It's been very exciting to see all kinds of talented young musicians with diabetes pop up in the entertainment industry — from megastars like Nick Jonas to American Idol singers like Crystal Bowersox and new indie artists like Nikki Lang — and now, there's Amanda Lamb.
Unlike a lot of teen rocker popstars, this 17-year-old LA-based songstress is more reminiscent of Taylor Swift, with a sweet-country voice with just enough rocker edge. Her overall sound features a mix of pop music, acoustic instruments, and sophisticated lyrics. She also looks a little like a young Celine Dion.
Amanda released her first album, Highwire, last November and is now making the rounds at some of the diabetes events in her hometown. Last year, she performed at Danny DeVito's home for the Rock for Diabetes Concert, where she opened for Nick Jonas and his brothers!
To get a taste of Amanda's style, check out her latest music online over at YouTube.
One of her songs, The Life of an Aerialist, was inspired by her life with diabetes, so she's dedicated half of the proceeds from that song to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. We were happy to chat with Amanda recently about life with diabetes, her new CD, and her budding music career.
DM) You were diagnosed when you were only 15 months old. What was growing up like for you?
AL) I had a very good support network. My parents tried to help me have as normal a childhood a possible. At age 6, my mom pushed to get me on an insulin pump, when they were only putting insulin pumps on kids 12 and older. I was the youngest kid in Orange County to have an insulin pump. I love the insulin pump. It just gives me so much freedom. It really helps me achieve that 'normal' that every diabetic wants. It's a real life saver and changer.
Sometimes people ask what life was like without diabetes, and I don't know. I don't know what it's like to eat and not give insulin, or test my blood sugar, or worry about whether I'm high or low. I've lived with this my whole life.
When did you get into music?
I started getting interested in singing when I was 12. I was a competitive horseback rider, and when I was 14, I got some complications from horseback riding, some joint pain. My music helped me get through that. My mom took me to see some vocal teachers. I met some songwriters and musicians and it sort of just took off. Meeting one musician lead to another — even with personal friends of ours, there are music connections there. It's a been long process, but it's definitely worth it.
How has diabetes impacted your career?
I don't let my diabetes impact my career. I take care of it. When I'm on stage, it's just me — I don't have diabetes. My insulin pump has helped with this, because I can control my diabetes before I perform. If something happens 10 minutes before a show, I can fix it very quickly and still go on stage on time.
Life as an Aerialist is about my life with diabetes, and how it's a constant balancing act. I wanted to write about diabetes, but I wanted it to be relatable to almost everybody. So a co-writer and I had this idea of a circus. Aerialists walk on a tight-rope. They're always in a constant balance. They never know if they're going to fall off or make it across. That's kind of my analogy for diabetes. You have to stay on the tight-rope and keep in balance!
What's your diabetes routine when you're preforming?
I test my blood sugar 15 minutes before going on stage. Before shows, I may have interviews with bloggers or newspaper people, so my mom will ask me to test. If I'm high, I'll take half a correction because I'm moving around. If I'm low, I'll get some sugar.
Then I do a vocal warm-up. Once I'm on stage, my mom's always near the front of the stage. I've never gone low, thank God, but she always has sugar tablets or juice in her purse. I can go to the edge of the stage and get something.
We're diligent about testing before and taking care of it, so I can perform like a performer who doesn't have diabetes. That's how we did it when I was a horseback rider, too. We would take care of it early. I don't want to pass out when I'm on top of the horse or on stage.
Performing at various fundraisers, you've met a lot of kids and families dealing with diabetes. What advice do you have for them?
Don't let diabetes rule your life. You take control of diabetes. I was a competitive horseback rider for 10 years, and I always gave thought to my diabetes before I went and did shows. But I never put diabetes first. I never said I couldn't do something because of diabetes. I live my life as normally as I can. I've had this for 16 years, and it's just part of my normal.
Lots of teens with diabetes struggle with rebellion and burnout. How do you keep up your positive attitude?
I get help. My friends and my family help me. You know, they ask if I test, they're looking out for me. They help me so much and they understand the severity of it. Not so long ago, I was afraid of asking for help. I thought I could take this on all by myself. Maybe some kids give up because they're tired of doing it on their own. They shouldn't be afraid to ask for help! It's hard for me to live the life that I have and not get help.
So, what's next for you? Is college in the future?
My parents fully support the music for now. I turn 18 in May, and then more venues will be accepting to let me play there. I'll be considered an adult in the real world and the music world, so a lot more doors will open. I'm going to take a year off from thinking about school and see what happens. It's a little scary to say, but it makes sense.
If you happen to be in the LA area, you can catch Amanda singing the national anthem at the Orange County JDRF Walk on Nov. 6.
And don't forget to download her album, Highwire, on iTunes, and follow her rise to fame on Twitter at @amandalambmusic or on Facebook.