This Saturday, Buffalo State College student Amanda Nagurney will be opening for country stars Billy Currington, Phil Vassar and Joe Nichols at Jam in the Valley, a two-day concert event in Varysburg.
Amanda, 18, of Orchard Park began performing at age 7. She has sung at such varied events as the Music Is Art Festival, the Ride for Roswell (pictured) and at Bills, Bisons and Sabres games. She auditioned for American Idol, won Italian Idol three years in a row, won the Chautauqua Idol competition in 2004, and was a finalist in Kiss 98.5's Buffalo Idol competition, which culminated in her opening for Gavin DeGraw at HSBC Arena. Amanda has also opened for the John Corbett Band, Locash Cowboys and Miranda Lambert. She currently sings with local country band Wildfire.
NeXt: Who would you consider your biggest musical influence?
Right now, I'd probably say Sugarland [and] Jennifer Nettles. She's got a tone like my voice. And she has a lot of stage presence, so I kind of look up to her and watch her videos all the time.
NeXt: I know that some singers have weird habits or traditions before they sing. Do you have anything that you do for good luck?
Not for good luck. Do you mean maybe just warming up? I never warm up because I just want to use it [my voice] right when I wake up. I drink a lot of water a few hours before and I usually have a cough drop. I know some singers use olive oil. I guess you're supposed to take a little shot of it. I tried it once and it was really gross, but that's supposed to help your voice. I really just try not to use my voice a lot before I go on. I try to calm myself down. If you're stressed it's kind of difficult going on stage.
NeXt: I know that you sing with Wildfire Country and you have said that country is your favorite genre of music to sing. What is it that attracts you to country music and makes it your favorite?
When I was little, my mom and dad always used to play Alan Jackson around the house and they always played country. I always enjoyed that, but I started getting into music [by] singing pop and R&B and a lot of people said that my voice sounded country and twangy, so I tried it out. It was actually easier for me to sing and more enjoyable. I could hit the notes better and it was a lot more fun to me. And everyone said that I had a country twang to my voice, so that's probably the main reason why.
NeXt: What is your audience like when you perform?
It always depends on the place I'm going to. A lot of younger kids are getting into the newer country now, so in a lot of the audiences there's always tons of kids. At Jam in the Valley there's going to be tons of people my age and in their twenties. But I do come across a lot of older audiences, so I always have to pick a certain lineup of songs that relates to everybody, like "Crazy" by Patsy Cline for the older people, and then "Findin' a Good Man" for the younger generation, and then there's always "Something to Talk About" by Bonnie Raitt for the people who like rock.
NeXt: What are some of your favorite songs to perform?
My favorite is probably "Kerosene" by Miranda Lambert and "Findin' a Good Man." A lot of up-tempo songs because I just have a lot of fun doing them.
NeXt: What do you think you'd be doing if you weren't singing?
I have no idea. Probably like a home designer/interior designer. Just something totally opposite from singing because if I didn't have this voice I wouldn't be into music. That's the whole thing that started me -- my mom got me into voice lessons at a young age and everything grew off of one another and that's what helped me decide to become a performer.
Rachel Dobiesz will be a senior at Hamburg High School.