Amber Mark Wants a Connection
Amber's debut EP exudes an unmatched sense of intimacy in its subject matter, but also in its sound. Having lived in Miami, Berlin, New York and India growing up, she inherently presents a sonic palette from all over the globe in a manner that is not forced, and that is only enhanced by the fact that she writes, records, and produces everything herself with a USB mic in her bedroom. In doing so, she effortlessly stands out from the tropical-infused trend in pop music right now while simultaneously fitting within it—an impressive feat for such a self-made artist, but not surprising.
With such a meaningful first forray into the public consciousness, the question arises: where do you go from here? For Amber, the answer was Brazilian bossa nova, a blend of pure Latin culture with a bit of urban on the side. Conexão, which directly translates to "connection" in Portuguese, embodies Rio de Janeiro, she tells me—simmering and expansive.
For an artist who seems weary of singing about love after love lost, she does it well. And for a 24 year-old New Yorker who visualizes her music as different locations in the world, she's found her niche in the center of it all—at that point where all of the coordinates intersect.
You spent your childhood in Miami, Berlin, New York, and India. Did this make your tribal, worldly sound inherent?
It definitely did because I probably would've never listened to music like that if I hadn’t been around it. My debut EP definitely incorporated a lot of sounds from India that I grew up with, and it had a lot to do with my mom—who isn’t Indian, she’s German—but she probably would've lived out the rest of her life there, so I wanted it to sound a lot like what she would’ve enjoyed.
Your new EP Conexão is great. What was the recording and production process like? I was delightfully surprised to hear that you produce your own music.
Yes, same thing for this one. I didn’t mix it or anything like that. I record vocals in my room with a USB mic, so we re-recorded some of the vocals that were clipping. But other than that, the production has all been kept the same and then mixed with an actual professional who knows what they’re doing, and then mastered by somebody else. The production, melody, and all the writing was done by me.
How was this process different from the 3:33AM EP? Did it feel more put together?
No [laughter]. I think it’s less put together, honestly. For my previous EP, I had such a set idea on what I wanted to write about, and it was also a three year process that included everything I’ve gone through and stuff like that. So I kind of had three years to think about it, whereas for this I had one year. I think I also stressed myself out and gave myself a lot of anxiety because I was like, “Okay, Amber, you need to make something that’s better than what you previously did, it needs to have more meaning…” So I put a lot of pressure on myself, but I realized that nothing is going to top the 3:33AM EP in terms of meaning because it deals with the loss of my mother. So then I let go of all that pressure and started just writing about what I was going through, and it ended up being very romantic.
Did going through the loss of your mother and channeling these emotions on your first EP make you feel like, “Okay, well where do I go from here?”
That’s exactly how I felt for a long time, and then I just realized that people loved my music because of the fact that I was just being honest and staying true to myself. So I kind of just decided that I would continue just being honest. I obviously love to write about the drama in my life just because it’s the easiest way to get it out there and release it. Obviously it’s not going to be dealing with the loss of the most important person in my life. I kind of went through a phase after my mom passed away when I was just like, “I’m never going to find love like that ever again.” And to a certain extent, I was right because I’m never going to experience that mother-daughter love again, but I ended up finding love that was just as strong but in a different form. So I named the EP after one of the songs, “Conexao,” which means “connection” in Portuguese because there are a lot of Bossa Nova influences in this EP. I feel like Bossa Nova is a very romantic genre of music, so I figured it went well with what I was doing.
Are there different “tiers” to love?
I think there are different forms of love. You can love someone just as strong as you love someone else, but there are different ways of loving someone. You still express it just as strongly. I think also with a mother or a family member like that, it’s different because they are the ones who tend to annoy you the most. They’re the ones you can yell at [laughter], whereas with a boyfriend or a husband, it’s not like a family member where you’re stuck with them for the rest of your life. With a lover, there’s that possibility of not being together. I feel like that also creates some sort of difference—and obviously there’s the sexual side of it which isn’t something that happens with family members, so I think that’s a big difference [laughter].
Your mom teaches you how to love. And in a way, she’s your first love.
Definitely. She is your first love! Your mom or dad.
There’s a huge tropical-infused trend happening in pop. What do you think of that? Do you think you fit within that?
I don’t know, I guess. I’ve always imagined myself scoring that tropical lifestyle, so I do try to incorporate that a lot. I think I went more for the Brazilian tropical lifestyle on this EP, but I think in the previous one there was quite a bit of that as well. I tend to go somewhere in the world and then stick with that.
If you could describe your last EP as a location and this EP as a location, where would they be?
3:33AM would be India, and Conexão would probably be Rio or somewhere in Brazil with a beach that has a little bit of urban lifestyle to it as well. Some house clubs in there, too.
Did clubbing influence the EP at all?
I didn’t really touch on that on this one, but I do want to write more about fun and not-as-serious things. I’m always like, “This is very meaningful, blah blah blah.” But again, this one is kind of more dramatic. For me, it’s harder to write about happy things than sad things. I want to challenge myself and write about going out and getting wasted [laughter]. It was hard for me to write this EP because I feel like love songs and stuff like that can always be really cheesy, and it has to be done right. I was very hesitant to put all this stuff out because I’m talking about love and being in a relationship, and I find that to be a little cheesy at times. It definitely took some balls to put this out there.
What current artists are you loving?
I’ve been listening to the same people for the past year. I guess the person who I’ve always been listening to and will continue to listen to every day is probably Gabriel Garzón-Montano. He was my Spotify most-played of 2015, and then we became really close friends after I’d already known his music and all that stuff. He’s very close to me in my heart, so I will always rep his music because he’s a genius. Two weeks ago for the first time after knowing each other for two years, we finally decided to write a song together, so that was exciting.
Seems like you guys would mesh well.
Wasn’t a lot of writing, though. We kind of just smoked a lot of weed.
And then comes the writing.
[Laughter] It was more like we wrote, smoked a lot of weed, and then were like, “Let’s take a nap and think about this!”
Tell me about “Love Me Right.” Why did you choose it as the lead single?
Everyone really liked that song, so I think that’s probably why it’s the most popular one from the group. That song was basically my child. I’d been working on that song for over a year, and it had been very stressful because it’s never been the way I wanted it to. So I finally got it to a place that I wanted it to be. I think that song depicts exactly what this whole EP is about. Obviously it’s about love and finding it again, and then being in love and getting to that point in a relationship where both of you are like, “Oh, it’s a happy ending!” But obviously it’s not. Obviously there are continuous problems that are going to go on in my life. I think everyone was kind of expecting me to write some sort of happier album, but I’m like, nope, still got problems. They’re not as serious or dramatic, but I still feel like I’m going through shit.
Always. What about sounds? Were there sounds or rhythm patterns you were particularly obsessed with this time around?
Anything Bossa Nova. Any types of instruments used in Bossa Nova. There was a point when I actually wanted to sing in Portuguese in my high school years, but I took Portuguese and hated the teacher, so I didn’t continue. But I was kind of going down that route of trying to sound very Bossa Nova-y and using that type of instrumentation wherever I could, whether it was cow bells or the rhythm in the drums and stuff like that. I think I went very Latin for this EP, but mainly Brazil. Think Brazil.
Conexão is out May 4.