Arts Q&A: Singer Amanda St John on Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell and Paulo Coelho

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week: Co Antrim singer-songwriter Amanda St John

Co Antrim singer-songwriter Amanda St John will play during the 7 Hills Blues Festival in Armagh city from August 10-13

1. When did you think about music as a career and what were your first steps into it?

I considered a career in music in my early 20s but lost my nerve and only started properly in my early 30s. My first steps were writing and recording my first EP (released three years ago) and generating local radio play, festivals and gigs from this. I've worked steadily from this point to build up to my album release last year and have just completed over a year of UK and Irish tour dates.

2. Best gigs you’ve been to?

James Brown at BluesFest in Ottawa, Canada; Imelda May at the Ulster Hall and Charles Bradley at The Empire

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

Aretha Franklin (singer), Billy Preston (keyboard), Nathan Watts (bass), Walter Beck and Donald Fagen (guitar) and Stevie Wonder (drums and vocals).

4. The record and book you’d take to a desert island?

Joni Mitchell's Travelogue and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

Amanda St John shows off her powerful vocals

5. Top three films and worst film?

O Brother, where Art Thou?, The Guard and 12 Years a Slave. The worst is The Fast and the Furious – or any car film.

6. Favourite authors?

Paulo Coelho, Khaled Hosseini and John O'Donoghue.

7. Sport you most enjoy and top team?

I don't really follow sports, though my partner Chris is urging me to say Manchester United.

8. Ideal holiday destination?

I'm actually on holiday in the south of France at the moment and it's pretty perfect in every way.

9. Pet hate?

Rude or ungrateful people.

10. What’s your favourite:

Dinner? An Indian or Thai curry.

Dessert? Profiteroles.

Drink? Gin and tonic.

11. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?

It's tough to pinpoint one person as I'm blessed with very close friends from different stages of my life. My longest friendship is with Jackie as we've been friends since primary school and our daughters are now good friends too. That's heartwarming to see.

12. Is there a God?

Absolutely yes.

:: Amanda St John will play during the 7 Hills Blues Festival taking place across Armagh city from August 10-13. The full schedule and line-up is available at

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