An Interview with Amber

Last week we left off with Amber talking about her happiness in regards to a recording project “I’d rather take a long time to make sure that I’m at least a little happy, than unhappy all over the place,” she replies. This week in the completion of her interview with Margaret Coble she discusses being on top of the charts and not being known to radio politics to being a woman in the music industry.

AmberMC: When Gordan Lightfoot cover with Ultra Nate and Jocelyn Enriquez, from the disco movie 54 came out, it did very well. You’ve pretty much been consistently on the charts for the past few years.

A: I have basically been on the charts with every song. It’s really weird to see when I go perform, because that’s where people [make] the connection with the face and the song. I started off with “This is Your Night,” and people are like, “Oh my God, this is her!” It’s still a big play song. Then I sing “Love One Another,” a song from my new album, and people love that track. Then I go into “One More Night,” and people are like “Oh my God.” And then I go into “If You Could Read My Mind,” and they really go, “Oh no she’s not!” You see them getting surprised, from moment to moment. And then with “Sexual,” people just lose it. People just don’t realize I’ve been around since ’96 consistently, it’s just that the picture was not clear. I always have a hard time with radio stations, especially hard times with MTV, VH1, because people don’t want to play the video because of some
bullsh#t reason. So I have not been exposed to the public facially. Everybody knows the song, and they sing along. “Oh my God, she really did
all these songs!” Every time I go into a town, and do shows, the next day I try to do in-stores and just visit people, see how things are going,
especially with my new record. And last time, when I went to Boston, I did an in-store very early in the morning, and before I even got there 16 people had already picked up the album. In one store in a short time they had already sold 230 singles. It has such an impact on people.

MC: You co-wrote the new single “Sexual” with former Madonna and Celine Dion collaborators Billy Steinberg and Rick Nowels. How’s it doing?

A: It’s already gone to #1 in the Billboard Club Play charts, and I think it’s in the Top 10 of Maxi Single Sales. We [went for] radio impact on 8th of June, and I have all the sheets back from the radio stations, and the radio stations that used to play me, they are so much into the record. I am #1 at several radio stations already. With this record we are trying to get crossover, very clearly, because I really think this whole album has a crossover appeal to it. If they can play Britney Spears and N’Sync on AC radio, I really feel, hey, give me a break. But the answers from the radio people are, well, “We like the record but we’re not sure, we know Amber from before. Maybe it’s too poppy for us.” Or, “We’ll just wait for another dozen radio stations and then we’ll pop in.” People are so hypocritical. Damn, if you like the record, just play it! Even if you’re not sure about playing, test it. Point it out to the people, say “OK, this is a new record, if you feel like it’s a good record, then call us.” Radio people are so weird about certain things; they don’t give an artist a chance to move forward.

MC: I hear it’s all politics from so many artists.

A: I do anything for people. I give them calls, I work my butt off, do interviews, free shows, go all over the place, all kinds of stuff. Come on,
I’m a very friendly person, give me a little love back! And it’s so hard that it depends so much on radio. Radio has such a great impact in the US, it’s incredible. Everything is too categorized. When you come from overseas, like I do, when you have a good song, radio stations play from
rock to dance to whatever–they don’t care. I feel variety is the essence of life.

MC: If you had to pick one song off the album that was your favorite, what would it be?

A: “I’m Free.” It’s a song that I wrote with my mother [Anne-Mieke de Vroomen]. It’s the only song that is really produced and done the way I
wanted to do. It’s more of a statement song. It’s about how I just want to be myself. “I don’t care if you like me or not/ I don’t care what you see/
because I’m free/ I just want to be myself/I don’t owe you/ because I’m free.” It’s that kind of lyric. I had just come from a meeting; I was so sick and tired of hearing everybody giving his butter to the bread, everybody thinks I have to be a certain way. They’d had a meeting about my body parts, pointing out where maybe I might be a little too big and maybe I have to work out. That’s how vulgar it gets. And I really feel this is not the message I want to get across to people.
I’m a real person, I have to die like everybody else. It’s about acceptance. I have a song on the record, “Love One Another,” about acceptance; how phony is that when I turn around and take on every little opinion that is going around. This is not what it’s about. I want to make people feel comfortable, I want people to be intimate with me, and realize I’m going through the same shit they go through. I want to be a real person here. So I sat down and wrote this lyric and gave it to my mother, and my mother said, “Wow, this is a great lyric.” I told her I just want it to be really simple, with bass and piano, and she sat down and wrote the song, the arrangements for me. And she played the piano and the bass herself. And I think it’s a great track, and I think it will scare the sh#t out of people! Because it’s a musical ballad. In the future I want to write a musical, I’m collecting all kinds of lyrics that are really heavy, and I want to build a story around it. I have a classical background, it’s something I can’t deny, and I want very much to explore that. I also want to build my own studio, produce people, I want to write for people. I’ve opened up my own publishing company right now. So there’s a lot of things I want to do for myself to
move on.

