from her newly released album of the same name, Mackintosh’s longing for home is clear and poignant:
Feels so good to be back home in Shenandoah
I want to sit underneath the dogwood trees
Watch apple blossoms blowing in the breeze
Shenandoah is the place for me
“You appreciate where you’re from so much more when you’re not there anymore,” she said.
While Mackintosh may not have plans to leave Nashville anytime soon, her music career will deliver the young star to Virginia once again in September when she performs the opening act for country music star Joe Diffie at the Virginia State Fair in Doswell this September.
As Amanda Mackintosh will be the first to say, leaving Virginia is tough to do.
Amanda Mackintosh’s music can be found at http:// www.myspace.com/AmandaMackintosh