From the golden buzzer on America’s Got Talent, Mandy Harvey brings her voice to Steamboat
Award-winning singer, songwriter Mandy Harvey’s biggest fear growing up was losing her hearing. Then, it became her reality.
“Music is an expression of the soul,” said Harvey. “When I was a kid, I grew a passion for music, because it was a way of communicating when I wasn’t comfortable enough to do so.”
Performing is a bit different now that she is not able to hear her song or even what her voice sounds like.
“After I lost my hearing, I remember thinking, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?” Harvey said. “What can they take from me at this point? I think I’m a better musician now, because I can’t judge myself; before, it was just crippling.”
From the stage of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the 29-year-old Florida singer will perform with her band at 8 p.m. Friday at the Strings Music Pavilion in Steamboat Springs.
A singer since she was 4, Harvey lost her hearing to a connective tissue disorder at age 18, when she was a music education student at Colorado State University.
“My focus at that point wasn’t how to get back into music,” she said. “I just wanted to survive and had to learn a whole new way to communicate through ASL (American Sign Language). I didn’t even sing in the shower for a year; it was too painful.”
After gaining confidence and finding others who had hearing loss, Harvey said she felt like she wasn’t alone, and it gave her the confidence to try new things.
One day, her dad asked if she would play guitar with him, and after her depression and anger subsided, she said “Yes.”
“It was a weird experience. I felt like I was doing it right but didn’t think I would have an auditory response,” she said remembering that day. “But I just had to close my eyes and jump with blind faith to know that something would come out.”
This, in turn, grew to her learning new songs as she picked up visual tuners and started recognizing the notes. That quickly became muscle memory and allowed her to learn sight-reading.
Typically, Harvey performs onstage shoeless. It’s how she’s able to pick up the vibrations and different tempos of the music. At times, it takes her eight hours or more just to learn one song.
Last month on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” Harvey left the audience in tears and disbelief as she sang one of her originals, “Try,” while playing the ukulele. At the end of the clip, judge Simon Cowell hits the golden buzzer to send Harvey to the show’s next round and said, “I don’t think you’re going to need a translator for this,” as gold confetti rained down.
This song, in particular, was inspired by a friend, Erik Weihenmayer, who reached the summit of Mount Everest in 2001 and created the program “No Barriers,” that follows the motto: “What’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way.”
“When I started singing again, he asked me why I wasn’t writing my own music,” Harvey said. “I said I was afraid. He inspired me to write that song as my personal story with the ‘No Barriers’ mindset that I was the one holding myself back.”
Harvey said creating original songs with her band involves a lot of communication and preparation prior to practices. When writing a song, for example, she will pick a key, and because each musician knows music theory well, they know only certain notes fit within a key.
“It’s really well planned out down to the point where it will be decided that this person will take a solo for this many measures,” Harvey said. “I can count the measures as they play, but a lot of it has to do with visual communication. Whether it’s my cue to start or a solo — because sometimes things have to have a bit of freedom — one of the players will nod at me in when it’s my turn.”
Since she started singing again, Harvey has released three albums and continues to perform across the U.S., in addition to speaking as an ambassador to both No Barriers USA and Invisible Disabilities Association.
“I don’t feel like I’m doing something that’s changing the world,” she said. “I’m just a person who has a passion for something and is going for it. I hope people can look at their lives and see what they are passionate for and go for it.”
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