‘Hard Work and a Whole
Lot of Perseverance’

Passenger Profile: Amy Kuney

By Kenny Kerner
taxi member success amy kuney
Listen to 'How The Wind Must Feel' by Amy Kuney:

I can tell by reading many of your profiles that you're taking our advice and getting up and taking charge of your own careers. I can tell by your e-mails to me and by the success stories you tell TAXI.

But this profile is special. Amy Kuney has lived a lifetime in her 21 years. This is about a TAXI member whose life was changed on March 28, 2003 while in Guatemala. She and her friends were brutally attacked by gunmen and one of her friends was murdered before her eyes. Amy Kuney was 17 years old at the time.

Today, the memory still a vivid one, Amy is a junior in college and a successful independent artist with quite a career ahead of her. Let's find out more.

When did you first think about getting into the music business?

I come from a very musical family. Both of my parents were musicians and so were my two older sisters. My parents had me playing piano when I was five and, since then, I have always been involved in music somehow. I guess I realized I wanted to pursue music as a career when the Hanson brothers became really popular. Our families were in the same home school group and they had always been friends of the family. I remember watching them when they appeared on Letterman. I was 12 years old and I wanted to do what they were doing.

What instruments do you play and when did you first begin learning to play?

I play guitar and piano. I began piano lessons when I was five years old and played mostly classical music and hymns for church. I started guitar on my own when I was 16 years old.

Were you self-taught?

With guitar I was self-taught, yes. I actually learned from a huge chord poster that my dad bought me from Wal-Mart. With piano, I have always taken lessons. My parents always pushed for piano as my main instrument. Even when we moved to Central America, I thought I could get out of taking lessons. (Laughs)... but no, they hired a woman from Cuba to teach me. I didn't speak Spanish, and she didn't speak English; but, then again, music is a universal language!

How did the incident in March 2003 influence you as a songwriter and as an artist?

Until March 2003, I had spent so much of my life wishing I were somewhere else, doing something else. I had been living with my family in Honduras for close to four years by that time. I was biding my time until I could get out and "start" my life. After the incident, I realized just how short life really is and, if I have a goal I want to achieve, I should pursue it like it was my last day to live. I wasn't sure if I was going to live through the incident and I sort of made a "deal" with God and told Him that if He would just get me through, I would do my part in working towards my dream. The incident also knocked my thinking to a new level. I was able to experience and communicate feelings of sadness, fear, and joy with more intensity.

How were you able to get three of your original songs on an NBC soap opera?

Mandi Martin played the finished master of my debut CD for Paul Antonelli, the music supervisor of Passions. He loved all of the songs on it and asked her to please get a CD into his hands as soon as it was ready to be commercially released. She got it to him in January 2006, and I had my first song ("So Help Me God") used twice in the show in early February, a month before my CD was officially released for sale! Then a few months later, Paul called and said he was using another song ("How The Wind Must Feel") three times in one show and, a month after that, he used the third song ("In The Dark") three times. Paul's been great to me!

You also did some acting in Gilmore Girls. How did that come about?

Mandi arranged for me to play two songs at the July 2005 L.A. WoMen In Music Soiree in West Hollywood. A local radio deejay, Larry Wines, was in the audience and came over to us after I performed. He invited me to perform on his radio show, he exchanged cards with Mandi and we kept in touch with him. Then, in October 2005, the producers at Gilmore Girls called Larry and asked him if he knew of any performers who might be right to play the part of a college-aged folk singer on the show. I was one of three or four artists he recommended. The casting office called Mandi and asked me to learn "Tom Dooley" and set up a live audition. I went to the Warner Bros. lot and auditioned for all of the show's producers. We were barely out of the parking lot after the audition, when Mandi got the call on her cell that I had the part! It was my first audition for an on-camera part. The first time I was on the show, I played and sang "Tom Dooley" in a club scene. The second time, they asked me to do one of my own songs, "Relationship Wrecked," in the season finale. I'm in the studio now recording that song for my second CD with Mandi Martin and Peter Barker, my two producers.

How did you first hear about TAXI?

Actually, I first heard about TAXI when I was living in Honduras. I was "Googling" around on the Internet, trying to find contact information for producers, and I ran across the TAXI Web site. I wanted to be a member, but, at the time, I had no demo to send in. When we first started working together, Mandi invited Peter Barker and me to be her guests at the 2004 TAXI Road Rally. Mandi had been a TAXI screener and was doing one-on-one song critiques and the mentor lunch that year. We were about to start work on my debut CD later that month. Mandi felt it was important for me to be educated about the business of music, as well as learning and growing creatively.

With songs on TV, acting experience, award nominations, etc., why join TAXI?

I believe TAXI can provide so many opportunities for artists like me to gain huge exposure. I really want to take my career to the next level and eventually gain national exposure. TAXI has thousands of resources and a highly trained staff that really puts those resources to work for the songwriter/artist. TAXI also saves artists like me hours of valuable time by sorting through the good and bad opportunities out there and helping me to stay focused on songwriting, recording, and performing.

How has TAXI helped your career?

Mandi introduced me to vocal coach Steven Memel at the 2004 TAXI Road Rally, where he was doing a workshop, and I have been working with him ever since. This past November, I attended the 2006 TAXI Road Rally in Los Angeles (as a member this time) and was chosen to perform one of the nights on the main stage and there were hundreds of people there. During the A&R panel on the last day, Tony Ferguson (from Interscope) heard my song "Breaking Bad Habits" and requested a copy of my CD from the stage. I felt very special, since my CD was the only one any of the panel members asked for. I found the A&R panels, the Driver's Education classes, and the networking opportunities very helpful and insightful and I have been able to apply what I learned to my own career. I've also received seven TAXI forwards since we began submitting my songs in November and we've also had some new interest from record labels.

What things have you learned from being in the music business so far?

I have learned a lot from my producers Mandi Martin and Peter Barker. From day one, they have made it a point to keep me in the know about the business. The first time we worked together, Mandi and Peter gifted me with John Braheny's book, The Craft and Business of Songwriting. Mandi, who is also my manager, has always emphasized how important it is to know about the business of music, in addition to the art of it, and that I only have one chance to make a "first" impression. I have learned how important it is to maintain healthy relationships with the people I work with. I have learned how important it is to study and dissect a contract, taking drastic precautions before signing anything. And, I've learned that it's a tough business and it takes hard, hard work and a whole lot of perseverance.

"...hard, hard work and a whole lot of perseverance." I couldn't have said it better myself. And TAXI, of course, for the networking opportunities, encouragement, and critical comments about your original songs. Way to go, Amy!

See How TAXI Works

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— Dwight Nichols,
TAXI Member

"I had the drive, and the passion. I just needed help, and you keep supplying it."
— Justin K.,
TAXI Member

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TAXI Member

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