By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Pregnant at 19 with a guy she only dated for three months, it took Amanda Cunningham two years to realize she was just a mistress the whole time, being strung along for the ride.
Seven years of postpartum depression and other mental traumas sent her on a journey that would involve two years of therapy and antidepressants as a way to heal.
Stronger now and musically inspired by the power of feeling at peace with her past poor decisions, it helped the Washington, D.C.-based pop/country artist put together her upcoming EP, which you can get a glimpse of with the powerful single “I Was Weak.”
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with Cunningham about “I Was Weak” and more.
Music Bugle – Which of your songs were the hardest to write?
Amanda Cunningham – The hardest to write was my newest one, “I Was Weak,” because it was it was difficult to see that situation clearly for years until I went through therapy, sorted my issues out a bit and took a step back to then reflect on it all. Then, once I saw that situation clearly, the question was how do I write about it in a way that wasn’t super depressive, but more self reflective and forgiving? Do I even want to write about this? It’s super vulnerable and makes me look weak obviously, as the title says and I contemplated not releasing the song once everything was produced and finalized because it felt too… raw, like people would see me for real in a way that I might not have shared before.
Music Bugle – What was the moment that made you want to become a musician?
Amanda Cunningham – I can’t think of one specific moment that I wanted to be a musician. I always liked to sing and then would look at the 2000s idols like Whitney Houston, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion and would blare that in my room as an angsty teen, but I didn’t do anything with music until I was done college and was in a masters program for marketing back in 2016 and was going through a bad depressive state. During the first day of class, there was an icebreaker where the teacher asked, “What did you want to be when you grow up?” and I said something like, “Singer, but it never really happened…” and the guy next to me just looked at me and asked, “Well, why not?” and it hit me then that I had never actually tried and in that moment, a light went on and I thought, “Well, Amanda, you need to try, obviously” and so, that’s the moment I realized I needed to at least try.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?
Amanda Cunningham – I’m moving more into pop country and in country, they’re really great at storytelling and I love that so much. There’s a whole story and I can feel and picture the people in the story. It’s like I’m there and can picture myself as them. The clever lines and turn of phrases get me excited and push me to come up with even smarter lines.
Music Bugle – How would you describe Washington, D.C. to someone who has never been there before?
Amanda Cunningham – It’s a major city, but from my experience, it’s not the same excitement you’d get with a nonpolitical city. It’s a pretty serious city with politics always in the forefront and there are constant protests about something. I love all the free museums and the community here, though. The music community is super supportive of each other, since it’s not a music city, so we have to support each other more to get momentum, I think.
Music Bugle – What was your goal for your new single “I Was Weak”?
Amanda Cunningham – My goal is to get 10,000 Spotify streams within the first 60 days of release. It’s a super arbitrary number, but I picked it to push myself to promote it and step outside of my comfort zone. Get out of my head and just do the thing, basically. Like, tell people about my music, finally believe that people want to hear my music and I wouldn’t annoy them if I shared it with them and asked them to listen. I also think it’s important that others see that behind the lyrics, it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you can self-reflect and correct it best you can, which means stop beating yourself up and forgiving an older version of yourself who didn’t know certain things.
Music Bugle – What was it like putting together your EP?
Amanda Cunningham – It was hard, honestly. During the process, I think I got COVID. Never tested, but I had major sinus issues and congestion for months after and finally, the solution was to go through sinus surgery and fix a bunch of stuff, so I had to pause a lot and give myself breaks to record the vocals because it was extremely frustrating not being able to hit notes I usually could, so it took longer than planned and was full of self-doubt on the quality and if it was worth it at all, but I’m happy because at the beginning of the year, I told myself, “No excuses, I’m releasing an EP in October” and it’s on track to meet that goal. Also, working with my producer, Chris Clarke in the UK was great. Lots of Zoom and Whatsapp sessions and chats working through stuff.
Music Bugle – What has been your hardest obstacle to overcome?
Amanda Cunningham – Honestly, myself and my own limiting beliefs of what I’m capable of. It’s taken a lot of self work to rewire my brain and self-esteem to force myself to do things even when I don’t want to at the time and to ask myself when I have negative thoughts, “Amanda, is this true? Is what you’re thinking true? Would you say this to a friend?” Also, the belief that I’m too old and me having a kid is a detriment, but really, I think it’s an interesting selling point sometimes and if anything, it gives me perspective that, “So what if people don’t like my song?” I hope they do, but my daughter and husband are still there and they don’t care, as long as I’m being the best mom and wife for them and the best Amanda I can be.
Music Bugle – What do you attribute your streaming success to?
Amanda Cunningham – (Laughs) I don’t know about streaming success. Although, within the first week, I had over 1,500 Spotify streams and that’s the most I’ve ever gotten for a release, so it’s definitely a success for me. I hustled my Spotify presave campaign hard, posting funny videos, clips of the song, etc., at least two times a day on Instagram and TikTok for about three weeks and then, the day of release, it messaged as many people I knew, telling them about my streaming goal of 10,000 and asking them to listen and if they liked it, share it with a friend and maybe play it on repeat if they felt the spirit call to them! (Laughs)
Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians?
Amanda Cunningham – It’s a double-edged sword for me, like so many things. On one hand, it’s great and an equalizer because anybody can make posts, but indie artists do it themselves, versus someone bigger that has a team or at least help of some kind to be more consistent. Plus, then you’re comparing yourself to someone further along, without taking into consideration that they have at least one person helping and posting for them, extra money for better quality content, etc. It’s hard because you obviously need to promote yourself and your music and get out there, but it becomes often a source of comparison and yet another thing you can deem yourself a failure in. “Oh I haven’t posted for a week. I suck. Nobody’s going to want to hear my music and it’s my fault because I’m not even promoting it,” so finding balance is something I’m definitely working on.
Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?
Amanda Cunningham – “Do it anyways.” I’m not sure who originally said it, but I play variations of this in my mind when I’m not feeling like I want to do something, but know that I should. If people only did stuff when they felt the inspiration, then nothing would get done.