Amanda Wells
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Amanda Wells

Lancaster, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF

Lancaster, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF
Band Folk Acoustic


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"Amanda Wells offers up a little First Friday folk"

July 31, 2011


It's not surprising that Amanda Wells picked up a guitar and started writing songs.

She grew up surrounded by music, but she didn't take up with the guitar straight out of the gate.

"Every girl picks up the flute, but I was terrible at it," said Wells, who will appear at Millersville University-Lancaster, 42 N. Prince St., during First Friday, the city's monthly arts and music blowout. The next First Friday kicks off at 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5.

"When I was 10, my parents got me a drum set, much to their regret," recalled Wells, 27, who lives downtown with her husband, musician Robb Grave.

Wells grew up in a lively household with seven half brothers and one half sister. Her late father worked in carpentry and construction; her mother had a full-time job running the home. Neither parent was a professional artist, per se, but they were "very creative. … They definitely encouraged me."

One day, her dad retrieved a guitar from the trash at a construction site and handed it to her. The instrument wasn't in the best shape, but the deal was, if she could master the guitar, her parents would get her a new one.

Wells fondly recalled wanting to be Dolly Parton. Today, her influences include Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Nick Drake, among others. Her style, she said, is deeply rooted in folk, and she describes her music as "modern folk."

Her songs, she said, are observational.

"I'm a people watcher. I put myself in their shoes and see how they feel, and then I write."

But there's a deeply personal side to Wells' musical craft as well. It shows in her 2005 album "Sigh of Relief," which was self-produced "very crudely, recorded in my dining room," Wells said.

A more professional — and no less heartfelt — effort followed in Wells' first officially recorded album, "Ebb and Flow," released in October 2010.

The album's themes are a mix of longing, loss and comfort; one track, "The Key Of," links artist and instrument, paying homage to her guitar with such words as "Take this chord and step it up through the key/ Of learning how to/ Breathe again."

It's a chord — to borrow from the lyrics — that should resonate with First Friday strollers. And Wells will indeed get to experience "ebb and flow" during her free performance in the Lyet Lobby of Millersville University's city center, the former Pennsylvania Academy of Music.

"I think it's really cool that they are doing this," Wells said of First Friday. It's her first time playing the event.

"That whole area of town … brings in a lot of people. I call it an 'art trap,' " she said.

"There are so many things that catch you and draw you in."

For more information about First Friday, which runs from 5-9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5, in and around downtown Lancaster, call 509-2787 or visit
- Lancaster Sunday News (July 2011)

"Destined from Birth"

It didn't take long for Amanda Wells to realize music would be a big part of her life.

"Literally, from the day my parents brought me home from the hospital, I was surrounded by musicians," she says. "I was either going to love it or hate it."

She loved it, but it took her a while to choose a path, instrumentally. She tried flute and drums but was unimpressed, she recalls. But her father, who repaired guitars as a sideline, urged her to give one a try. It clicked.

Her dad, although not much of a musician himself, loved music and often took Amanda along to bluegrass festivals and other live venues, even as a toddler. Some of her more musical half-siblings -- she's the youngest, with seven older brothers and one sister -- also practiced with friends in the family kitchen, and Amanda was always around to listen. Soon, she was carrying her guitar with her everywhere she went.

Her father encouraged her to do so. "A photographer is always going to have his camera. An artist will always have a sketchbook. So Dad always said I should have a guitar," she says.

One day, during an afternoon performance at the Pequea Tavern by ubiquitous local performer Stu Huggens, 13-year-old Amanda was moved during the break to play guitar out in her dad's car. Stu heard the music and invited her to perform during his next break.

"It felt natural, getting on stage, but I was definitely nervous," she recalls. "But I'd played in front of people at parties, so it wasn't my first time."

Amanda, now 27, hails from Peach Bottom, along the shores of the Susquehanna River in Lancaster County, Pa. Now living in Lancaster proper, she plays her own brand of modern folk music -- usually performing alone, just a girl and a guitar or, occasionally, a banjo.

She has released two CDs, although she doesn't count the first, Sigh of Relief, which was a rough job recorded and "manufactured" at home. Her second disc, Ebb & Flow, was released in October 2010, was professionally recorded and produced, and was more widely distributed.

Her musical influences are no big surprise: Ani DiFranco, Lisa Loeb, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, Sarah McLachlan, Neil Young. "The list goes on," she says. "It used to be that being a female performer was a big deal, but there has been a serious up rise of female performers in the last 10 years or so."

She's a prolific writer, although she admits that, in the days of those early Pequea Tavern performances, "I was writing really terrible songs."

She remembers, for instance, "Coming Home," one of her early efforts. "It was a terrible song," she says. But that didn't stop her and some friends from performing it at her sixth-grade talent show. She grimaces at the memory.

But she kept writing. She turned friends' poetry into lyrics. She penned a song about some friends in middle school who died in a car accident. As she grew into her later teens, her writing focused more on typical teenage angst and boys.

It's a rite of passage," Amanda says. "You have to write really crappy songs when you're young. Then, hopefully, you get some constructive criticism, and you learn to do better."

