Flying Stott

JOHN KENDLE

, Last Updated: 2:40 AM ET

The industry buzz is already building for the petite, blue-eyed blond who grew up on a cattle and organic grain farm just outside the Wheat City.

Stott's first single, Black is Black, is already being played on every country radio station in the country, while its accompanying video has just been upgraded from light to medium rotation on CMT. She and her band were in Toronto earlier this week for an intimate showcase for key music retailers, distributors, journalists and radio programmers, and she's set to play similar promotional shows in Winnipeg on Tuesday, Calgary on Thursday and her hometown next Saturday.

She'll be hitting Canada's major festival circuit this summer.

Amanda, too, is beginning to feel the excitement.

Speaking just a couple of days prior to jetting to Toronto, Stott says she's wanted to be a singer as long as she can remember. Now that her professional career is about to be formally launched, the anticipation is almost too much.

"It's very overwhelming right now," she says. "I'm just trying to stay focused, to concentrate on my singing and see what comes. It's been four years since I first got involved with Warner, so to have this finally ready to go doesn't seem real, somehow."

Stott can be forgiven her excitement. It's natural for artists of any age and, in many respects, she's a far more seasoned performer than many of her compatriots.

She first began singing at church -- Brandon's Calvary Temple -- at age three and was performing onstage with a band that included her father, Cyril, and her older brother on drums, when she was just 11. That same year, Stott won a local singing contest.

When she was just 13, Stott performed at the Canadian Country Music Association's Country Music Week in Calgary and was touted by Canadian music industry mag The Record as having "a rafter-shaking voice."

"That was fun. You had to have a demo tape to get invited, so I did one with (Canadian folk legend) Valdy and got accepted," Stott recalls.

"At the time I didn't really know what I was doing. But I wanted it so bad and I worked so hard, so I was totally ready."

One of the folks in the audience the night Stott performed in Calgary was Warner Music talent scout Kim Cooke.

Another, who was already aware of the young singer (and who, in fact, arranged the recording session with Valdy), was Winnipeg talent agent and manager Gilles Paquin. He soon became Amanda's full-time manager.

"When Kim Cooke said he was ready to work with me, that was really the start of my whole career," Stott says.

Soon after, Stott became the youngest performer to sing on the mainstage at Dauphin's annual CountryFest.

That was just the beginning.

"I first saw Amanda sing when she was 13," says Paquin via mobile phone from Toronto. "I've always been excited by her potential, by her voice and by her maturity.

"We've brought her along slowly, not wanting to push her too hard and even now we don't want to push her to do too much too fast," he says.

"She's going to play all the Canadian festivals this summer, and we've already been offered a couple of big tours that she might go out on this fall."

Paquin says Stott won't be looking to the U.S. market until next year at the earliest.

"Right now, everything we do is being done in tandem with Warner Music Canada -- and the momentum is really building well. Better than we expected, in fact."

In addition to the initial success of her first single and video, Stott gained national attention earlier this year when she sang the national anthem to open the national Farm Relief concert at Toronto's Air Canada Centre.

Singing in the presence of Burton Cummings, Randy Bachman and Gordon Lightfoot, the young singer wasn't fazed at all.

Stott's debut album has been complete for almost a year.

She recorded the bed tracks in two weeks last May at The Tragically Hip's Bathouse Studio in Bath, Ont. Father Cyril and mother Tina accompanied her on the trip, staying at a bed-and-breakfast in nearby Kingston.

Overdubs and vocals were finished at a B.C. studio.

"I didn't think it would take this long (to come out)," Stott admits. "But Warner knows the best time to release an album."

The recording was overseen by veteran country producer and songwriter Tom McKillip, and more than half the songwriting credits are Canadian, with tunes coming from the likes of Steve Wilkinson and Lisa Brokop.

Selection of material fell to Stott, McKillip and Steve Blair, Warner's artist & repertoire representative. The album's dozen cuts were culled from 24 songs she recorded in four days, and Stott says Blair allowed her to sing the songs she felt most comfortable with.

"He said 'I'm going to push the songs I like but in the end, if you don't want to sing something, you don't have to."

While she didn't play an instrument on the recording, Stott is playing piano in her current stage show. Her band is made entirely of Winnipeg musicians -- drummer Steve Broadhurst, bassist Darcy Labiuk and guitarists Larry Roy and Murray Pulver.

"Writing is something I would love to do at some point," she says. "Right now I just want to concentrate on singing and performing but for sure I want to write. It's something I need to develop, though."

For the moment, then, Stott's hopes will rest on the likes of Black is Black, a powerful romp which shows off her throaty range, and uptempo numbers such as Somebody to Love, To Keep From Missing You and He Loves Me Like That.

Stott's musical career may be getting under way, but Amanda, who turns 18 on May 18, says there is one event on her itinerary that is written in stone.

"June 26th. It says on every one of my calendars and itineraries in every office that I won't sing on that day," Stott laughs.

There's a good reason, too.

June 26 is the day the young singer will graduate from Crocus Plains High School. She has a date and she already has a dress.

"My mother is working on it right now, I think," she says.

Such is the current state of Stott's life.

She's juggling the final days of school -- where math and English are her best subjects -- with the launch of her album.

To this point, the singer has done her best to keep the two lives separate, saying that some of her schoolmates have only just realized she's the young woman in the posters going up in the local shopping mall.

She says she'll try to keep her feet on the ground, explaining she plans to take correspondence university course next year.

"Growing up on the farm has been a huge thing for keeping me grounded. It's helped me incredibly and so has my faith," says the singer, who has a cow named Annie, which just gave birth to a calf named Anchovy.

"I'm not doing this because I want to be a star," Stott reiterates. "I'm doing this because I love the music."


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