Interview with Amanda Somerville

Trillium, Exit Eden, Kiske/Somerville

Everyone who likes European symphonic metal, knows Amanda Somerville. Having worked with Avantasia, Kamelot, HDK and MaYan, and with her own projects Kiske/Somerville, Aina, Exit Eden and of course Trillium, Amanda is easily one of the most well known vocalists and songwriters. In this interview we talk about ‘’Tectonic’’, but we kind of drifted away and also got to some more personal questions.


‘’How have you been doing since the release of ‘’Tectonic’’?’’

Amanda: ‘’Great! Things have been going really well, I’ve been getting a lot of really, really nice feedback from my fans and reading some nice reviews. I’m very happy to see that it’s so well received, especially within my own circle.’’


‘’You didn't expect that?’’

Amanda: ‘’The thing is, I never do something with expectations. I do something that feels good to me, and that feels true. I don’t want to be a slave to anything or anyone. I love to make my fans happy and I love it when they like what I do, but first and foremost the things that I do are autobiographical. They are therapeutic for me. It’s not like I would say: ‘’I don’t give a f*ck what anybody thinks’’, not at all! This is my art form, it’s what I love to practise. People hear and feel it if your work is not authentic. I’ve put everything I had into this album and then it’s wonderful if people feel that and they like it.’’

‘’Why did you choose ‘’Tectonic’’ as the title for the album?’’

Amanda: ‘’I’m a person who likes to have names that have multiple meanings. Most people know tectonic from the geological terminology, but I mean it more figuratively or metaphorical. It reflects back on my own life, there were all these things that shifted beneath the surface, both negative and positive. There were big changes and small, and that has been going on in multiple steps since ‘’Alloy’’. Of course I’ve had a lot of releases and events in the past seven years since I released ‘’Alloy’’, with Kiske/Somerville, HDK, touring with Avantasia, getting married and having three kids, Exit Eden… It has been a lot! My life has greatly changed since then, but ‘’Tectonic’’ kind of has a broader meaning in the arts in German. I was playing around with both the English and the German spelling (which would have been ‘’Tektonik’’), I actually have two different versions of the cover, but in the end I chose for the English cover because sometimes German looks a little more ‘’industrial’’. But in German, tectonic has a broader meaning in art: it has to do with sculptures, which we incorporated into the artwork and the cover which kind of look like a sculpture of me. It has to do with architecture as well, it is the sum of various parts that are used to make a new structure. I look at those more figuratively, because you also have to have a lot of parts to make an album, so that is where ‘’Tectonic’’ came from.’’


‘’I really love how artistic and well thought out the album is. Some artists are just like: ‘’well we just liked this name so we went with it.’’’’

Amanda: ‘’It really is art for me, I don’t do anything that doesn’t really have a meaning to it. I couldn’t just give something a name. Same thing with my children's names, they all have big stories. Maybe I’m an overthinker, but it’s just part of who I am, especially as an artist.’’


‘’I think it’s better to over think, than to not think at all.’’

Amanda: ‘’Yeah, that’s true. Like I said, it adds to the authenticity of something so I’ve put everything I have and am into this. I invested a lot, emotionally and physically, in making my albums. It carries a lot of weight and meaning. Same thing for the artwork. Everything has to fit together, it needs to have a meaning and a reason, even if they sometimes don’t work out as I planned!


Amanda laughed and continued: ‘’For the photos I worked together with Stefan Heilemann, I love his work. I handpicked people to do the work with me because I love it when people have ideas and are creative themselves.’’

‘’So the people you picked are have the same vision as you?’’

Amanda: ‘’Yes absolutely, we talk about everything and I’ve send him my lyrics. I explained the message I have for the album (the concept), and the thoughts I have for the visual side of it. And then he puts his thoughts into it and proposes some new ideas. It’s really a long, artistic process, and he did a fabulous job. But I had this idea of me conducting an orchestra of moving tectonic plates and rocks flying through the air and stuff, and when I saw the final pictures I kind of thought it looked more like a magic wand and that I’m a wizard. Lana saw it and said, "Bibbidy-bobbidy-boo, Mama!". People can interpret it how they want!’’


‘’For how long has ‘’Tectonic’’ been in the making then? Because it sounds like a really long process.’’

