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NAJM Interviews Amber!

AMBER

NAJM Dance Culture
Amber has been a staple of the dance music industry since 1996. With hits like "This Is Your Night",
"One More Night", "Above The Clouds", "Sexual", "Love One Another" and many more, Amber has helped to bridge the gap between hard core dance and popular up-tempo music. NAJM recently caught up with Amber after her new "Amber The Hits Remixed" compilation album was released...
NAJM: Seems like as long as I've been listening to dance music, there has always been an Amber.  

 

AMBER: There's always been an Amber? Maybe since 1996, but I think for the dance genre that it's pretty overwhelming that I am still around.
NAJM: What is your definition of dance music?
AMBER: It's up-tempo music with easy lyrics, many of which is rhyming and just saying stuff over and over again. I think it's also made up with a certain kind of gimmick that it's just there for a certain time, temporarily. I'm trying to upgrade that definition, because that definition is not right in my eyes. There is up-tempo music - it's music with a lot of spirit that people can dance to and feel good about. There is also a possibility to come across with a certain message.
NAJM: How did you get your start in the early years?
AMBER: I've been with music since I was a baby, pretty much. I come from a family of musicians and singers, writers, painters. They have been in my family for generations. So it's something that comes naturally because I was surrounded by them. My father is an opera singer; my mother is a piano teacher and a songwriter. So for me it was pretty natural for me to go that route.
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First Big Break

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NAJM: What was your first break?
AMBER: I've been doing this all my life. Professionally, as in "that I make my living with it" pretty much since the end of 1995 and 1996 when I started with "This is your Night."
dot_clear.gif (43 bytes) NAJM: The Amber camp is a family affair with your mother actively working with you, you travel with your son, and your agent and manager Ruben is also your husband. How has this worked for you in such a crazy business?
AMBER: I think it's the best way to work. I like to write with my family, unfortunately, I couldn't write as much as I wanted to until the second album. With the third album, that will change drastically now. I think with the people up close with most, and they know you and you know them. They've been with you for such a long time. It's so much easier to work with people if you are on the level with them and also people that you trust. I think it's the best way to work and you come out with a concrete product.
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Berman Brothers...

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NAJM: Amber, how did you come to work with The Berman Brothers and connect with Tommy Boy?
AMBER: Oh Lord!
NAJM: Is that a long story? I know it, but our readers probably don't!
AMBER: I was writing, singing, and doing fashion shows. [I was also] doing cover songs by Whitney Houston or Barbara Streisand and I got a call from someone who knew a friend who'd seen me and really liked my voice. They wanted to know if I wanted to work with them.
NAJM: Them being the Berman Brothers.
AMBER: We did a couple of songs together then I didn't hear from them for about a year after that. They were starting to hit big here in the states with the Real McCoy. They finally called and I was pretty pissed off because they hadn't called. They said the song kept them busy. I was like the next time we work together, I'm sure you have a phone you can use to let me know where you are. We got back together again and we wrote, "This is your Night". That's how I hooked up with the Berman Brothers. "This is your Night" was a jumping board for me as far as getting into the business. It was a Top 20 hit; I took it from there and grew a big fan base. I'm very thankful for that - that they helped me out in that way.
NAJM: But then you moved on?
AMBER: As for moving on, there was no way to express myself artistically the way I wanted to with these producers. There is a time when you come together and there is a time when you part. I try not to see things as a mistake, but as an experience. It's time to move on right now.
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"Sexual" as a Top 40 Hit

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NAJM: You've experienced the ultimate crossover success with Sexual…
AMBER: You think so?
NAJM: Absolutely. We are based in South Florida and radio stations down here that I never thought would go near that song, have played it in heavy rotation!
AMBER: I know that Florida is nuts for that song.
NAJM: When we hit the clubs, again the mix DJ's are still playing it. In South Florida "Sexual" has staying power, and in some respect has crossed over to pop.
AMBER: Crossover? In Florida, that may have happened at some stations who played "Sexual", but that doesn't count for the whole country. I still find that there is a big resistance to up-tempo music. You turn around and you see R&B artists, there are all these stupid categories, they come out with dance versions and they are played till they're rotten on radio, you wonder why they'll play this record, but not my record.
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The face of dance music...

