Journalism professor doubles as indie musician

When she’s not spending her days teaching and critiquing stories, Amanda Crawford is buried in song lyrics, studios and in front of blinding stage lights, singing and performing in her band Former Friends of Young Americans.

“I kind of play a lot when we have our full set,” Crawford said. “I’ve been singing since I was a little kid. I sang in churches and school plays and that was kind of my background.”

The band’s sound is described by Crawford as folksy, with an influence of indie rock. When prompted to list their genre on their Facebook page, however, they simply said “no thank you.”

Crawford’s husband, Toby Fatzinger, started Former Friends of Young Americans in 2008 with a rotating set of musicians. 

“He would play with musicians for a while, add someone or someone would leave, and it kind of would be that changing project and it would change genres and nature with that project already,” she said.

When the two were dating, he was playing with another couple in the band. They were scheduled to go on tour in California, with Crawford going along for a tour that would ultimately change her role with the group. 

“I was just going to come along for the ride because they were going up through the Redwoods and I had never been to northern California,” Crawford said. “I thought, ‘Oh cool, I’m just going to hitch a ride and they’re going to play music and I’m going to go hike in the Redwoods and stuff.’” 

The couple ended up not being able to go last minute. Instead of canceling the tour, Fatzinger asked Crawford to fill in.   

“It was kind of trial by fire because I didn’t know his songs. I knew a few of them from going to shows and playing at home, but I didn’t know all of his songs,” she said. “We sat out in the road and played 14 straight nights.”

Since then, she has been on several tours with Former Friends of Young Americans, including tours along both the east and west coasts, respectively, and a European tour. 

Crawford said she added a bit of gospel sound to the band, and to jam sessions she and her husband would have prior to her joining Former Friends.

“That’s kind of my natural range in voice and what I grew up singing,” she said. 

Crawford also brought her skills playing the flute to the group, and has since learned to play and write music for the piano.

Crawford’s stepson, Phoenix freshman Beck Fatzinger, is supportive of his parents’ musical career.  

“I went on a couple of tours with them and it was really fun,” he said. “My only thing is it’s a tour so it’s working kind of, but other than that it’s been really fun both being in the band and going as a tag along.”

In some cases, Beck has filled in when members couldn’t make it to shows. 

“When we did the national tour last year, I had to fly in and join them later because I didn’t have as long of a trip so I missed the first couple of shows and Beck went on them with Toby,” Crawford said.

Beck Fatzinger said the band’s sound is consistently changing, with Crawford and Toby Fatzinger exploring new sounds on each album. 

“A lot before this last big tour they did, I would call it like a mix of folky electronic, but since that trip they’ve been going a little folkier and more country,” he said. “Not like new country, but like older early Elvis kind of.” 

The band is currently working on two albums now called “Love and Vitriol” and “Blood Harmonies.” 

Songs on “Love and Vitriol” will focus on love and betrayal. Crawford said it will have more folk ballads and some indie hip-hop. “Blood Harmonies” is influenced by Crawford’s travels and features music they wrote while in Europe. 

Touring and performing at shows has been remarkably easier to balance with teaching for Crawford compared to her last job.

“I worked for Bloomberg News before coming here and that was a really high stress job, I’d occasionally be sent on a plane in the middle of the night to some wildfire or a shooting or something,” she said. “I was doing (shows) with that kind of job, so doing it with teaching I think is a better mix because I have those breaks to tour and play.”

 She really enjoys touring and describes it as a special way to get to know different people, and share their music. The band is planning another tour over winter break that will start in St. Louis. 

“I’m very lucky that I get to do that with the person I love,” Crawford said.