Interview with Amanda Abizaid

*This article was first published in Fusion magazine and is reprinted here with permission.

Singer-songwriter Amanda Abizaid is a singer/ songwriter, flautist, and pianist originally from Lebanon. Her album, “Walking In Twos”, featuring the legendary Stephen Stills has won several awards from prestigious competitions such as USA songwriting competition Global Music Awards, Los Angeles Film Awards, Global Film Festival Awards, closing International Music Awards, and many many more. The New York Times has thanked her for her vocals on the Emmy-winning theme song, “A Place in Time” for Paramount’s “The 44,000”.

Amanda has had songs on Lifetime, Paramount, VH1, CBS, and Fox. She’s performed for live audiences of up to 25,000 people and been interviewed by and Kababayan Today. She is also a judge on the Music For Water Campaign. 

F. Hi Amanda. How are you? Welcome to Fusion magazine. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? I know you’re a multi award-winning, multifaceted, multi-level thing. So could you just tell us a little bit about you?

A. Well, I began piano at five years old. I was classically trained in piano and voice training. I had four older sisters, one of whom was an opera singer, and they had formed a little band. I wanted to join in the band and my sister told me that I could only join If I could sing certain harmonies, so instead of allowing that to put me off I took that as a challenge and I joined the band. So I guess that was my first experience of having to collaborate with other people and learning harmonies. 

By age 15, I began to write my own songs because I felt I had something I wanted to say.  Well, next thing you know I’m a singer-songwriter. 

F. “Place and time” for 44,000 was your first success?

A.Yes, it was probably one of my biggest successes, and it certainly led me on my journey and opened a lot of doors for me. It was an Emmy-winning program and that really helped kick-start my career. 

F. “Walking in Twos” has been an even bigger success can you tell us a little about the story behind it and your collaboration with children from the Philippines?

A. Initially, the song came about during a trip to the Philippines. When I went there to teach music and visit schools, we went to a certain village and we were singing songs in English to children who didn’t speak any English, and I could see that it just blew their minds and they loved it so much. Watching the children and how much they enjoyed it, I was reminded of how music transcends everything; language and culture and barriers. It was there that the song really came alive.

F. How did Stephen Stills become involved?

A. Well when I came home, I felt that it was something I could really collaborate on with my friend Stephen Stills. I reached out to him and asked and as he wanted to support the children in the Philippines, he said yes. So we began our collaboration. He did an amazing job, so I just really wanted that song to be heard. 

F. What is the new collaboration for the song?

A. Well, now we’re re-doing the song with people from all over the world. We want to create a song that inspires people to connect, something that reminds us we are all human beings. We all have basic needs, and one of those needs is clean water.  We all need water. 

F. Is this what made the project, Music for Water, so interesting to you? 

A. Well, actually when I was in the Philippines I was in a village with Leta people and they had no water in the village. The pump wasn’t working and the children were going up and down the mountain to collect it from the river which isn’t clean. These little kids in bare feet were going up and down the mountain carrying water, so I tried to raise money with my fans and through the nonprofits that I’m involved with to try and get them a new pump. 

F. So getting involved in the Music for Water campaign was more or less a natural transition for you and something that you’re already interested in?

A. Well, I was actually contacted by the guy who used to be my PR guy when I was doing “A Place in Time”. His name was Truman Clayton and he had been contacted by Beatrice Davis who was a friend of his and who talked to him about the campaign. So when he contacted me about the project, because of the work I do as a humanitarian, I agreed to meet with Beatrice. 

I just said yes to being involved and to becoming a judge. It all just came together, especially after being in the Philippines.

F. How surprised were you to know that people in Navajo Nation had no water? 

A. Well, I had no knowledge at all of Navajo Nation just like I had no knowledge of what was happening with the villagers in the Philippines. But, you know now that I’m aware I have a lot of fans and I made my fans aware of what’s happening. And you know, I feel that music is just such a great way to create awareness without being preachy and teachy (sic) and it just felt right to me, it seemed like the right time. And it’s a great opportunity for new songwriters. 

F. What do you think that contestants are really going to get from this competition besides the distribution deal? 

A. Well, JB Dondolo was such a great man and a great advocate for change, and now Lumbie is carrying that legacy forward.  I think it’s an honor as a songwriter to be able to write for the campaign and to write with the sense of purpose. 

F. What should they think about while writing? 

A. I would say the Navajo Nation research water has nothing to do with water. Do your homework and write a song that will touch hearts. I would like to see and hear visuals of the Navajo Nation and different aspects of water. Basically, I guess tell a story from your heart about a situation. Let your song be the beginning of your journey as a songwriter and also pay attention to melody. You know, fun makes it upbeat and not teachy preachy.

F. What advice do you have for people who may not have great equipment for production?

A. Just write and make it authentic. I want to hear the story come from your heart. I would prefer to listen to an acoustic with heart than a fully produced song with no heart.

F. What’s your next project? What’s next for you?

A. I’m writing with my co-writer right now and pitching for more TV and film work, but also we are recording the new version of our “Walking in Twos” with people around the world. I want it to be the next “We are the World” because I think we need that right now. We need to be uplifted. Obviously with this project we have some to do something. It’s just not okay that people are going through these difficult times and going without water in 2020 in America. 

F. In three words, why should people get involved?

A. Now is the time. Oh wait, that’s four words. Ha ha ha.