Amanda: ‘’It was. But that is kind of the story of my life and my career anyway. I am involved in so many different things, and I want to do everything! Things tend to kind of jump forward in the priority line and then my own work gets pushed back. Everything else comes in between, so things that are my own tend to take a longer time to make. We already started writing some of the material right after ‘’Alloy’’ came out, while I was touring in 2011/2012. Some of the songs took a spin and ended up on the latest Kiske/Somerville album, some I keep for my own album. When we sat down and really started to focus on my solo album, it was end of summer 2016. So ‘’Tectonic’’ took a year and a half to make.’’


‘’Wow, that is really long! But also seems normal when you put so much energy and thought into it.’’

Amanda: ‘’Yeah exactly! That is the thing, I was doing Exit Eden, and trying to figure out how to combine my career with me being a mom, I was travelling a lot between The Netherlands, Germany and America. I’m never bored! And then I actually found out last year that I was pregnant with the twins, so ‘’Tectonic’’ was pushed back even more. Originally it was supposed to be a year, but then it took a year and four months.’’


‘’Four months still seems like a small delay for having twins.’’

Amanda: ‘’Yeah, I had a very difficult pregnancy and in the end they came way sooner than they should have so it all took a bit more time.’’


‘’How are the twins doing?’’

Amanda: ‘’Thank goodness they are both healthy, we’re all okay now. But last January we had a really rough time. I’m glad we are all around to release this album. That is difference, with ‘’Alloy’’ I was in much darker place, ‘’Tectonic’’ is a lot more uplifting lyric wise.’’

‘’What sets Trillium apart from your other projects?’’

Amanda: ‘’I wanted Trillium to me more pure as than the projects I’ve done the last decade. I wanted to delve into that and do things that are more homogenic in the scene. I come from an entirely different direction, musically. The music that I made up until ten years ago was really pop rock, folk and singer-songwriter stuff. Kiske/Somerville is a mix between melodic rock and symphonic metal elements, but it’s also very emotional. I call Trillium sing and songwriter metal! It will probably make a lot of die-hard metal fans cringe enormously when I call it that. It’s very philosophical and fantasy style based, but it could also be about hating and killing everyone! In general Trillium is a lot more autobiographical instead of a concept album. I write, play and perform all of the songs, while I am most known for being a performer. I am just as much a songwriter as a performer.


‘’If you’re involved in so many projects, how do you know which idea or song fits which project?’’

Amanda: ‘’Some things I don’t necessarily write with a specific goal, the song just develops. But everything I make is different, I don’t use the same formula for any of my songs. It is difficult to explain. Sometimes I write something and think: ‘’Oh my God that is perfect for this and that’’, but it definitely has to fit a certain personality.


‘’So it is more of a feeling?’’

Amanda: ‘’Well.. Kind of. I don’t think I can write a song and just be like: ‘’Maybe this will fit for Kiske/Somerville’’ or ‘’Maybe it is more for Exit Eden’’, we might do some original songs on this new album that we’re doing.’’

‘’There is a new Exit Eden album coming? With original songs?’’

Amanda: ‘’I already have one song that would be great, actually. We’re talking about having a couple of original songs, so we’ll see! It is all developing right now.’’


‘’Do you wish you had done more covers? Or do you perhaps have any new ones in mind?’’

Amanda: ‘’I think it turned out perfect, actually. Maybe the things that didn’t fit on ‘’Rhapsodies In Black’’ we will use on the the next, you can’t have 36 songs on one album! It’s pretty exciting, I’m looking forward to it!’’


‘’What has been your favourite collaboration? If you HAVE to choose.’’

Amanda: ‘’It’s really hard for me to play favourites, and it changes all the time. I’m a Pisces, I’m not good at making decisions! I love working with all kinds of different people, I take something new out of every experience. Every collaboration is unique.’’

‘’Now I have some more personal questions I hope that is okay?’’

Amanda: ‘’Sure!’’


‘’I have read somewhere that you graduated with a psychology major, why did you choose a career in music instead?’’

Amanda: ‘’Ehm, well.. I never finished my university degree. I graduated early from high school and got a scholarship to go to the university of Michigan to study psychology. It’s funny because I grew up in a very musical family and my parents were like: ‘’Hey, you have only been concentrating on school, you can always finish your degree. Go working on your musical career!’’, I have great parents! I quit the university and moved to Europe, and then it just kind of snowballed from there. It is what I always wanted to do, university was just a backup plan.’’


‘’You have once done a benefit project for children with autism, how do you connect to that topic?’’

