Scranton singer-songwriter Amanda Rogan was diagnosed with her first chronic illness, hypothyroidism, at 13.
Not long after, she also learned she had Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. And at 24, Rogan developed endometriosis, which caused her to undergo several serious surgeries in the span of a year.
But through all of her doctors’ appointments, surgeries and even a cancer scare, writing, recording and performing her music remained a source for healing and positivity.
“I try to talk about my struggles to help other people, for them to see that they are not alone and maybe find some sort of comfort or inspiration in my personal story,” the 26-year-old said.
In April, Rogan, who performs under the moniker Sweetnest, released her debut album, “Until Now.” She recently went On the Record to discuss the creation of that album while dealing with her chronic illnesses and what she plans for her future as a musician.
Q: How did you choose your stage name, Sweetnest?
A: I was in recovery after my latest surgery when I began to read more and write more, paying attention to words and phrases that I liked, specifically ones that carried a warm and comforting feeling. I eventually came across sweetness, which is a word I’ve always adored and called my loved ones. I then decided to try “Sweetnest” (as a play on words) and define it how I personally wanted to understand it. That definition is a safe space, one of comfort and authenticity. A place to be held and supported, always in existence, within or outside of the self. This message is also written on the back of the physical copies of “Until Now.”
Q: You just released your debut album, “Until Now.” How long were you working on writing and recording it?
A: The album itself took roughly six months to record, produce, mix and master. It was all done at JL Studios in Olyphant. They were remarkable and made the process much smoother for me. As for the songs, some of them are 12 years old, while others are less than a year old. And since all of my songs consisted mainly of just ukulele and vocals, nearly all of the instrumental was written and formed in studio. Focusing on creating this was a saving grace and perfect place to put my energy during a very stressful and scary time in regards to my health.
Q: How does it feel to have your music out there for people to consume whenever they choose?
A: It really feels amazing, honestly. I finally feel like I have something to show for all of my years of writing and playing music, and I really am proud of it all. I used to walk around and say, “Hey! I have a bunch of original songs,” but when people asked how they could listen to them, there wasn’t a way. But now I am beyond happy that people can access it and have it as their own. I’ve always dreamt of my music having a place in others’ lives.
Q: What are some of your influences, either musically or non-musically?
A: Musically I have had a lot of different influences. I was raised on Motown and classic rock, but my music taste is all over the place. Some of my biggest influences include Conor Oberst, Daughter, Regina Spektor, Dry the River, Andy Hull, Bowerbirds, Justin Vernon, Amy Winehouse, Ben Howard, No Doubt, Dear and the Headlights, Hayley Williams, Panic, Tegan and Sara, Carole King, and the list goes on and on. As for non-musically, I’m influenced and inspired by kindness, empathy, pain, passion, movement, color, connection. I’m inspired by loneliness as well as love. My hard-working family as well as the individuals living in their own power and truth (which encourages me to do the same). I’m also heavily inspired by water, nature, plants and animals as well as simple things that help (make) navigating this life a little easier: painting, art in general, touch, laughter, books, learning, helping others, etc. I feel it all trickles into my art, writing and music as well.
Q: What do you enjoy about performing in and around NEPA? Has the music scene here affected your sound?
A: There’s a real sense of community within the NEPA music scene. Everyone is ready to support one another and lift each other up. In the past, I was familiar with the art side, but deep down I wanted to be heavily involved with music. I felt like an outsider until Matt (my guitarist) introduced me to other local musicians that I clicked with. That’s when I really began to feel this may be a place for me. I feel like I have my own style musically, but I was definitely influenced by the amazing drive and natural talent of many local acts.
Q: What do you hope to achieve in 2018 and beyond as a musician?
A: I hope “Until Now” reaches as many people as possible. I hope it resonates with them and, like I said before, can hold a space in their lives. This album has every part of me in it, and I can only hope some success can come from it. I’m really grateful for the positive feedback I’ve received so far, and I am looking forward to playing more live gigs, writing new material and getting back into the studio to create. I’m also looking forward to collaborating with other musicians and getting to know more people in the community.