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NAJM: Dance music is still very faceless. Fortunately, you are on a label that is promoting you very well at least in my section of the country. Fans of dance music have no access to the artist, like your hip-hop artists. The labels that release R&B, are promoting them, they have a face - fans can relate to them.
AMBER: Do you know my face, Jesse?
NAJM: Not really, other than from when I've seen you at the Billboard Dance Music summits.
AMBER: Exactly. I realizes that when I started out with "This is your Night" that the record company had dollar signs in their eyes. They realized that that product was the right thing to put out at the time. When the first single came out, they didn't have my face on the cover, they didn't give a shit. After that, they realized that they had more in their pocket than they first thought. They soon began to promote me and put more pictures of me out there.
NAJM: So how can we change things?
AMBER: We have to push as far and as hard as we can. Lots of people are doing the best job they can. I'm not the only dance artist out there struggling, there are lots. I think that I am one of the luckiest ones out there; I've been around for four years straight. Not every dance artist can say that. There is still a lot of resistance from the media.
NAJM: One of my other concerns about the promotion of dance music is that I can't tell you the number of times I have to ask for interviews or press packs from PR firms that dance artists are paying good money to have promote them. After so many tries, I eventually give up and get no where!
AMBER: You know why? There is a lot of product out there where the voice is not the singer. There is a lot of lip-synching going on. There are a lot of artists who don't know what they are doing who are just in there for a quick buck! They are not behind the product to the extent that they can talk about it and make sense in a conversation. The labels would rather not expose it. They want to keep it a #1 dance track. Keep it cool and hip - cool for the clubs but to expose the person, no way.
NAJM: I've heard stories about some of the top dance hits having to scramble to put a live show together because they studio artist who originally performed the hit, is not "marketable". I also know of a specific case where a very large dance act of last year had two simultaneous show the same night in difference cities! Figure that one out!
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What does age have to do with talent?

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AMBER: It's the same thing with the age of an artist. I'm not 16 - I'm 30. You will always have a problem with age in this business. They want the Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera's - they want the young singers. You can make yourself crazy, or you can say I have a different approach to the stage. I don't have a cold show organized from back to front. I'm just out there doing my thing. I go out and try to identify with the people, I want them to identify with me. I'm a regular person. What does age have to do with talent? What does it have to do with freedom of speech as an artist?
NAJM: It doesn't, but like you said the media definitely panders to that.
AMBER: Most of the outside people don't see that. Sometimes it gets really hard. If you are only in this business for a quick fix and not with your heart and soul - as just a gimmick, you won't have staying power, you won't be in this business for 10 years, you just won't. I think the perfect example is Madonna. For me, Madonna doesn't have a beautiful voice, she doesn't have a great voice - but she puts her heart into it and that's where the difference lies. She's in there for the love. She's in control of her product.
NAJM: It's also tougher for female artists.
AMBER: Because this is a man's world. If a man puts up his fist and says, this is what I want, he gets it. If a woman does it, she's a bitch because she knows what she wants.
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Has Success Changed You?

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NAJM: Has your success in the dance music world changed your life at all?
AMBER: No, it hasn't really changed it. I still have a regular life; a family and I still have to do the dishes and laundry. I keep everything in a broad perspective. I think I'm too mature to get caught up in things. I look at the reality of things, like tomorrow it could be over. You have to live for the day and see how it goes tomorrow.
NAJM: Great philosophy!
AMBER: You will never see me with my head out, acting like I am better than anyone else. I have to shit and die like anyone else. That's how I see it.
NAJM: <Laughs>
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Hump and Bump on TV?

