Harvey uses muscle memory, visual tuners, faith to perform

Published 2:02 am Saturday, February 2, 2019

Will perform here Tuesday

America’s Got Talent golden buzzer star Mandy Harvey said that she is excited to immerse herself in Alabama culture when she performs here next week.

“I really love driving through the South,” Harvey said. “We are starting in Alabama, then we will go through Louisiana. I have a lot of friends and family who are from both of those areas, so they have already given me a list of different things to try. I’m very excited to try some amazing food and meet some lovely people. I’m from Tennessee and Florida so it is going to be great to be around those types of people again.

Harvey, who will perform in Andalusia on Tuesday night, lost her hearing because of a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome when she was 18. She was studying vocal music education at Colorado State University at the time.

While she was on America’s Got Talent, Harvey explained how she is able to play and sing music she can’t hear.

“I was able to get back into music with the help of muscle memory, visual tuners and having faith in my pitch,” Harvey said. “I follow the tempo of the music through the floor.”

This is not the first time she’s been on tour.

“I am able to tour all over the world,” Harvey said. “I get to go to here, there and everywhere. I have been playing professionally for about 10 years and have been going on steady tours for the last four years.”

Harvey said that the touring experience is a completely different world, but it is nice when she can stay in one spot like Andalusia for a couple of days.

“In this case, I am actually excited to tour because we are staying in one place relatively long enough to where we can drive around and experience things,” Harvey said. “A lot of the time we are in an area where we stay in a city for two or three days and then fly to another area. You never have enough time to actually see anything. I mean, you usually get in a pattern of you wake up, you drive, then you get where you have to do sound check, photos, VIP stuff, interviews, dinner, then the concert, meet and greets, then finally you get back to the hotel, pass out and you get up the next day just to do it all again.”

The good thing about this tour is that Harvey has more freedom.

“Since we are in Alabama for a couple of days, then we go to Louisiana for a while which is just a drive, we actually have a little more freedom,” Harvey said. “We get to go around the towns and check out the shops and see what makes the area special. We get to actually be a part of the community for the day.”

Harvey’s current schedule starts in small towns like Andalusia and Troy, Ala., but then she is scheduled to go to bigger cities like New York City and Seattle, Wash., later in the tour.

“I go to all of these cities with the same intention,” Harvey said. “It doesn’t matter if it is five people, 5,000, or a million, it doesn’t matter. The goal that we are aiming for is to encourage people, make people smile and build communities for an evening. It doesn’t matter what your politics are, what the color of your skin is, what you eat for breakfast or how you cook your eggs, for a moment, every person in that audience is experiencing music together. We all get to go on a little journey with music and break free from the stuff that went on during the day.”

She said that being deaf is a part of her life, so she uses it to encourage people with the same disability.

“I do talk a little bit about it in some of the songs that I have written,” Harvey said. “A lot of what I have written about is very specific and they are about certain aspects of my life. I think the most important thing that is useful, is not the fact that I am deaf, is that I am just a person who failed really big and publicly and had to start their life over again from scratch. Every person understands disappointment, every person understands failure and every person shields themselves from pain, so I just get to be myself by being honest and saying, ‘Hey, I’m scared to do this, but here we go.’”

Harvey said that one thing that she is looking forward to the most on this tour is the chance to go to different schools.

“I get to go to a lot of schools and do a lot of community stuff, especially when I’m in Louisiana,” Harvey said. “I really enjoy doing stuff like that and having fun, but mostly it is a part of where my heart is. Getting to stop by local libraries and just spending time with people, or hanging out in parks and giving people hugs is just what makes my job so special. It’s me getting to be a part of other people’s lives and encouraging people and making them smile.

For Harvey, the America’s Got Talent stage was terrifying, but she used it as a tool to be an advocate for the deaf community.

“The whole thing was scary and weird, but it was awesome,” Harvey said. “I didn’t want to do it initially, but I was asked a very straight forward question from people who loved me and know me the best. They asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I said that I wanted to encourage people. I want to say that it is O.K. to fail. I want to show people what the other side of disability looks like. I want to prove that you can do so much more than you think you can.”

Harvey’s original audition video on YouTube has 32 million views currently.

“The whole experience encouraged a lot of change,” Harvey said. “It started a conversation and sign language clubs. I was used as positive propaganda in Brazil when they had a vote to allow people with disabilities to be a part of a mainstream school system. We got to introduce the longest period of silence on network television in history. We got to finally bring closed captioning in the background for the first time. I stood on that stage and said that it is O.K. to be broken, it is O.K. to be different and it’s O.K. to not be normal. You can still shine, and it is actually better when you are yourself, because that is when you shine the most.”

Long-term, Harvey hopes to continue touring and performing, preferably on a larger stage.

“I see myself doing a lot of the things I’m doing now, just on a bigger scale,” Harvey said. “I’m already doing some incredible music. I have been playing a lot of symphony gigs and that has been amazing. I’m an ambassador for a nonprofit called No Barriers and this past year I got to go to Nepal for two weeks and help lead a troop of differently abled high school students that are all battling something in their lives. We moved mountains together and we proved to an entire culture that believed that their disabilities were a curse, that we could leave a positive impact.”

Harvey wants to change the way the music industry is geared, so  that the deaf community is included.

“I am working with different organizations like Microsoft to try and help the world become inclusive,” Harvey said. “I want to help change how concerts are set up so that the deaf community has much more visual components like sign language interpreting and closed captioning. Music videos are becoming such a standard in the music industry, but even the biggest names don’t have closed captioning in their videos. Why isn’t this a standard? You have 150 million people who have some form of hearing loss. That is a lot of people that they are ignoring.”

On Tues., Feb. 5, Harvey will perform at the Dixon Center for Performing Arts in Andalusia at 7 p.m.

Individual performance tickets are available at Harold’s and at The Star-News, and are $15 in advance. Individual tickets are  $18 at the door and $12 for children.