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Jeanne Sager | Democrat

MANDY MILLER GREW up across the river in Pike County, Pa., but connections she made in Sullivan County have enabled her to start a musical career. She has recorded at Dana Duke's Big Twig Studios in Roscoe.

Making her way through the 'biz'

By Jeanne Sager
MILFORD, PA — April 4, 2008 — She’s taking a cue from the lyrics of her first single.
In a plaintive voice reminiscent of her idols, country stars Martina McBride and Sara Evans, Mandy Miller belts out a plea to a lover to “roll the dice,” to “swallow your pride.”
The single, “If I Leave,” is Miller’s own way of letting the dice fly out across the table.
“I guess ever since I was in high school, I knew this was what I wanted to do,” said the 2000 graduate of Delaware Valley High School just across the river in Milford, Pa.
If only life were that simple.
Raised in a musical family – her great-uncle Vinny Catalano was a doo wop era songwriter and once managed Motown legend Patti LaBelle – Miller was blessed with the voice to make her dreams come true.
“I came from a very humble childhood,” she admitted. “Doors were not opened for me, I’ve knocked them down.”
So you’ll have to excuse her for sounding – as she jokes – like she’s preparing for a beauty pageant.
“I want people to always see my personality through my music,” Miller says, “be an example of motivation.”
In other words, she’s all about being real.
She’s touched a nerve with “If I Leave,” which has been downloaded by more than 10,000 fans since it debuted on the Web three weeks ago.
“I wanted a song people could connect with,” Miller explained. “I think every girl wants a man to fight for her.”
The song was written by Ed Washington, a songwriter who helped judge Catskills Idol, the Sullivan County version of American Idol with actor Tony Darrow in 2005. Miller was a contestant and eventual finalist in the contest, but the real prize for her was the connection with Washington.
By day he’s a part of the information technology staff at Sullivan County Community College, but Washington has been writing and producing music for 20 years – including songs played on the Weather Channel.
He signed Miller to his independent label, WAV Productions, and helped her navigate the industry. Since meeting him, Miller’s won a WPDH radio competition to become the singing voice of the Hudson Valley Renegades and earned a slot on the cast of the Kids’WB! Crash The Backlot Tour. The latter put Miller on the road singing at Six Flags amusement parks around the country.
Connections with Nashville songwriting duo Barry and Ken Somerville of Monticello put her onstage to open for country band Lonestar at Monticello Gaming and Raceway then country star Brad Paisley in the inaugural season of Bethel Woods.
To keep the bills paid, Miller sings at private events, but she’s putting work aside to finish up her album in the coming months.
Recording at Big Twig outside Roscoe and a home studio of her own in the county, Miller said she’s still finding her sound.
“I’m really like pop, country, rock . . .” she said with a grin. “It’s not really country, but it’s not really rock.”
“It’s what they call country cross-over,” says Lori Langbein, Miller’s childhood best friend who’s taken a job as production assistant at WAV.
Self-described as her biggest fan, Langbein has been the driving force behind the more than 25,000 hits on Miller’s Myspace Music site in the last few weeks. Folks around their hometown of Milford and Miller’s adopted home of Sullivan County are starting to recognize her on the street.
Little girls stop her to say, “I downloaded your song to my iPod.”
For Miller, it’s both humbling and encouraging.
“I want to be a positive role model for young girls, kids who’ve seen stars who they can’t look up to,” she explained.
In part that’s why she’s settled on a country feel to her music.
“It’s about relationships, family values, real life,” she explained. “I just want to reach people.”
Although she looks to McBride and Evans these days, Miller admits she was your typical ’80s girl growing up.
“I admired Mariah Carey,” she said with an embarrassed smile. “I would sing with my hairbrush.”
Pausing to sing a few bars of the diva’s hit “Emotions,” Miller closed her eyes and let loose the same passionate voice that’s boosted sales of her single. And just as fast, the moment was over. Opening her eyes, Miller glanced at Langbein and laughed.
“I definitely was an ’80s girl,” she said with a big grin.
A bit of that girl who sang into her hairbrush remains.
“I want to tell people, don’t give up on your dreams,” she said, turning serious.
After all, hers are on the brink of coming true.
To get a taste of Miller’s music, log on to
She’ll be shooting her music video for “If I Leave” this weekend in her hometown, and fans are invited out to Mel’s Tavern on Route 6 in Shohola at 9:30 p.m. Saturday.
They might have a chance to be in the video, Langbein said, followed by a meet and greet with Mandy.

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