Amanda Marshall: 5 songs that changed my life

The singer shares the formative music in her life, including songs from Whitney Houston and Public Enemy.

The singer shares the formative music in her life, including songs from Whitney Houston and Public Enemy

Amanda Marshall | 5 Songs that Changed My Life

12 months ago
Duration 5:27
Amanda Marshall shares the music that has shaped her life, including Whitney Houston, the Beatles, Public Enemy and more.

Amanda Marshall is back.

A fan favourite of the late '90s and early aughts with hits including "Birmingham" and "Dark Horse," the Toronto-born singer-songwriter has returned to music with a new album and Canada-wide tour after a 20-year hiatus from releasing anything publicly.

Marshall dropped by CBC Music's studio to catch up with us and talk about her musical influences, specifically five of the songs that have inspired her the most throughout her life and career. Watch the video above.

It's clear that Marshall holds a deep appreciation for music, whether she's making it herself or not. As a listener, she relates to it deeply, often seeing glimpses of herself reflected back. She's also inspired to further develop her craft, as she learns new vocal effects, songwriting practices and creative techniques through a wide range of artists' work.

One of her early memories is of Whitney Houston's 1985 hit "How Will I Know," which she heard during a critical period in her youth.

"Whitney Houston came on TV, and she had a curly wedge haircut and a big silver headband, and I had a curly wedge haircut! And I had a big silver headband! And for a moment I saw myself reflected, you know, in Whitney Houston, and it meant everything to me," she said. "It was a moment of connection that I had never experienced before as a kid."

Cut to 1999, and Marshall joined Houston as the opening act on the European leg of her My Love Is Your Love world tour.

Melissa Etheridge's "Bring Me Some Water" was also a formative song for Marshall, as it sparked a sense of permission for her to make riskier creative decisions in her own music.

"[Etheridge] was brash. She was a player, she played guitar. She was really aggressive," said Marshall. "And the song was so passionate and so open and so raw. It changed everything about the way I looked at the kind of music that was possible for me to make."

Recalling the impact of Public Enemy's 1990 single "Fight the Power," Marshall noted that it was around this time that she remembers people reclaiming their power through music in the mainstream. "It was the first time that we had a direct connection to any kind of civil unrest related to race," she said. "We had grown up listening to the protest music of our parents, Dylan, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Ohio, but this song was about us, by us, for us."

Marshall released her new and fourth album, Heavy Lifting, earlier this month, and is currently in the middle of her Canada-wide tour, hitting nine provinces including back-to-back shows at Massey Hall in Toronto.


Ashley Catania

Producer, CBC Music

Ashley Catania is a Toronto-based digital producer and entertainment generalist. She is currently a producer for social at CBC Music. Reach her on Twitter @cataniaashley or by email at