PHOTOS BY JEFF GEREW
Recently Central NY Woman Online sat down with musician, mom, entrepreneur, and “Afternoon Cocktail Talk Show” host, Amanda Ashley as she talked to us about what inspires her, why music and so much more. Enjoy, because we definitely did with this talented lady!
Tell us a little bit about Amanda Ashley and your love of music:
I was born and raised in Long Island, New York and began my musical journey at the early age of 6 years old. Of all the activities I explored in my youth, music and art were my constants, were where I excelled and felt most at home.
Around the age of four my babysitter called my mother to offer her piano, as she was getting divorced and had noticed my interest in piano. From her house, to my childhood home my parents moved it and I had begged for two years for piano lessons.
My sixth birthday, my father drove me straight to the music store to surprise me with my first piano lesson. Music ignited me in a way that nothing else ever could. Eventually I had begun playing violin, and then guitar in my early teens, and eventually began taking myself more seriously as a vocalist. Aside from music, I always had a knack for creative writing, would keep a journal and would write poetry. I began writing my own music around the age of 13 or 14, and from there began putting my voice to the music I had been composing. I found music to be a judgemental free form of expression where I could air out my teenage angst, and confusion. It also made me feel like I had an identity.
I moved to Rochester after graduating from Fredonia State University, to begin my adult life with then college sweetheart. Rochester was way more affordable to live, and I always admired the culture our little city has to offer.
What was your first entrepreneurial venture?
As a twenty three year old I was desperately trying to find my place in life. I always believed that I possessed some strong qualities and wanted to find a way to gather my gifts; event coordinating, music and art, and my love for making connections. I began organizing ticketed events under the name “Local Visionaries” at local venues such as Lovin Cup, Lemoncello Cafe and Tango Cafe. Each event would feature sometimes 3-10 fine artists and craft vendors, a wine and food tasting, and 3-4 live performances from local singer-songwriters. I saw it as an avenue to connect myself with people whom I felt inspired, a way to generate income, and a way of bringing our community together. At the time I was ambitiously aiming towards putting together shows once a month, which eventually dwindled down to a few times a year.
At the time I was also attending the open mic scene here in Rochester in effort to build my presence as a songwriter I felt soo inspired by my friends in the music community, and the tremendous impact attending these open mics had on my musical growth that I eventually began hosting my own (and for many years). My partner, Beau Ryan stood with me throughout all of it, ions before we even realized our true love for one another. He is my business partner to this day, and there is no one’s talent or input I respect more on all my various crazy endeavors.
Afternoon Cocktail merged out of panic and depression as the pandemic hit. Having always been a planner, the uncertainties of cash flow and future performances really had me questioning what else left I had to offer.
I began doing some research and studying Positive Psychology to get myself mentally back on track. Recognizing the power of livestreaming as a resource, I began brainstorming ideas which I could use my talents to bring positivity back to the public platform, and found myself revisiting the idea of Afternoon Cocktail Talk Show. Years prior I had explored hosting a livestreaming talk show under the same name, which the concept was good, but could use a little direction and refinement.
I find the human factor in Covid to be most compelling, as this is the first time in history where people of all walks of life are commonly experiencing a trauma that has affected the way we view, perceive, and conduct our daily lives. Being both an artist, and woman of business, I wanted to gain the perspectives of two highly intelligent/talented people per show, and ask those thought provoking questions that lended itself towards the emotional state which we all could relate to. I view Afternoon Cocktail as an altruistic avenue to inspire, educate and to motivate our followers (and myself in turn) to live and lead with empathy and compassion.
Who is the most influential person in your life and why did you choose them?
I am soo very fortunate to have had two incredibly supportive parents, who although not musicians themselves, never discouraged me from following my passion and my gut instinct. They recognized, nurtured and encouraged my love of art, but also instilled and exemplified the power of having a good work ethic. I am who I am because of them and because of their continued love and support.
Who has been the best interview you have had and why?
This is such a tough question because I truly have enjoyed soo many of the interviews I’ve had for several different reasons. I press my guests with some deep thought provoking questions, and am soo grateful for everyone’s honesty. At the heart of it, I’m just a fan girl who truly admires, respects and is inspired by each person I invite on. I feel fortunate to have a platform and opportunity to ask all the questions I really truly desire to hear the answers to.
Where is your most favorite place to perform and why?
K2 Brewing in Webster always felt a bit like my home base for performances. I really miss performing there. They have the best beer, the crowd is always fun to interact with, and I feel most comfortable being myself.
How has being in the music industry changed for you during the pandemic?
