With a rich inner world and a deep sensitivity, Amber Mark — whose varied practice as an artist includes production, vocals, songwriting and creative direction — makes music which stands as a testament to the power and nuance of human emotion. Whether it’s the soaring euphoria of her vocals on Paul Woolford collab “Heat” or the empowering lyrics of “Lose My Cool” and “Mixer”, Mark’s transportive songs carry listeners to a higher plane.
Her latest offering, singles like the introspective “Worth It” or slick “Competition” are no exception: each accompanied by a video, directed by Mark herself and Australian filmmaker Cara Stricker, whose cosmic vision flirts with sci-fi’s epic creative scale. These visuals are due to be released as part of Mark’s forthcoming debut album which, though the release date remains TBC, promises an expansive journey through the human ego and outwards, into the universe. A dual contemplation of suffering and survival, the body of work represents a new horizon and mindset for the artist, one which puts her multifaceted creative arsenal to use like never before.
Ahead of her upcoming live show at London’s Lafayette, Mark stopped by HUNGER HQ to talk about the cosmos, where metaphysics meets spirituality and the anticipated debut album she has up her sleeve.
Great to meet you Amber. Let’s start by discussing why you’re in London and are able to stop by HUNGER HQ: your upcoming performance at Lafayette in London. How does it feel to be getting back to playing live? Was it something you missed over the course of the pandemic?
I’m so excited to be performing again, this is my first performance back after Covid and quarantining. My favourite part of this job is to perform and meet the fans, sing along to the songs, dance with people and just feed off of everyone’s energy. I’m also kind of nervous because I haven’t performed in such a long time.
Would you say that you’re a natural performer? Growing up were you one of those kids who would stage little shows wherever you went?
Yeah, my sister and I would put on Chicago. In my godparents’ restaurant we’d recruit customers, bring them back of house and put on a show. As I got older in high school, I was in an after school programme that was very similar to School of Rock. We would perform covers of songs at local charity events and school events. That was my first taste of performing and when I did that, I was like; “Oh, this is definitely what I want to do.” It’s been a big part of my upbringing musically, for sure.
You’re based in and spent time growing up in New York, has that influenced your perspective or sound?
I’ve loved New York ever since I was little but Covid has made me rethink where I want my base to be, I just want to be surrounded by trees. That being said, New York has always been like huge inspiration to me. It’s where I discovered a lot of old school hip hop like Tribe Called Quest, all that stuff. If you hear those little hip hop influences trickled into my music, it’s definitely taken from the music I discovered when I was a teenager in New York.
You mention your musical influences: who or what is inspiring you at the moment?
Why is this such a hard question? [Laughs] My influences are most likely, on a subconscious level, the people that I’ve listened to since I was a kid. Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, and this artist called Prem Joshua, who was a huge inspiration.
I hear you’ve got an album on the horizon, what sort of themes are explored on that body of work?
The universe and trying to understand what we are. Lyrically, conceptually and a little sonically, that’s been a huge influence for me.
Let’s talk about the creative process behind the album, how did it come to be?
When I started writing, I didn’t know what the album was going to be about. I just wrote a bunch of things and when it came down to putting a tracklist together, I started to put all the pieces together and realised, “Oh, this is what I’ve been writing about the whole time.” I was writing about insecurities I have as I tend to always take from what I’m going through [and put it into my songs]. Everyone has those “am I good enough?” questions that occasionally pop up into their heads, regardless of what they do career-wise or in life. I was really questioning myself and my capabilities in sessions so I was trying to unpack that for myself and use writing songs as almost a form of therapy. Then I started to write about gaining confidence by pushing those [negative] feelings aside, ignoring them and focusing on other things. Last year was when the album went kind of celestial.
Can you tell me a bit about the context behind this shift?
In 2020 the album was put on pause, it was supposed to come out in the summer. During that time, as you know, shit went down. [The murder of] George Floyd opened up a lot of people’s eyes and made me start questioning things and try to figure out how I could help. The first thing I thought was to look at the people that are in power but, in doing so, I saw that there was corruption on every side and just political theatre, which I was so disgusted by. I thought that there was literally no hope with these leaders, especially in America. That made me start to really question suffering, especially being in New York City and seeing so many homeless people on the streets. It was like, everywhere I looked, there was suffering.
You mention that one of the themes of the album is the universe, how does that tie into these cycles of suffering and pain?
I started looking at [suffering] in the most basic form, in the animal kingdom, and the fact that you have to consume to survive and how there’s death within survival. That started to make me really think of it in a celestial way. I was always really interested in the stars and looking at the stars, it just always made me feel really light, with this sense of wonder, so I wanted to incorporate that into my music. I started going down all these YouTube rabbit holes with quantum physics and what different physicists theorise. I was really interested in these theories about what happens when going through a black hole and how physicists connect that to higher dimensions, all this very intense metaphysical stuff.
People always look at science at one end of the spectrum and religion or spirituality at the other end, but physicists are very much talking about the same thing that people in religion or spirituality are talking about, they’re just expressing it in a different way. It made me feel a little more spiritual going down this science rabbit hole and I wanted to talk about that and create a visual experience short for the theory of the universe that I created for myself, based off of certain physicists’ theories. That’s the journey that the album takes, it goes from these everyday woes we all have to a sense of denial, then there’s this “aha” moment.
As a final question, what do you want people to take away from your work, particularly your forthcoming album?
I don’t really need people to have the same mentality or thoughts as I had making this album. The main goal is for people to just create emotion within themselves, whether it’s happy or sad. For them to really feel the tracks on the album and feel the record as a whole, for it to bring something out: whether it brings them to tears or it creates this joyous, dance-crying feeling, or it’s just a really happy feeling. It would be a plus if it could create a sense of wonder because people don’t really think about the fact that we’re just floating on a muddy rock in the middle of the universe. I always get so distracted by social media and my phone, so it would be great for me if people think about those things and the philosophy behind that.
Amber Mark plays London’s Lafayette tomorrow, 24 August. Her latest single “Competition” is out now.