She’s battled mental health, bereavement and grief in the last three years – but two things have kept singer-songwriter Amanda-Jane Taylor (aka Scottish singer AJ McLovely) going…
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The qualified dental hygienist, from Westhill in Aberdeenshire, has experienced a traumatic time lately, on top of the challenges we have all faced during lockdown. Before the pandemic, the 42-year-old lost her dad to cancer, then her marriage broke down, and she had to move out of the family home with her two sons Lewis, 14, and 12-year-old Kyle.
Following this, she suffered a mental breakdown and more recently, a miscarriage – but both her sons and her music help her cope. You would never believe everything she has exerienced if you met Amanda-Jane (who is better known as AJ) for she has a sparkling personality as well as a drive to succeed in the music industry.
How music helped AJ through
Without her music and song-writing to help her through the troubled times, AJ does not know where she would be.
She said: “It’s fair to say music has saved my life. Music and my children have been everything.
“I used to do an open mic night every week before lockdown, it gave me a focus after my dad died and I began to enjoy life again. Music gave me a new social circle, confidence and got me out doing what I love again.
“Then at the start of lockdown, when I was furloughed, I did online gigs in my living room. I built up a fantastic community and it was ridiculous the amount of covers I learned in that time! Doing the online performances kept me from being so low – and I felt better about myself.”
How Scottish singer AJ McLovely is helping others
When you listen to her new four-track EP, which was released in November and is available to buy from AJ’s website, it becomes apparent that she has experienced a lot of heartache but she has channelled that into making music – music that others can identify with and find strength in.
AJ added: “It is great that my music has helped people – and for me, personally, to give something back and make a difference in people’s lives through my music, that is amazing. I have received messages daily during lockdown saying that I have ‘saved lives’ – it’s incredible. One fan in Canada, who lost her Mum, told me my song ‘Breathe’ was played at her Mum’s funeral.
“These people will be in my life for evermore.”
I am not ashamed – mental health does not disappear but you learn to keep going as best you can.
Since her own mental illness, AJ and her loyal supporters have helped raise thousands of pounds for mental health charities.
Raising awareness about mental health and talking about her own struggles have always been important to AJ, she explained: “I have talked openly about mental health, death, miscarriage because I am just me, and I am honest. Some days I have not wanted to exist, other days I cannot get out of bed, but I am not embarrassed by it. It’s because of the trauma-related stuff that has happened to me.
“I am not ashamed – mental health does not disappear but you learn to keep going as best you can.”
Album release dream
Although AJ’s music on her four-track EP is quite diverse – she is considering going down the country music route and has been compared to the likes of Eva Cassidy and KT Tunstall.
She could dream of a big break in the music industry, but for now, AJ’s focus is to record an album of her own original songs and perform them in solo gigs around the UK, something that she had to postpone recently.
She added: “I was fully booked from the summer until the New Year, but I had to cancel them when I lost the baby. I need to give myself time but I want to start gigging again in April. I would love to perform in smaller venues and be out there performing my original music (not so much the covers). That is my aim.”
Of course, besides talent and hard work, those striving for success in the music industry also need to be surrounded by supportive people – and AJ has found that in manager John Payne.
Manager says ‘she has such potential’
When John first began working with AJ 18 months ago, he was struck by her compassionate nature, resilience and strength.
He said: “On a personal level, she is an ambassador for mental health and supports many others with her music. She did this through lockdown – by performing live from her living room on Facebook – and beyond.
“She has a great personality, despite having suffered many traumatic setbacks in the past three years.
“Music saved her life and the lives of others – daily she gets messages on Facebook from people who tell her this. Her music has helped her so much and with my help, and the help of others, she has made progress in a very competitive business.
“AJ is ambitious, she works very hard, and has a very powerful voice, with a smooth, captivating tone – and she has so much potential.”
One to watch
And it is not just manager John who sings her praises, for AJ has had industry recognition too, with record label chiefs touting her as “one to watch in 2022” and comparing her to chart-topping KT Tunstall!
Country Gigs Scotland said: “We just have a wee inkling that major success is going to strike for this wee diamond sooner rather than later. Instantly likeable and very talented with a great online presence, the fan base growing all the time. Wee bit of luck in the mix and stardom awaits.”
Meanwhile, Tom Hilton of Aldora Britain Records, said she has become:
masterful at turning sorrowful moments and grief into the most beautiful art.
He added, in a review of her “empowering” EP, that:
McLovely evokes fellow Scottish female songwriter KT Tunstall whilst also giving her tracks her own unique touch.
You can order AJ McLovely’s four-track EP, Healing, from the online shop on her website. Keep a close eye on any future gigs on her website or by following AJ on Facebook.
Read more about AJ’s inspiring story in The Press & Journal.