Although nothing will ever top performing live, I do believe that there’s beauty to the intimacy of what livestreaming has brung. Livestreaming allows artists the opportunity to showcase themselves on a personal level, from their personal space. We can perform and openly interact with our audience if we choose, talk about our original music and what inspired us to write it, and have the opportunity to be viewed by people all over the world.
In most cases at my local shows I was performing more cover music than my originals for the sake of engaging, people pleasing, and feeding the venue owners what they wanted/believed they were hiring me for.
What has been your biggest challenge? What has been your biggest success?
I find lack of time to be my biggest challenge. I truly believe I’d have to make five carbon copies of myself in order to accomplish all the things I’d truly like to get done on any given day.
My biggest success I’d say is being able to support myself solely creating art. I certainly am far from being rich, but I am truly grateful to live and lead a passionate life which I am able to channel my creativity in a way that others can also benefit.
If you could do one thing over knowing what you do now, what would that be?
I;m self taught in business, and I believe that having had prior education would’ve helped me get further along a lot sooner. If I could do anything over, I would’ve gone to school for Business/ advertising and marketing.
What do you see for the future for you personally and professionally?
I aspire to do more with my writing in the future. My 5-8 year plan is to write and publish a book of my own, as well as a children’s book.
How has being a mom changed you?
Having my son has been extremely humbling and eye opening. I realize how important it is to set a good example for him, how crucial time is, and how much more life there is to live beyond harvesting a career. Having him allows me to exercise the big kid in me, and he truly just brings soo much joy to my heart.
You have the signature flower that you always have in your hair… How did that start?
I’ve always been a bit of an accessory queen throughout my life. I began wearing a flower in my early twenties during performances as a tribute to Billy Holiday and also as a Hawaiian tribute (One of my favorite places I’ve traveled).
It became more of a regular staple in my waitressing days. So often the customers who wanted to request me as their server couldn’t remember my name, but could always recall “The girl with the flower.” Friends and family would buy them for me just as a thought in passing if they’d see one, and eventually my collection grew. It’s truly become such a part of me…. I literally feel naked without it. Some people like to wear watches, I rock a flower…..almost always, just not when I shower or sleep.
If you had the ability to mentor another woman, would you consider it?
I’ve mentored young girls over the years throughout the course of my teaching career and volunteering efforts at Girls Rock Camp. Currently and most seriously, I’m mentoring a student of mine, 16 year old Abbie Riggins. She’s an incredible vocalist and songwriter, and we share a significant amount of musical chemistry. I’ve co-written about 10 songs with her, and we are working on putting together a project and getting some of her music recorded. She’s a superstar, and it won’t take long for people to recognize that if they already haven’t. Ultimately I hope that I can guide her in the right direction and inspire her confidence to grow.
Looking back, are there any indications from childhood that foreshadowed your becoming a musician and a female entrepreneur?
I had my heart and mind set on becoming a music teacher and performer since I was a child, so I don’t think that ever came as a surprise for anyone who knew me. As for entrepreneurship, it’s hysterical to think back to my early days as a child, hustling to make my own money. From lemonade stands, to buying bulk candy bars and Jolly Ranchers at Price Club with my allowance money so that I could sell them to my school friends for a marginal profit, shoveling driveways and raking stranger’s yards….
I always enjoyed the challenge of finding new ways to generate some cash flow.
How do you solve your big problems both as a woman and a female entrepreneur?
I find that keeping myself honest, and asking for help when needed is the key to resolving most problems.
What tips do you have for other women who would like to start their own businesses?
Don’t be blindsided by fear. Be willing to take risks, work hard, be persistent, keep focused, follow your instinct, and don’t ever take no for an answer. Also, be conscious of where you are investing your time and energy, and that you are investing it in all the right places.
What are the pros and cons of being a female business owner and musician in 2020?
Pros- Women empowering other women. I love seeing women on the rise, and supporting one another along their journey.
Cons- I still believe for all the progress women have made, we still have a ways to go before we can truly claim ourselves as being equals. Reality is that not all men want to take a big chested woman seriously.. In the past I felt I had to go the extra mile to prove that I was intelligent, and not just a bimbo. Same goes to the men in the crowd at past places I’ve performed at. No gig is worth being demeaned or disrespected for. Fortunately I’m experiencing much less of that these days, as I’m working with more quality venue owners and classier establishments.
What is one thing our readers may not know about you?
I’m really passionate about cooking. Maybe in another life I would’ve taken the culinary route. I literally cook every day for my family, and love to get creative in the kitchen.
What do you have planned for 2021?
New music project, and to independently release another single or two. I plan to continue working on growing Afternoon Cocktail and it’s brand, and hopefully to pick the paint brush up again to create more visual art in the very near future.