MC: You are quite the woman on the move!

A: Yes I am, girl.

MC: This is not meant to be a trick question, but, is it harder being a woman in this field? Do they do that to a man, have meetings about his body parts?

A: You know it is [harder]; you know it’s a man’s world. But it wouldn’t be anything without a woman, just like James Brown said! It’s terrible. But that’s why I appreciate artists like Madonna, Cher, Tina Turner, Barbra Streisand, Patti Labelle, Aretha Franklin–there are not too many female artists out there at a middle age. You are written off at a certain age. The record company makes a bigger issue out of it than the crowd does, to tell you the truth. They want you to be picture perfect, they want you to have no wrinkles at all, and if it’s coming to that time,
“Please get plastic surgery!” Come on, give me a break! I understand I have to look clean and nice, but I don’t have to look perfect. You look at Faith Evans, Kelly Price–so what’s up with these women? “These are not white women.”
What is the issue here? The girl has a beautiful voice and thank God she made it, good for her-but get over that ignorance level. And that’s what
people should learn, it’s not about that, it should be about what people express. What they give out, what kind of aura they give out. If they are
good, they are good. If not, they are not.

MC: When you’re not performing, what do you like to spend your time doing?

A: If I have any! I’m basically always working. I came back the day before yesterday from Boston, and basically I spent all day yesterday doing my accounting, all my laundry. So there is no such thing as downtime. There are so many shows going on, traveling that I have to do. I keep myself busy constantly with writing songs, contacting people. In between that, in my real downtime, girl I sleep!

MC: You probably need to with all that activity!

A: I’ve been on the road non-stop since last Wednesday to Monday morning. And I had not more than an average of 3-4 hours of sleep every
night. Then you can imagine how I feel after a while. But that’s what I keep telling people, that to be up there and be consistently in people’s
words, you have to have it in your heart, something you really want to do. There are so many people trying to talk you down, other people trying to diss you. But don’t let it get to you; if it’s something that’s in your heart, then you’re gonna make it through. I was touring with a lot of artists, for example the summer tour of ’97, and I’m the only artist that is still talked
about, consistently up somewhere in the charts. I’ve seen artists party too much, taking drugs, drink too much, back stabbing, having attitude–and I’m not involved in all that. I’m very focused on what I do. I surround myself with positive energy, positive people, and that is the basic thing you have to have. The crew I have I’ve been traveling with since ’96, and we are having so much fun together. You should take this as a fun thing, make the best out of everything.

MC: Where do you see yourself headed, say, 10 years down the road?

A: I take it day by day really. I would love to see myself as a producer, a writer, having my own studio. That’s what I’m working on right now. Of course I would love to see myself on stage, but with all the stereotypes these days, you never know what’s going to happen. It’s a crazy
business.

MC: I understand there’s a charity auction running with this interview on Music.com?

A: Yes, Lifebeat is one organization that I’m getting into. This is about AIDS. Especially with a song like “Sexual,” I always try to give people a positive message about sexuality, and also always tell them “Please do it with the one you love and cherish, and do it safe.” I have had a lot
of support from the gay crowd, and as you know, we have had a lot of people especially in the gay crowd affected by AIDS, and that’s my way of giving something back to them. So I’m going to do some shows for them, and go
around and visit people and see how they are doing. They asked me for a T-shirt. Whatever it takes, I’m willing to do that. If you have a lot to
give, it’s vulgar not to share. If there’s something you can do to help out, or to give people a more positive spirit, I’m willing to do that.