[“W]e’ve been taught to be “good girls” and be good potential wives and that has in turn made us define ourselves by someone else’s yardstick.” After a few moments in Ameriie’s presence it’s clear that she’s a far cry from the pop princesses we’ve come to expect to inhabit the musical stratosphere. Clever, opinionated and grounded she’s more interested in what makes humans tick than shedding her clothes for a twerk-filled video and frankly, we applaud her for it. Her candid attitude and well thought out answers are refreshing – Ameriie is no music industry puppet.
First rising to prominence with “Why Don’t We Fall in Love” in 2002, which became a hit on the Billboard Chart, it was in 2005 that Ameriie broke into mainstream consciousness with the smash hit “1 Thing” that was named by Rolling Stone as one of the best songs of the decade and lead to a slew of award nominations. Two more albums followed and later this year we can expect the next chapter in the Ameriie story, which will include not only music but literature too. On a brief trip to London we catch up with the multi-talented artist to talk life, love and languages.
YOU CAME FROM A VERY ACADEMIC BACKGROUND, HOW DO YOU THINK THAT HAS HELPED YOUR CAREER IN MUSIC?
I think my experience has helped my music indirectly more than directly. Learning how to think critically, to observe the world around me and compare what I see to my own experiences and discover my own biases and preconceived notions, all of those things have helped shape me, which has in turn shaped my music.
DID YOUR PARENTS EVER WISH YOU TO PURSUE AN ACADEMIC CAREER AS OPPOSED TO A MUSICAL ONE?
My parents thought I’d grow up to be a professor, a lawyer, or a writer. They have been very supportive but they were surprised. I am actually writing novels in addition to creating music, which my mother in particular is extremely excited about (she cried when I went into the music business because she thought I’d stopped writing for good!).
MOST PEOPLE KNOW YOU FROM YOUR SMASH HIT, ‘1 THING’ – HOW HAS YOUR SOUND PROGRESSED SINCE THEN?
I grew up listening to music of all genres: classical, musical such as Grease, soul/Motown, rock and roll, heavy metal, pop, German pop, Korean traditional, R&B, hip hop—the list goes on. I can’t help but be influenced by all of it. The sound in “1 Thing”—the live instrumentation feel, the quick-paced vocal delivery—is very much part of who I am musically, so that will probably always remain. “1 Thing,” “Talkin’ About,” and now “What I Want” will be songs I will never tire of performing. But I absolutely love ’80’s pop/New Wave and late ’60’s era rock and roll, so I’ve fused that into past albums. With my upcoming albums BILI and Cymatika, I’ve fused hip hop with New Wave, and I’ve also been very inspired by cinematic scores, that very surround-sound, immersive experience. Cymatika is much heavier and darker in sound than what I’ve done in the past, and I’ve also approached the vocals quite differently. Cymatika is very much a concept album, as it’s the first volume in a trilogy, and not only addresses romantic relationships, but themes of self-suppression and what it means to be human.
TALK US THROUGH YOUR SONGWRITING PROGRESS – WHAT IS INSPIRING YOU NOW?
Everything inspires my songwriting, whether it be colours or something that I’m reading or a concept. Living life is inspirational because all you have to do is stop and pay attention.
DOES BEING IN LOVE AND MARRIED CHANGE YOUR MUSICAL OUTPUT?
Being married has been wonderful, and I’m very happy, so that in itself is a healthy creative environment for me.
YOUR MUSIC IS GENERALLY CATEGORISED AS R&B, DO YOU AGRE WITH THAT?
I don’t care to categorise my music, especially because when one looks closely, definitions tend to have fuzzy edges; it can become a useless exercise. What was considered R&B yesterday is considered adult contemporary R&B today, and what is considered R&B in one country is considered rhythmic pop in another. I just create and share, and that’s the extent of it.
YOU ARE HALF KOREAN AND KOREAN IS YOUR FIRST LANGUAGE – DOES ANY OF THE CULTURE OR YOUR HERITAGE INFLUENCE YOUR MUSICAL STYLE AT ALL?
I think my background has influenced me, of course, as it has allowed me to have a broader perspective when it comes to people—of how we are more alike than different but our differences are part of what makes our world beautiful and abundant in culture—which has influenced my outlook and therefore influenced how I create my music.
WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON K-POP?
I think it’s terrific that people outside of Korean culture can appreciate it. K-pop of course has many influences, included Korea’s own musical and cultural traditions and Western pop and R&B, so it is in itself a representation of where the world is musically.
THERE’S CONSTANT CRITICISM AROUND WOMEN IN MUSIC THESE DAYS, DO YOU THINK IT’S FAIR TO SAY THAT WOMEN ARE OBJECTIFIED IN MUSIC OR IS THAT NOT SOMETHING THAT YOU’VE EXPERIENCED?
Women are objectified in general, but we see it in music often because executives and producers tend to be male. That’s why I think it’s so important for women to empower ourselves, to be in control of our own bodies and images. The status quo tends to be “Just be sexy and sing and don’t talk.” Being sexy is only empowering when the female is in charge of her own body. And I think it’s also important for young girls in particular to see that while showing lots of skin can be sexy, not showing much skin at all can be equally sexy, and sometimes more so since covering up has become more rare.
THE TABLOIDS ARE NOTORIOUS FOR FOLLOWING FEMALE STARS AND PICKING APART THEIR PRIVATE LIVES, BUT YOU’VE MANAGED TO AVOID THIS – WAS THIS IMPORTANT TO YOU AND WHAT DO YOU GET UP TO OUTSIDE OF MUSIC?
I’m a fairly private person, and I have the same circle of friends I’ve had since high school, so I suppose there isn’t much to talk about. When I’m not creating music, I’m writing my novels. I write nearly every day, and depending on my recording schedule, I could be writing anywhere from two to ten hours a day. For me, it’s all about creating new art and spending time with my family.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO YOU TP BE A SPOKESPERSON FOR WOMEN?
I don’t consider myself a spokesperson for women, but I am a woman and I do have opinions (as we all do). I think it’s pretty rare these days to find a woman who isn’t a feminist, even in places we’d be surprised to find this. In general, women have learned—or been socialised—to fall in line with whatever the status quo is. We’ve been taught to be “good girls” and be good potential wives and that has in turn made us define ourselves by someone else’s yardstick. We’re living in a time that, thanks to so many women before us, presents numerous choices, and I think what we should do with that now is allow each woman to do what is best for her, and not force her to do this or that because it’s traditionally expected, or to force her to do the “modern” thing because she is expected to fight the status quo. Women today can be half-naked or extremely covered up, or have families or choose to not have children, or to stay at home with the children or work outside the home. The point is choice, and as long as we have that and we support our right to make different choices, we’re in a good, or at least better, place.
TALK US THROUGH YOUR PLANS FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR, WHAT MORE IS TO COME?
“What I Want” will be released digitally in the UK August 10th, and we’re aiming for February of next year for the BILI album release. My album Cymatika should follow shortly thereafter, likely fall of next year. And of course, I’m writing my novels, but I can’t say anything more about that quite yet!
Ameriie’s new single ‘What I Want’ is out August 10th on Feenix Rising Entertainment