Amanda Gasparich has always loved to perform. As a little girl, the Belleville native sang solos in church, acted in school plays and participated in Youth Sing Praise at the Shrine. So it was no surprise when she told her parents she wanted to move to California to attend film school. The surprise came when she actually loaded up a U-haul and pulled away.
I was so young! said Gasparich, a 1995 Belleville West graduate who now goes by the recording name Miz Mandy. After graduating high school a semester early and attending a few local college classes, she was still only 19. Understandably, her parents were concerned that she had no job lined up and knew no one.
Its not that they didnt support me, she said. My father, George, was an art teacher at Belleville West, so he encouraged my artistic side - my need to perform. And my mom, Peggy, a teacher at Cathedral, is a wonderful writer who inspired me to write poetry (and eventually lyrics for my songs). At the time, though, they just wanted me to have a more solid plan.
But with a creative mind like Mandys, a solid plan just didnt gel. And thats a good thing, because after seventeen years of dabbling in dancing, acting, singing, songwriting and producing music, thousands of people are enjoying her songs in dance clubs across the country. She has released three albums, and two of her singles have landed on Billboards Dance Club Play charts. Shell be coming home to Belleville on November 1st to debut two of her newest music videos.
The road to her becoming a successful pop artist was a long but rewarding one. Six months after moving to California, she discovered that film wasnt for her. She found a job performing in a dinner theatre, but really wanted to be singing. When she nailed an audition to be one of the three front ladies in a band called Liquid Blue, she was thrilled. They wore matching costumes and traveled with NATO, performing for the Armed Forces. She didnt make much money, but learned a lot about choreography and was able to travel to 18 countries. It was then that she gained immense respect for our military.
It was such an honor to perform for them, said Mandy. The conditions that they must endure, suited up in 115 degrees to protect our country - it was very humbling. Bringing them a little bit of entertainment - a little bit of home, was a blessing. After several years of singing in the group, Mandy decided to go solo. It was a scary change, but remembering the words of her sixth grade mentor, Larry Pry (who is now at the Muny), made her keep going.
He convinced me I could do anything I set my mind to, and that I had the talent to make it, said Mandy. I told myself he wouldnt let me give up on myself.
She started taking vocal lessons, and since she had always loved poetry, she put her lyrics to music. After working with four or five producers and songwriters, she released her first demo, Mandatory, in 2006. It featured a variety of music.
I was coming from a cover band that sang everything from country to rap and pop, so I didnt know who I was or what I should write, said Mandy.
She tried a new style in her first full album, In the Mix, in 2007, which had a pop dance flair with Latin rhythms. The extended remixed dance version of the title song, crafted by DJ Scotty K who is known for the remixes hes done for Christina Aguilera and Madonna, spent eight weeks at #37 on the Billboard Dance Club chart. In The Mix became very popular in San Diego and Hollywood dance clubs.
After releasing several different remixes of In the Mix, Mandy recorded her second album, Today is the Day, in which she and producers integrated German and French sounds for more of a Worldly influence. Her single from that album, Sweet Fury of Love, hit the Billboard chart and was played in dance clubs across the country.
But even with the success of her songs, Mandy was compelled to discover who she was as an artist. She started working with a producer in L.A. who helped shape her third album.
Instead of focusing on pop/dance songs as I did when I was younger, I started writing more theatrical themes, said Mandy. I wrote from the view of a desperate housewife, a femme fatale, or a double agent, said Mandy. And the music is cinematic pop rock, more like movie soundtracks. Its retro, moody and sultry.
She named the album Mousetrap, and released it in November 2011. She recently filmed videos for two of the albums songs, The Cats Pajamas and Rising Sun, with red carpet release parties in Hollywood. Mandy plays a double agent in the video for The Cats Pajamas, hired to kill a handsome male agent. Shes staking him at the pool and is caught between doing what she is hired to do and what she really wants to do. Upon the videos release, Miz Mandy and her producers are hoping to get airtime on MTV2 or VH1 underground rotation.
We had a lot of fun with that video, said Mandy. My whole family - my parents, my sister and brother in-law, and cousins - flew out to San Diego and they are all in it.
Mandy said that despite her parents concern when she drove away in a moving truck years ago, they have supported her unconditionally throughout her career. Shes excited to come home and show her videos to all of her friends and family that encouraged her to follow her dream. As for whether or not she has found her style, she isnt sure the answer is so important.
Ive realized that you can have success without fitting in the box, said Mandy. I just want to continue to challenge myself, express myself. See what I can do next.
Miz Mandys video release party is at Vespers and The Edge, 701 South Belt West in Belleville on November 1st from 7-10 pm.