Budding songwriter has three CDs under her belt
WRITTEN BY Julie Drake
When 9-year-old Amanda Sirota grows up, she would like to be the first female player in the NFL.
Until then, the Palmdale fourth-grader keeps busy with honing her songwriting and singing skills, which are evident in the three CDs she’s written and recorded with her father: “Ladybug in My Soup,” released in 2008; “You Need to go Live at the Zoo” from 2011; and this year’s “Sand Between My Toes.”
Any manner of subject can be grist for lyrics. Real-life events that inspired songs include a forgotten blanket before a family vacation, a baby tooth that fell out on Christmas Eve, and a late-night snack run by a 3-year-old.
The best songs are the ones that just come to her, Amanda said.
“The songs that I try to write down aren’t as good as it just popping into your head,” she said. “It’s a good feeling when you do it.”
Amanda wrote her first song when she was 3, the start of the family songwriting partnership.
Her father, Art Sirota, credits his daughter’s vivid imagination and youthful brain for coming up with the idea for the song “Choo-Choo-Choo to the Park-Park-Park” in the “Ladybug in My Soup” CD.
“I couldn’t do that without you,” Sirota said to Amanda. “See, I’m an adult; I had to grow up. I would say, ‘We’re taking a train to the park.’ But you said, ‘choo-choo-choo, to the park-park-park.’”
Amanda, who attends Anaverde Hills Elementary School, had a hand in writing six of that CD’s 16 songs, Sirota said.
The CD’s artwork shows Sirota holding 3-year-old Amanda, who’s wearing pink pants, a pink top and a big smile.
The creative songwriting process sometimes involves Amanda coming up with a chorus, the words and music, or a concept. Amanda’s input provides a child’s perspective for the songs.
Amanda inspired a song called “Mommy Says ‘Yes!’” when Sirota was getting her dressed for day care early one morning after Mom Lynda had already left for work.
“She just starting singing ‘Mommy says yes, Daddy says yes, girl says yes, we all say yes,’” Sirota recalled.
The song, on the “Ladybug in My Soup” CD, is about going to the pound to get a puppy. Although they have a dog now, Daddy said no back then.
Amanda enjoys making music with her father.
“It’s one of the things that we could do together,” said Amanda. whose favorite football team is the San Francisco 49ers. “We do it together ... and I enjoy it because it entertains people, and they like it.”
After Amanda and Sirota write a song, they go to the studio and work on the arrangement, the key, and the tempo.
“That’s an integral part of making this happen,” Sirota said.
Amanda shares songwriting credit with her father for all of the songs on the duo’s “You Need to go Live at the Zoo” CD.
In “Giddy-Up Cowboy,” a song about a father who takes his child to the rodeo, Amanda helped her father with the song’s bridge while on a trip to get some ice cream.
“Popcorn everywhere/sawdust in my hair/cowboys roping in the rain. With my cowboy hat and my lariat/I could join up with them come next spring,” the song goes.
“We are collaborators. I never had a collaborator before,” Sirota, 66, said, adding that he started playing the harmonica when he was 12.
“I think it’s great; I think they’re very talented,” Lynda said. “I’m very, very, very proud.”
Sirota taught Amanda how to play the harmonica. She is also learning how to play guitar and is taking vocal lessons.
Sirota taught himself how to play guitar when he was 17. He started writing songs when he was 18, though he admits he wasn’t very good at it. In college, he majored in English literature and minored in music.
“When we do things together, like record in a studio or perform in public, I almost invariably turn to her and say to her, ‘Honey, did you have a good time? Was that fun for you?” Sirota said, adding he wants to make sure Amanda is enjoying herself.
They record all of their music at Wyersound, a Bay Area studio owned by musician and songwriter Rolfe Wyer, who engineered and produced the father-daughter duo’s most recent CD.
Their music is upbeat with clever, humorous lyrics that adults and children will enjoy.
They are working on a new CD, “Poco Loco Joe,” that will have 15 new songs on it. Amanda will have four songs on the CD that she will sing solo for the first time.
“I’ve learned a lot from her,” Sirota said. “One of the things I’ve learned from Amanda is always to listen and pay attention to what she says.”
Listening to his daughter led to a sequel of sorts to “Giddy Up Cowboy,” a tune called “Giddy Up Cowgirl” that borrows from its predecessor.
“To me, it’s a great sense of accomplishment that we do this together,” Sirota said.
‘You can’t teach somebody how to write a song,” Amanda said.
When Amanda told a story about her and her dad, she referred to him by his first name.
“She just started calling me Art. ... If she wants to call me Art, she can call me Art,” Sirota said.
He added that Amanda is both his and Lynda’s first child. When Amanda was born, Sirota was 57 years old.
“I have to tell you it’s just the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said.
The father-daughter duo’s music is available at Parent Teacher Aids in Lancaster and at www.cdbaby.com.