After founding the rock band, The Anti-Job Amanda Jones found a new musical career path as a composer for film and television shows like Cherish the Day on OWN and Twenties on BET.
For Cherish the Day, the young composer is creating music for a unique anthology series. Cherish The Day is eight episodes that each takes place on a single day in the lives of a couple. For Twenties, it’s a series covering the lives of three young friends who are trying to find their way through life.
PopAxiom spoke with Amanda about her life making music and her road to making music for Ava DuVernay (A Wrinkle In Time) and Lena Waithe (Master of None).
Chemistry to Concerts
For Amanda, music’s been in her life since the beginning. “I started playing piano around 3. Growing up, my dad loved listening to Motown music, and my mom was all about Whitney Houston and Toni Braxton.”
The piano was only the start for Amanda. “There was always music in the house. Around 10, I played clarinet in the school band.”
Rebellious teenage years lead to the discovery of a new instrument that would capture Amanda’s heart. “Around 14 or 15, a friend of mine let me borrow her guitar, and that’s the instrument I’ve fallen in love with.”
However, all that music in her life still didn’t mean Amanda focused on becoming a professional musician. “I went to Vassar College intending to be a chemistry major. A lot of my family works in healthcare. But I fell in love with the music department and switched music from my minor to major.”
City of Angels
Amanda graduated from Vassar in 2010 and then made a big move. “I moved out to LA and started a band [The Anti-Job]. We did the tour circuit for quite a while, and we still play today.”
Now with the drive to make a career out of music, The Anti-Job became Amanda’s, well, job. “Initially, that was my primary focus: touring, performing, album. That was the cycle. Around 2014, I was grinding my gears in the LA music scene and wanted to incorporate other aspects of the music industry into my life.”
Naturally, living in LA means it’s inevitable that you’ll meet people in the film and TV industry. That often leads to “… getting sucked into the entertainment industry.”
For Amanda, she began living that reality. “I’d met a couple of composers along the way and started to think it was a viable career path. So, I set down that path. I took some classes … as a refresher, which plugged me into the SoCal film and television scene.”
Amanda’s education and experience lead to a new gig with an orbit around some composing superstars. “I worked with a music production assistant for Hans Zimmer … John Powell. I worked with film and television composers like Michael Levine, a great friend, and mentor.”
Communication Is Key
The push to become a composer included partaking in a variety of workshops and programs. “… One in particular through ASCAP and Project Involve paired up-and-coming directors with up-and-coming composers … it’s kind of like speed dating … I did that twice. It was amazing. You work on a short film that premiered at the LA Film Festival. Five years later, I’m still working with some of the people I met.”
“‘Finding ‘your director’” is a goal all composers should try and achieve. Amanda’s advice correlates directly to reality, where the most famous on-going pairing of director and composer is likely John Williams and Steven Spielberg. But they are one of many inseparable combos. “Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone or Ryan Coogler and Ludwig Göransson.”
Collaboration thrives on communication. And finding that director for a composer means a new level of communication. “A large component is being able to communicate well.”
Amanda began working at Lionsgate, the film studio behind The Hunger Games, Twilight, and John Wick. “It was such a great opportunity to understand the nuts and bolts of the industry.” Her job entailed vetting and hiring critical positions in the music department. “I was responsible for hiring composers, music editors, and supervisors. I worked with showrunners, and it was just awesome.”
The joy in Amanda’s voice is undeniable when she talks about her experience at Lionsgate. “I worked on Greenleaf and Dear White People. Step Up for YouTube Red.”
In 2018, Amanda took the next step. “I had the opportunity to score my first feature film that’s coming out this year. It’s called One Angry Black Man.”
Amanda’s excitement was super-rocket fuel for her skills as a music-maker. “I was so excited to score my first feature that I wrote all the music in two weeks!”
Since 2018, Amanda’s flowed from one project to the next. “I did two feature documentaries and then my first pilot [Twenties on BET].”
On a whim, Amanda took a trip to Sundance. “I tried to meet as many directors. The only thing I could talk about was this pilot.”
The pilot, a show created by Lena Waithe (Queen & Slim, The Chi), was enough to land Amanda, a new gig that put her on a popular HBO series. “I met Dime Davis, who is a director for the Black Lady Sketch Show on HBO. She thought I’d be great for it.”
Back in LA, the work began. “We got together, and I went through the classic vetting process. I got the script, I marked it up and spoke with all the creatives. And I was able to hop on the Black Lady Sketch Show.”
Amanda scored six episodes of the Black Lady Sketch Show, and then Twenties got picked up by BET.” Amanda scored the series then hopped on another Lena Waithe project, How To Make Love To A Black Woman.
Now, she’s going back to her roots for Home, a series on Apple TV. On the score, Amanda gets to “… play guitar and sing.”
About Cherish the Day
One Day, in 2019, Amanda received a phone call saying, “Hey, Ava DuVernay wants to meet you at noon.” Amanda arrived to learn about a new show Ava was producing called Cherish The Day.”
The series airs on OWN, Oprah’s network. Ava handed Amanda a script and asked the composer to “… write cues that you think would be part of the sonic palette of the series.”
The excitement-fueled Amanda went into action. “I read the script lightning fast. I wrote two demos and sent them to her [Ava].”
However, two weeks went by without a response before she heard the exciting words “… we’d love to have you on Cherish The Day.”
Who inspires Amanda’s creative side? “I would have to say more bands than composers but from my earliest years, The Temptations. They inspired me to play guitar. I love bands like Yes, Deerhoof, but also John Williams and Ennio Morricone. I’m a big classic rock fan, so Jimmy Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath … all that stuff. Bjork is pretty awesome.”
Amanda looks for bands who are bold. “I love bands that aren’t afraid to have long-form songs or be very cinematic in their writing. That’s inspired me. I try to bring that to my work.”
When asked what remake Amanda would love to be a part of, she responds with a little talked about late 80s gem. “… Less Than Zero.”
Amanda is driven and wants to make better music for documentaries, television, and film. She is setting her next major goal quite high. “I’d love to get my feet wet in a Marvel or DC movie. Any fantasy or comic, pulp stuff.” Seems ambitious, but remember, she’s friends with Ava DuVernay, who is helming New Gods for the DCEU.
What’s coming next from The Anti-Job composer? “I’m working on a docu-series for Live Nation called Cradle To Stage. Dave Grohl is one of the executive producers, and it’s all about rock stars and their moms. It’s based on [Virginia Grohl] her book. Also, working on a feature documentary called Krimes, that’s about artists who were formally incarcerated and how they used art as this liberating tool. Black Lady Sketch Show season two is coming out later this year.”
Are Twenties and Cherish the Day on your watch list?
Thanks to Amanda Jones and Rhapsody PR for making this interview possible.
Header photo credit goes to Ian Spanier.
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