She thinks for a minute and decides, yes, she has a few songs tucked away from those early days that might be worth digging out and reworking.

"Honestly, it's actually gotten harder to write now that I'm in a functional relationship," she says with a laugh. "I mean, even if you're not writing about romance, you still have that emotional stimulus. But lately, a lot of the songs I've been writing are about not being able to write."

She's keeping busy, though. She's taken a lead from her husband, Robb Graves, who writes songs based on books. Amanda has already gotten started, penning one based on the popular novel Twilight, written from Edward's perspective, and another taken from the work of fantasist George R.R. Martin.

Robb is in a fantasy-based metal band called Lorenguard and, although Amanda prefers working alone, she's performed and recorded with them as well.

"Robb's more of a methodical writer. I'm more emotional," she says. Their mutual love of fantasy informs much of their writing, she adds; in fact, the avid LARPers (in live-action roleplaying circles, Amanda is a well-known elven warrior) are working on tavern-appropriate songs and an ambitious musical adventure tale for them and their friends to enact.

But her musical focus remains on her solo career, although she has played at times with a percussionist ("We parted ways for personal reasons," she says) and a cellist ("She left me for her boyfriend!" she sniffs, with just a hint of indignation). Amanda, who has a percussive style on the guitar, admits she's a little hard on the instrument.

"I got my last guitar in 2006, maybe 2007," she says. "It's not lacquered -- I wanted a nice, wood-bodied sound." But Amanda, who uses a thumb pick and tends to slap the wood to keep the beat when she plays, says she's already wearing holes where her palm hits the surface.

"It's OK," she says with a grin. "They're character marks." - Rambles.NET (April 2011)

"Listen to the Music with Stu Huggens: Amanda Wells"

I want to take you back tot eh summer of 1997. It was mid-August on a Sunday afternoon. I was going a show at the Pequea Tavern, which say by the railroad tracks along the Susquehanna River in Pequea, Pa.

I went outside on a break and noticed that down int he parking lot, sitting on the tailgate of her parents' station wagon, was 14-year-old Amanda Wells. She was playing her guitar and singing. As I stood there listening, I thought, "this girl is really good" and, after hearing her sing a few songs, went down and asking her if she's like to come up on the stage and perform for the audience.

She was a little shy at first, but decided to come up and play a few songs. A few songs turned into a one-hour set, and the audience loved her. Audiences have been loving her ever since.

Amanda has a high, clear voice I would liken to Emmy Lou Harris, and her guitar playing is flawless. She doesn't just strum the guitar, but has developed into a great finger stylist who is clearly at home with a guitar in her hands.

Amanda has graced the stages of the Chameleon Club, Moon Dancer Winery, The Symppsium, and several clubs in Philadelphia. She has just released her first studio CD titled "Ebb and Flow." Not bad for a girl whose first guitar was one her dad found in a construction site dumpster.

Amanda Wells is also a talented artist. Her artwork takes you into the fantasy world of elves that inhabit the world of J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings." You can check out Amanda's artwork at - Lancaster County Woman (January/February 2011)


Ebb and Flow (2010)

Guest vocals:
Eve of Corruption - Lorenguard (2011)



In October of 2010, Amanda released her first official album, Ebb and Flow. The album was recorded at Underground Sound Productions outside of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The songs are audible illustrations of the memories, trails, and triumphs that trace through almost a decade of the singer-songwriter's life. "The album was a long time coming, and it took almost two years to complete," says Amanda. "It only seemed appropriate to title the collection Ebb and Flow because the songs are markers in my life, one song leading to the next. Hopefully they will linger somewhere as markings for the movement of moments in someone's life."

Amanda's first guitar was pulled from a dumpster at a construction site where her father worked, and was handed to her after some furniture polish and a mixed set of half-used strings. Despite the collection of varied instruments and equipment he owned, her father's knowledge of music consisted of a crude concept of the major scale only in C, and the fingering for basic G, C, and F chords. She learned what she could from whoever could teach, and what couldn't be taught, she learned on her own. Amanda spent most of her childhood immersed in almost every genre of music by way of a number of great musicians who have either passed on, or whose time for music has passed them by. Since the day her parents brought her home from the hospital into a trailer full of musicians, poets, and artists, she has been in love with music.

During her preteen/teenage years, Amanda explored new musical styles, while experiencing the hormonal teenage drama that spawned her first emotionally driven and inspired original songs. The first few years that she attended the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design, Amanda worked herself a small niche in the Lancaster area as a young female singer/songwriter, playing in local coffee shops and bars.

Following her father's death in August of 2004, she fell out of the music scene. She eventually focused her efforts away from performing cover songs for bar crowds, and on releasing a crudely self-produced CD that was completed in August of 2005. Now, and since then, all of her time has been devoted to finding a way to make the necessary balance between paying the bills and surviving, while relaxing long enough to be inspired by the world.

In addition to performing as a solo songwriter, Amanda has added her vocals to several recording projects, including the 2012 CD release, "Eve of Corruption" from the band Lorenguard (of which her husband, Robb Graves, is a member).