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NAJM: I heard that you had a run in with Marie Osmond over "Sexual" tell us a bit about that?
AMBER: The label made sure that I performed on "The Donny and Marie Show" who had a problem with the title, Sexual. I did understand these people. They do have an older audience. The audience is appalled by certain words, so to please them they wouldn't call the song, "Sexual" (Li-Da-Di) - so we're just going to call it "Li-Da-Di". I'm thinking what they hell, I don't give a damn. They were very friendly and great hosts. They were very warm. I can't be mad at them. They have people on top of them telling them what to do. I didn't mind, my song came across, and that was it. The thing that did make me laugh was that the TV producer came up to me about 5 minutes before the show and said, Amber, you have 2 dancers with you and I just want to make sure they aren't going to strip or hump on you.
NAJM: <Laugh>
AMBER: I was like, first of all I'm not that kind of person. You will never see me, or my dancers strip. I want people to see me for my music and not for my body. Second of all, don't you think you should have asked me that three weeks ago when you booked me? I told her not to worry because nothing would happen.
NAJM: Oh, that's funny.
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Amber on Attitude and Change

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NAJM:  How important has your attitude been in achieving the success you've experienced thus far?
AMBER: My attitude wherever I go is that I give 150% of me to make sure that everyone goes home and says she rocked and she was fair and that she was great!
NAJM: What are your thoughts on getting radio airplay?
AMBER: Well, this business is very political. There are so many radio shows that you have to do every year. The radio stations want radio interviews in order for them to play the record. It's a big prostitution game. Everybody in the end has to pay their dues.
NAJM: If you could change anything about the way the music business functions, what would you change and why?
AMBER: God!
NAJM: Too many?
AMBER: Yeah, too much to cover! I do like the concept that we have in Europe where the radio stations are not categorized. They just play what they want. There is no format. Americans create all these categories. It's probably a reflection of the life that is lived here. Even though it is a nation that is united, there are many cultures that live here. It is very divided and in a format.
NAJM: Right down to the music categories, like rock, pop, alternative, etc.
AMBER: I would like to see radio more open to up-tempo music. When you go into big clubs with 5,000+ people and you see people screaming out your song, you just wonder why the hell the radio stations won't play it? Last year I did 150 shows with lineups like Britney Spears, Christina, and Jennifer Lopez; all these acts that sell millions of records.
NAJM: And there were just as many people singing along with you!
AMBER: Thank you! When I come off the stage, everyone is like, you just stole the show. I'm thinking why won't you play my song, what is your issue? On the other hand, I don't have the constant pressure of having a number one. I try to see it as positive thing. I still have room to grow. If you start out at number one, can you imagine the pressure to follow-up to make sure that you stay on that level. This is a good healthy medium and it's a beautiful thing. I could last many more years.
NAJM: Those artists who get number one hits are also overexposed and restricted creatively with almost no input, which is something you need. With you being on an independent label you can have the latitude that you need.
AMBER: Exactly!
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The REAL Amber!

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NAJM: What drives you as an artist?
AMBER: It has been in my family for such a long time. It's a great way for me to express myself. If I'm pissed off, happy or in love I write it down. Once I see the lines, I put it together for a song. What is great is that you can touch peoples lives. And its not about touching millions of lives, it's about touching one. One single life. I want to keep personal thoughts in my songs, which I think is important. Lyric-wise I want to give messages. When I get fan mail, it's great to see the reflection in people's letters. I try to see things from a different point of view. I really don't want to be a role model because I am a person with problems and issues like everyone else. I might as well take it to the positive side. If you can touch one person it is a great thing, why not?
NAJM: I understand that you have a passion for musical theatre. At the Billboard DMS in NYC last July, you gave us a brief rendition of "Send In the Clowns" on the artist panel. Is this something that you are going to explore with your writing? Perhaps an Amber musical?
AMBER: I've been giving my stuff to a Broadway Agency, but they haven't called me back yet. It is something that I want to look into. I come from a classical family. It's something that my heart is attached to. I love drama. It just gives me chills. I started to really feel it when I was 16 and listened to the Broadway album of Barbara Streisand. I just loved it. I have this one song one the Amber album called, "I'm Free" that is more musical oriented.
NAJM: The NAJM review of your last album we'd written about "I'm Free" - "The wonderfully intimate "I'm Free" seems to be truly what Amber is all about, and should have special meaning to any struggling artist out there!" Since "I'm Free" was a collaboration with your mother, what does this song mean to you and is it a glimpse into the real Amber?
AMBER: Oh yes! Definitely. Sorry to tell everyone, but that's really me! On my third album, I will have a song for my song, it's called "The Smile of My Child" and it's very musical sounding. I like to expose that sound more and more.
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Amber - The Hits Remixed

