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John Lamb, Published December 16 2012

MNDR to represent Fargo on 'Letterman' tonight

FARGO – David Letterman has a reputation for keeping his cool. Keeping his studio cool, that is.

Last Tuesday he gave his suit coat to a guest, 72-year-old Natalia Makarova, after she shivered, asking for her furs.

So if anyone is best prepared for a mid-December visit to his New York show, it’s a North Dakota ex-pat living in Brooklyn.

“I’m so excited. I’m really stoked, dude,” says former Fargoan Amanda Warner, who plays “Late Show with David Letterman” tonight under her performing name, MNDR.

The electro-pop project featuring Warner and her musical partner, Peter Wade, play the title track from their full-length CD debut, “Feed Me Diamonds.”

It will be the second appearance for Warner, who made the late-night rounds in the fall of 2010 with Mark Ronson, singing his single “Bang, Bang, Bang” opposite rapper Q-Tip.

“It’s really intimidating,” Warner says of playing the show. “It’s very iconic in the Ed Sullivan Theatre, which is shockingly small.”

She says the crew keeps productions tight and timely, adding to a feeling of reverence for the Ed Sullivan Theatre.

But what about the chill factor?

“I believe it’s honestly to keep people alert and the audience to look alive,” she says, adding that the cameras and lights make it warm for those on stage.

The vibe at Letterman is different from that of competitor “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” based in Los Angeles.

“It’s way more of a party; his green room is like a bar. You can invite as many of your friends as you want. It’s just more a of a relaxed, LA feel,” she says.

Vibe aside, Letterman is a bigger show, she says.

“It’s a milestone for an artist to do ‘Late Show with David Letterman,’ ” she says.

It’s all the more important for her as the show doesn’t normally book electronic music. She’s determined to not let the talent buyer down by adding a full band and even a string section.

“We’re just pulling out all the stops for it, and I couldn’t be more excited,” Warner says.

It’s been a busy couple of months for the rising star. Since “Feed Me Diamonds” hit shelves in August, MNDR has been on the road with Duran Duran.

Warner, as MNDR, was named best DJ in New York’s Paper Magazine and earlier this year was named Beyond the DJ: Most Innovative Solo Performer on MTV’s O Music Awards.

“It wouldn’t happen if she didn’t have the talent,” says Fargo promoter Chris Hennen, who Warner hopes to book a homecoming show with in the spring.

Hennen follows the festival circuit and enjoys catching her sets.

“It’s really cool to see,” he says. “She just really does it well.”The proof is in the following. Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton just premiered MNDR’s video for “Feed Me Diamonds.”

“It is not easy to get that Perez Hilton love,” Warner says. “It is a great Web moment when he does acknowledge your project because he can’t be bought.”

Warner isn’t in the video, which follows David Petruschin’s transformation into the drag queen Raven. The contestant from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and guest on “RuPaul’s Drag U” often uses MNDR’s songs in her set.

“I’m very happy with how it turned out. It’s a really beautiful portrait of David turning into Raven.”

MNDR stands to gain even more fans from tonight’s TV appearance, which could attract more eyes as the featured guest is Tom Cruise making one of his first talk-show appearances since his highly publicized August divorce.

“I’m absolutely over-the-moon excited that Tom Cruise is a guest,” Warner says, wondering if he’ll hang out to catch her set.

While she never had a crush on Cruise, she planned to write her old piano teacher, Sharon Wesbrook, who did.

Wesbrook laughs hearing this, saying she’ll be more excited to see her former pupil than Cruise tonight.

“It’s Amanda I’m most impressed with. She was always so musical,” says the Detroit Lakes, Minn., area teacher who taught Warner piano for 10 years, until she was a senior at Oak Grove in the late 1990s.

“She was so conscientious. She did everything I told her to, like scales and chords and things her brother and sister wouldn’t do,” Wesbrook recalls.

While her music is bringing Warner recognition, it’s what she wears that sometimes gets more attention. Known for wearing big glass frames, recent photos without glasses have some fans complaining on her Facebook page.

“Some people get real intense on it,” she says.

While she has an outfit picked out for tonight’s show, she won’t reveal what she’s wearing.

“I can’t tell. The world is waiting,” she says with a laugh.

At least now she knows to dress for the weather, even if it’s indoors.

“I’m so excited to be representing our area,” she says. “I cut my teeth so heavy on the Fargo music scene. All of my friends in New York are all of my Fargo friends. Robin Garland, Preston Olson, Kari and Jacob (Sharff).”

It was a Fargo friend, Zach Bates, who gave her the stage name over a decade ago while she was still in high school, calling her “Mandar.”

“A lot of people pronounce it MDNR, which cracks me up all the time. Some people pronounce it Minder,” she says with a laugh.

What’s most important is that Letterman gets it right.

“Oh, he will,” Warner says. “But he’ll probably think, ‘What? Oh, you again.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533