by Mitchell Brown, Reporter
The 2018 Missouri State Fair has come and gone, yet Amanda Bliss has plenty to talk about regarding her days at the fair. She was one of the contestants in State Fair Idol, a contest in which local and regional musicians performed for judges along with a gathered audience. The contest was split in between seven days in late August, divided between preliminary rounds, the semi-finals and the final round.
Her husband, Mark Bliss, suggested she should enter the contest, and initially Bliss was skeptical about entering. Time constraints and her job as a teacher were the main reasons cited for her lack of interest.
“I said ‘eh,’” remarked Bliss while laughing. “I wasn’t interested.”
She admitted that the chance of a $500 cash prize and the possibility of getting to perform in the Pepsi Grand Stand at next year’s Missouri State Fair were the main motivators in deciding to participate.
Although this year marked her first time performing at State Fair Idol, Bliss has had a long-term relationship with making music and performing. It started in church as a child, and her love of music currently continues, as she performs solo and along with her husband and other members of her band in Manda Shea & The Sumpthin Bros., a bluegrass group that plays the sound of traditional hill country bluegrass while also incorporating modern influences – this is a band that can do covers of Sublime and Miranda Lambert in the same set.
Bliss was able to elaborate on the differences between her solo performance and performing as a part of Manda Shea & The Sumpthin Bros. She noted in a solo set she does material that is more personally inspirational to her.
“Manda Shea and the Sumpthin Bros., I’m looking for things that are really entertaining, fun type of songs that really involve the crowd,” Bliss said.
She noted there are certain songs in her solo set that aren’t played in an Manda Shea & The Sumpthin Bros set, a noted example being her cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.”
Leading up to the State Fair Idol, Bliss started to get prepared. When doing so, she relied on her combined experiences as a solo performer and with Amanda Shea & The Sumpthin Bros.
“I just used some of the songs that are a part of our setlist or are a part of my solo setlist, and I kind of beefed up the endings,” Bliss explained. “I knew (the judges at the contest) were going to look for a lot more vocal range, so I added a little bit more to the endings.”
Part of Bliss’ preparation also included watching video clips of previous performers. When it came time to make the trip from Warrensburg to Sedalia and take the stage for State Fair Idol, Bliss advanced all the way to the final round, yet she didn’t win.
Her song selection included Loretta Lynn’s “You’re not Woman Enough to Take My Man,” Janis Joplin’s version of “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Jolene” by Dolly Parton and Miranda Lambert’s “Kerosene.”
Bliss doesn’t express any noticeable bitterness due to not winning the contest.
“I thought the two that won deserved it,” Bliss said.
She ended up being highly impressed by one of the winners, an elderly woman from Warsaw, Mo.
“She was a very warm spirit, and I think the audience just loved her, and I called it,” she said. “I said she’s going to take it. She’s going to take the whole competition.”
Along with a love of music, Bliss also mentioned a joyful attachment to her career as an elementary special education teacher. She expressed the notion that the time might have passed for her to become a full-time musician.
“I truly feel when I go to work every day I’m changing lives, or at least, I hope I am changing lives,” Bliss said. “I’m passionate about both, so as long as I can do both I will.”
Follow Manda Shea & The Sumpthin Bros. on Facebook here.