Flushing native Amanda Somerville fronts Dutch heavy metal band Epica while lead singer recuperates
by Timothy Flynn | The Flint Journal
Thursday April 10, 2008, 9:31 AM
For singer Amanda Somerville, making the leap from her hometown of Flushing to Wolfsburg, Germany, was fairly easy. Now, after spending the past decade making a musical name for herself overseas, she's hitting the road.
Somerville just began a monthlong American tour with Dutch heavy metal band Epica, fronting the group while regular vocalist Simone Simons recovers from a staph infection.
Each day of her tour with Dutch metal band Epica, Flushing native Amanda Somerville is posting a new video to her YouTube page.
• Watch Amanda's videos
• Check out her MySpace page
• Epica official site | Epica tour dates
"The whole thing was kind of 'wham, bam,'" Somerville said. "Simone is still ill; she called to tell me she wouldn't be able to go on tour and asked me to take her place. She's been battling it for months now. It must be awful to not be able to sing for your band.
"I've been with them since their debut album," she added. "I've worked as Simone's vocal coach, and I produce their vocals and do all of the choirs. Since I was so close to the recordings, I feel comfortable. It's short notice, but it keeps you on your toes.
"It's a little bit of a precarious situation when you replace the lead singer, but they know me," she added. "The reactions have been great. People have been bummed about the situation but really supportive, as well."
For Somerville, who divides her time between Germany and Michigan these days, the road from local artist to successful international musician was a relatively smooth one. After graduating from Flushing High School in 1997, the singer studied psychology at the University of Michigan, until regular trips to Germany in the late '90s eventually led to both a change of residence and a steady musical career.
"My husband was a German foreign-exchange student from 1994 through '95 at Flushing," Somerville said. "That's how we met. We did the trans-Atlantic thing for a while and hated it. He wanted to live here, but while I was in Germany I met some great musicians. I decided to chuck it and go to Europe and become a musician.
"At first, I had a love/hate relationship with Germany," she said. "But since I learned the language, I feel pretty comfortable with it now."
Once she finally settled in, Somerville began work on a solo album. While the record was released on a small independent label in 2000, Somerville was able to support her musical ambitions with a new job as a vocal coach.
"I was working with a band," she said, "and they had trouble enunciating. I started working with them on accents and pronunciation. It just went from there.
"I must be the only musician who didn't work a job waitressing until my meal ticket came," she added with a laugh. "I basically worked behind the scenes and built up a name that way."
And she just keeps building. Following her current stint with Epica, which began in Philadelphia and will head to the West Coast before finishing up in Virginia, Somerville plans to tour with Avantasia, a German orchestral metal group she also collaborates with.
"It's more of a company than a band," Somerville said. "This is the first time it has been on tour, so the fans are pretty excited about it."
In the midst of all her heavy metal activity, Somerville is most excited to spread the word about her considerably more mellow solo excursions, which she describes as "pop/rock, singer-songwriter kind of stuff." Her latest album, "Windows," is due this summer.
"It's been a long time coming, but it's finally being released," she said. "Working with these other musicians, you neglect your own art."
She plans to spread the word about that art while she's on the road with Epica over the next few weeks. And she hopes to put her own music back on the front burner very soon.
"I kind of got the bug to do solo gigs and my own music," she said, "and once you do that, you can't really go back. The fire burns for my solo work, so I'd like to get where I can just work on that, but you have to pay the bills.
"But for right now, this is the route I've taken," she said, "and I think everything's working out the way it's supposed to."
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