When I heard the howling pedal steel-soaked guitar on the song aptly named “Pedal Steel,” a touching song about the Grand Ole Opry, I knew I needed to interview the artist as soon as possible. I was not surprised that Amanda Kate Ferris was from a musical family.
What did surprise me is that Ferris’s mother, Kathy Wright, was one of Dean Martin’s Golddiggers. I was excited to find out more.
She said, “I just loved hearing her stories from that era of music. There was just something romantic and special about that era of music that is just so nostalgic. She was around Dean Martin and Bob Hope and sang with Vicki Carr. It was a special era of music that we will never see again.
Ferris’s mother is from Arkansas, and her dad is from Michigan. Her mother always loved country music and played in a house cover band in California when she was young.
She stated that she was drawn to singers that had a lot of power behind their voices, like Wynonna Judd, because “she has this grit to her voice that I love, and a level of conviction when singing that you felt.”
Ferris said, “She raised me on country music from the time I was born. I learned how to have a country twang and a grit like Wynona Judd and I was obsessed with country from the get-go.”
At age 22, Ferris spent a short time in Nashville, trying to do the singer/songwriter thing, but it didn’t work out for her.
She retreated to California and took a four-year break from music. She got married and had a daughter of her own, and focused on her new life as a wife and mother until another opportunity presented itself.
At that time, the Country Club Band, an award-winning country cover band in southern California, needed a new lead singer and reached out to her. It was difficult for Ferris as her mother had just received a cancer diagnosis.
“It was this pivotal moment in my life where I realized, ‘Life is short and you don’t have all the time in the world that you think you do,’” she said. “My dream was still there for me. Music had never gone away. It was still in the back of my mind, ‘This is what I need to be doing. This is what I was born to do,’ and so I ended up joining that band.”
The singer had been writing music for herself, but at that time, she wasn’t pursuing it professionally. Her mother, who also was a songwriter, wrote with her. The band leader, Arnie Newman, urged Ferris to record an album with her mother.
“I wanted more than anything to have a body of work of the music that we had done together. My whole life, you know, and so we went into the studio, and I just recorded this album of all the music that my mom and I did together. The album was called Time. It was never meant to go past just releasing it and having this memory of my body of work with my mom. And then it got some press and before I knew it, people were wanting to hear it,” she said.
Part of what Ferris did was cover Carrie Underwood songs. She got spotted by E! News executives, and they flew her out to be on Jimmy Fallon’s Clash of the Cover Bands, where she ended up in the finale with a precise Dolly impersonator.
Ferris said, “Unlike Karen (Hester), I wasn’t a career tribute artist. She’s so spot-on and even when you meet her in the costume, I felt like I was talking to Dolly Parton.”
And while Hester would go on to win the competition, the rest of the world took notice of how tremendously talented Ferris was.
After her mother passed, Ferris wanted songs that were a “little more light-hearted” while still honoring her Texas roots.
She stated, “I feel like if it’s country music, it needs a steel guitar and a fiddle. I know that I am biased, but I do love a traditional country sound.”
You can’t help but sway when the fiddle saws in Ferris’s most popular song to date, “Little I Got,” a song where she appreciates her upbringing and what she has now on her Texas farm with her family. The song was written by another Texas native, Maren Morris.
With her newest EP, Pedal Steel, Ferris has pulled out all the stops by including songs from Nashville’s biggest hitmakers, Hillary Linsey, Liz Rose, Lori McKenna, Lainey Wilson, Josh Thompson, Luke Laird, Barry Dean, and Ross Copperman to name a few.
You can hear Lainey Wilson’s influence on the chorus of “Tequila and Jesus” with the words If I don’t like the way the world’s spinning around/ I kick it on back once the sun goes down/ Find a little peace by the end of the night/ Thanks to King James, salt and lime/ If I couldn’t send one up, or raise one high/ Heaven knows I’d fall to pieces/ If it wasn’t for tequila and Jesus.
But my heart soars with gratitude when I hear the lyrics, I don’t need the fortune/ And I don’t need the fame/ I don’t play my country/ Like country’s a game/ When I roll the dice/ I play what I like/ And I sing how I feel/ Let the world peddle gold/ And I’ll pedal steel knowing that there are still singers and songwriters who still embrace traditional country music as much as I do. You must hear “Pedal Steel” to fully appreciate the song’s appeal.
Regarding her Pedal Steel EP, Ferris stated, “This is the best music I’ve ever had the privilege of putting out. These songs represent everything I love about country music. They tell the story that I want to tell, and they have the authentic country sound that made me fall in love with country music.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Thank you to Ferris and the brilliant songwriters for gifting us with this magnificent collection of songs.
Check out Ferris’s touring schedule to see if she is playing a show near you.
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