Amanda: ‘’Being a mom myself of course you always want the best for your kids. You always hope they are gonna go on to be whatever the wanna be and do whatever they want to do. I know a lot of people that have children that have been affected by autism, and I just think that it’s a great cause to help. There’s such a broad spectrum and there’s so much more that we could learn about it. I’ve been very, very fortunate that our daughter, Lana, is wonderful and healthy and developing great. But you never know, things can creep up. I think helping out a cause, especially one that is devoted to helping children is always something I’m willing and love to do.’’


‘’That is just so great to hear! I have autism myself actually, but you never really read anything about it in music. That’s why it spoke to me.’’

Amanda: ‘’That’s true, I think it is great to have more awareness there. I think it’s extremely important to get that further.’’

‘’If you can have your fans remember you by one thing, what would it be?’’

Amanda: ‘’That I’m nice. It’s an easy trap to fall into when you’re a musician and you have all of these people that love what you do and seem to love you, or at least an image of you, and then people get the feeling that they’re better than others. Some musicians get really arrogant, they put themselves above everyone else. I think that’s bullshit, I think that we’re only as special as much as we can help other people. The thing that I love most about my music is that it’s therapeutic for myself, I think I would be a very, very angry and unhappy person if I didn’t have music as my outlet. I love to hear stories from people that my songs helped them as well, that my music gave them hope.


You can take from your fans, but also have to give back. I might have written the song under totally different circumstances and mean something different to me, but it’s also great that people can interpret music different and make a song their own. That they can apply it to their own situation and their own life. That it can help them and get through something. I think that when you are touched that much my a song, and you meet the person that touched your life, and he/she reacts as a total asshole, that’s the biggest let down. When I was just starting out I made that choice for myself, that I’m going to be nice, open, real and respectful. That’s how I would like to be remembered.’’


‘’Wow, that is beautiful! Usually when I ask this question to more beginning musicians they said ‘’I want to be remembered for my music.’’

Amanda: ‘’Yeah well, a lot of musicians tend to lose track of what’s important in life. It all comes down to being good to other people.’’  

‘’How do you feel about the term ‘’female fronted’’?’’

Amanda: ‘’I get it, but I think it’s funny. Metal is a typically masculine genre. It’s kind of harsh and there were mainly male bands and singers. I get it when they say female fronted, (die hard) metal fans like to categorize, obviously between real music and pussy music! But it’s also kind of ridiculous, because you never hear female fronted jazz or pop or whatever. It’s pretty discriminatory, but I guess that’s rather typical with things that are ruled by men.’’


‘’It is weird because every female musician I ask this to says it’s ridiculous, but still everyone keeps on using the term.’’

Amanda: ‘’It’s true, yeah. I never say that I do female fronted metal, it is European symphonic metal. Whether it’s lead by a man or a woman or whatever, it doesn’t really matter. When you hear female fronted you get a certain picture in your head, even if there are so many different subcategories.’’


‘’Here is my last question: do you have any kind of life advice?’’

Amanda: ‘’Just be nice to each other. You don’t have to be an asshole to be successful. You don’t have to put yourself above anyone to make yourself feel better or make them look up to you. We should treat everybody with respect, same thing with our planet. Do all that you can, clean up after yourself. Maybe I sound like a bleeding heart tree hugger now, maybe I am, I guess I’m kind of a hippie at heart. I cloth diaper my children, whenever Lana and I are out for a walk and we see trash on the ground, I make it a point to pick it up with her and put it in the trash can. We can’t just abuse our planet, the people and abuse our rights and our freedom that we have. We always have to respect that and others, and take pride who we are and what we have. The Netherlands is a beautiful country, and I love it very much (Germany also), but I’ve also been to countries where they just dump their trash outside. Who wants to live in a place like that? Or when people aren’t friendly to each other. A great example of that is: at an airport when a flight gets cancelled. Then you see how people really are. Always stay true to yourself. Do what you can to make this world a better place. My mom always said, treat people the way you like to be treated.’’

I want to thank Amanda for her time and patience when I was struggling to find words, and I think we have made an amazing interview here! I hope that our paths may cross again in real life, hopefully at one of her concerts.


For More Info Visit:
Amanda's Facebook
Amanda's Website
Frontiers Shop
Napalm Records Shop



By Tamar

Interview done on 3/7/2018

Uploaded on 29/7/2018


*Pictures belong to their rightful owners*