By Jeanne' McCartin

Its an attractive face, and a serious one; well matched to the attached voice that demonstrates the same qualities. Sitting across the table at a friends house, musician Cindy Kazas expression is one of determination. At 23 shes cranking up the commitment to her career, even if it means surviving on "tuna and ramen noodles," for a time.

"I know its the only thing Im passionate about," says Kaza. "If I dont pursue it right now in my life, Ill regret it the rest of my life."

Stories of failed efforts are legendary in her field. But Kaza is setting out fully armed, and on good footing. The girl has chops and presence. She commands a stage with a distinct, strong, controlled voice, laden with warm tones; and keeps it in her grip with that special je ne sais quoi. Finally, although looks arent a prerequisite to success, they do no harm. Shes a striking brunette, with graceful mannerisms; just a few extras packed in the tool kit.

As great a combo as it is, its not unique among hopefuls. Not even the addition of her 24/7 fixation on honing her craft sets her apart. But what Kaza has that cuts her a spot in a more exclusive group is fire. Shes ready to take risks, and she exudes that passion.

In an endorsement of her talent, Harvey Reid, founder of the Seacoast Guitar Society, put Kaza, a member of the Amorphous Band, as a solo act in the line up of "Seacoast Songwriters Volume II." The latest SGS compilation compact disc features six other area singer-songwriters.

Kaza, a Plymouth native now living in Newmarket, recently cut back her hours at the towns Big Bean Caf. Working five days a week as a waitress and sometime-cook, its too much time and energy spent in the wrong place. Besides, says Kaza with a one-sided smile, the cutback will benefit her music and her Bean customers. She and the job have been a marriage of convenience, not match, with graceful mannerisms; just a few extras packed in the tool kit.

"When customers are affected by my tiredness, that�s not right," she says flashing a smile. Her mouth twists to hold an imaginary cigarette from its corner. "I should call myself Flo and have a butt hanging out of my mouth. Honestly, I�m not the nicest waitress."

It�s not just waitressing. She has a hard time mustering visions of herself in a cubicle or any 9-to-5 job, "can�t see that, can�t feel that." The only thing she imagines she�s suited to is music.

"It�s the only thing I�ve wanted to do since a little girl, and I�m doing it," she says. "I get frustrated, burned out, tired all the time.

"The time will go to music, writing, taking time to get into my space, practice more, guitar, voice, whatever. It�s so easy to get stuck into the money, forget to do what you need for yourself."

The cutback certainly means lean times for awhile, the aforementioned pasta and fish diet is in her immediate future; "But I�ll eat dirt and I won�t regret it," she says.

"I�m at the breaking point. I�m burned-out by working so much. I�m either starving to be a musician, or a waitress or going to school. You can only ride on the edge so long before making a decision."

Juggling the day-job and a multi-pronged music career was wearing. Something had to give. And music wasn�t an option.

Leaning in on bowls of fruit and chocolate before her on the table, Kaza gracefully plucks a few chips, and chews a moment while thinking about the career. She�s looking good for a woman who just got off an early shift at the restaurant. Her hair is swept up in a modified, modernized French twist. The clothes are stylish. As she returns her concentration to the interview she says something softly about "taking the bull by the horns," more a mantra to herself than conversation.

Currently her music life includes a duo and trio, and the Amorphous Band, which the other two are derived from. There�s also an important New York City-based project, just getting off the ground.

Kaza joined the jam/jazz Amorphous Band 2 1/2 years ago. The band, which draws on jazz, blues, rock and funk for its sound, was already a few years old. Today�s core lineup consists of Keith Foley, Mike Walsh, Chris O�Neill, Dan Shure and Kaza. Together they�re working their freshman "Primemordia," CD, released in November 2003.

A number of lineup changes in the earlier years delayed recording.

"We finally got settled in to writing new music," she says. "We were ready and you can only play so long without a product to sell."

The band plays an average of three times weekly. Last week, they performed four, including a spot at Market Square Day.

They�re all working it hard, she says. Most members play in other bands, or teach their instruments. She and O�Neill make up a duo, and along with Foley perform as a trio.

"How do you juggle?" she says lifting a well-shaped brow. "I go insane most of the time. But, I must make it work. I�m exhausted, burned out but you�ve got to keep going."

When not performing there�s rehearsing, when not rehearsing there�s writing. And then there�s the solo New York project with producer Josh Harris.

This project is different than anything else to date. It�s stripping it all away and rebuilding. The challenge is the sound. Kaza is exploring new beats, looking for the music that defines her. The plan is to have an album put together a year from now.

Kaza, who writes for Amorphous along with Shure and O�Neill, is penning all her songs for the New York effort. Finding a new, true sound is laborious. It�s mixed up with research, feelings, and the actual writing, which comes with its own set of demands.

Some of the work is as simple as listening to music, looking for a good mix of comfort and challenge. It also consists of wearing headphones and just absorbing beats, playing with tunes over the pulse.

"I�m excited about the project, focused on it because it�s different, and it could possibly be a very good thing for me," she says.

Kaza is guarded on the subject. She will say the music offers a more urban beat, that the beat is what�s important, and it�s definitely more soulful. It will also include acoustic guitar, which she�ll play.

"We�re still establishing the sound, but it�s more of what I want to be doing. � We have a really good idea and have started working on some tracks, � but it�s constantly changing," she says. "It�s in progress, that�s all I can say."

The writing has been very demanding. In addition to the sound, there are the words. The story line has her reaching back into experience, difficult ones, plumbing for the right turn of phrase.

"I�ve been diving back into emotions I haven�t felt in a while, been feeling things I don�t want to think about. I usually have to have crap happen to me to write, difficult stuff," she says. "When I�m writing a song it�s difficult to get out of the space, it�s scary. You bring yourself to places you�ve done specific things to get out of, and then it�s �how do I get myself out of here.� � It�s incredible how intense the feelings can be. But I have to do it."

Writing means more time alone, laying ground, and waiting for inspiration.

Kaza occasionally takes to the canvas in search of song. Painting isn�t her art, but she says she enjoys getting lost in watercolor. Working creatively in another medium often gets things flowing musically.

"I can�t say �I�m going to write it now.� But as long as I�m in the constant mode, then I�m ready when a song comes," she says. "It�s weird, I�ll get the feeling - I just have to write, right now."

It all leads to the stage. A non-substance user, with the exception of nicotine, Kaza gets her lift from performing.

"Sometimes it�s not comfortable � but I don�t feel so scared. I love being on stage. I feel it�s where I belong," she says. "This is what I�m supposed to do today and I�m not going to stop. � It�s definitely not easy. It sucks sometimes. But it�s all worth it. It�s just worth it."

Catch Kaza and The Amorphous Band July 15 at Inn on the Blues in York Beach, Maine.