Interview: Amanda Anne Platt of the Honeycutters Gets to the Heart of the Matter on Defining Teamwork and Community

Interviews

Americana Highways had wanted to talk to Amanda Anne Platt of the Honeycutters ever since we heard that she recently stepped into the spotlight and identified herself as the leader of the Asheville based band The Honeycutters, renaming the band “Amanda Anne Platt and the Honeycutters.” And then we heard that she had recently produced an album by Taylor Martin,  Song Dogs[For a preview of that album click one of these bolded words right here.]  It seemed there was team centered activity swirling around Platt, so when I called her I asked her to tell us about her sense of community – music community.

Platt started from the beginning: “I moved to Asheville, North Carolina eleven years ago because it had a reputation for being a music community but since I’ve been here I’ve seen that reputation grow to where it’s getting national recognition. Now, being from Asheville is like its own business card. When you say you’re from Asheville, people know some things about you.”

And then she added that: “at the same time, a profound shift has happened in the music business at a national level. There’s money being lost to streaming and a lot of people are trying to figure out how to reformat the business so that artists and people who are supporting the artists can still make a fair living. And along the way, the passion musicians have for making music hasn’t decreased at all. If you’re in the business you’re in it because you love it and it’s something you have to do. And I think the fact that there’s a growing music scene here is simple evidence of a natural resistance to giving up, and a determination to figure out a better way. And this is happening in other places too.”

Diversifying within the music community is part of the new model within the business, as a way for people to survive. A lot of bands self-produce, but there may be a resurgence afoot and a renewed acknowledgement of the important niche for the role of producer to occupy. “We wouldn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater,” I said, “maybe having a producer is a vital thing, and self-producing is harder than it might seem at first.” Platt agreed: “Production is one of the key ways musicians can diversify and add to the community.”

“When you’d hear about music production in the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, and even in the ‘90s, the model was big record labels would swoop up an artist who was a relative unknown, and put all this money behind that person. And then it flipped. Since the internet revolution with streaming, now it’s a lot easier for people to have their own equipment, to make their own music heard, and get it out there. So now the idea of smaller community regrowth and diversification around music makes sense, as a sort of meeting in the middle.” I chimed in: “the pendulum has swung both ways and is coming to the middle ground.”

“Yes, and record making is teamwork, even when there are leaders in the process.” Platt said. “When I write a song, I’m open to ideas all throughout the process. I’ll show it to the band and they’ll come up with parts, and then when we are recording, I’m open to ideas, but I also have a general idea about how it should sound, which I guess puts me in a leadership position too.”

Amanda Anne Platt has produced all five of the Honeycutters’ studio albums, with co-producers. And recently she produced Taylor Martin’s album. I asked how it was to produce someone else’s album, and she laughed: “I would like to produce more, it was a lot of fun. Taylor is a good buddy of mine. It was a natural process the way it came about because we’re friends, but if anyone else approached me I would definitely think about it. We worked with Robert George, he’s an engineer from Sound Temple Studios in Asheville. I’m not sure I will ever become somebody who’s “in demand” as a producer but I certainly enjoy doing it.”

“Working with Taylor added to my own experience, and he was open to ideas. I think it’s important to have an outside voice when you’re creating songs or you can get locked in  and might miss something. And for me, producing is a good way to learn about songs. By being on the other side of the console you think about all the parts.”

“Some people need a lot of guidance, and other people already have more definite ideas for their songs. And production by necessity must take various forms too – some producers might develop their own signature style, whereas others might be able to stay largely flexible and responsive to the bands.”

Amanda Anne Platt recently added her name into the Honeycutters band name after years of the band’s having been known as simply the Honeycutters. I asked Platt to consider the way teamwork necessarily had to be balanced with fair identification of roles on the team, and to what degree that not only applied in the context of recognizing the importance of a producer, but also in appropriately acknowledging other leadership roles, within bands.   Platt responded: “In terms of the band, I still identify as part of the team, of being in the band, it’s just that I’ve been the leader all along – I write all the songs, I sing them all, and I manage the business part. It gives me more freedom now to be appropriately identified. Before, I’d do all the interviews and people would ask: “what’s your role in the band?” so the name change, with me stepping out into the spotlight, was more of a move toward accuracy.”

We touched briefly on the question of significance of women in leadership roles. Platt commented: “it’s worth noting and it’s important, and yet at the same time I’d like it to be no big deal. I am very aware of the fact that it’s different for women in society, and that includes in the music business. It seems to me that men have a much easier time being the bandleader, and being seen as a bandleader. Women in power get these reputations as being “divas,” but maybe aren’t cut the same amount of slack for simply having a bad mood. I think there’s a double edged sword, when you’re assertive about what you need or want, you run the risk of getting a reputation of being hard to work with, or a “bitch.” Whereas a man can be seen as a “genius” if he’s being assertive. I think there’s a lot of discussion around this now, and I think we all do things we don’t even realize, or we buy into stereotypes. And the people I work with, aren’t like that, but I am aware of the risk, from things I hear around me.”

Amanda Anne Platt and the Honeycutters are off to Europe now.  In that regard, there was one more comment on teamwork from Platt: “ A lot of people don’t take their full band on European tours, which to be honest, makes a lot more sense financially. But my attitude is I want to have my guys, and we’ll make it work somehow.” Check out Amanda Anne Platt and the Honeycutters’ tour dates and music, here.  http://www.honeycutters.com/

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