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NAJM: Tell us a bit about your last album release "Amber - The Hits Remixed"?
AMBER: I got a call from my record company a couple of months ago, and they really wanted to put something out between the second and third albums. I was like, a remix album? Is it time for that already?
NAJM: Well, it has been since 1996.
AMBER: I guess I've had some great songs, so lets add a new song, which was "Taste the Tears" from the Sex and the City Soundtrack. I figured it would be for the hardcore fans or for the people who couldn't get certain mixes because they were sold out. We had a lot of calls coming in. I think it was a great idea; it's a nice package.
NAJM: You strike me as an Artist who is very in control of your career. How involved are you with your songs after they leave the studio, i.e. the remixes, and did you have any input on the selection of mixes on Amber The Hits Remixed?
AMBER: That is something that I want to get more in touch with. The label tells you that certain people are in right now, he's hip - so this is the guy we're going to use. He made such and such a #1; so when we release you we're going to #1 too. I go with what I like. There are too many people out there who have home studios who are not musicians. They are just screaming a couple of words over it and think they have a hit. I don't appreciate that. I want to work with a person who has a musical understanding, who knows what chords are. Sometimes I listen to remixes and think, what they hell is this guy doing?
NAJM: NAJM has always supported the artist with the melody and song. We've deemed it Melodic House. We would like to see the spotlight come back to the artist with the song. Dance Music has been over dominated by tracks that rely on rhythm over substance. How does a melody-based artist like Amber emerge onto the current scene the way it is? Some of these self- called artists can't even count to four!
AMBER: They can't count period. I wonder how people can sit in front of a computer and not even be able to program a damn drum roll right?
NAJM: If you buy the plug-in, Pro Tools will do it for you!
AMBER: It's disgusting sometimes. Then you find the voices are all in the back and I'm thinking, okay, here we go.
NAJM: That's why we've been doing our part to get the attention back to the artist. We've got to do that, that's the only way we're going to take dance music to the next level. The DJ's aren't going to do it.
AMBER: Exactly, we're thinking alike!
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Amber Gives Advice

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NAJM: What kind of advice would you give a newcomer to this business?
AMBER: Read your contract and don't sign up for too long. You don't know if you'll like the people that you are working with. That is something that I would plead for anyone who first starts out. It might feel good in the beginning and it might feel good in 10 years. There is always a way to prolong a contract if things are working out. Read about your rights on everything from promotions to songwriting. Make sure that you involve yourself with your image; people are very quick to label you. If you don't want to go that route, tell them. Be yourself. I recommend it. It's so hard to keep up an act. I think people know if you are real or not in the long run.
NAJM: What is your next project after The Hits Remixed? And what is next for Amber?
AMBER: I'm working on my third album - it's about three quarters finished. It's a much more spiritual approach. It's about children, to society, to love, and religion. There's a twist to the album where you can put your own interpretation to it. Some of it isn't going to be so labeled and people will be free to come up with their own ideas.
NAJM: Is it a complete departure from the Dance Music genre?
AMBER: The album will have some up-tempo stuff on there. It will also have some beautiful ballads because I'm ready to promote myself as a vocalist. I think that's a direction I need to take. I'm also going to have a drum and bass tune on there and an instrumental. It's a very mixed up album. I'm trying to line up Jonathan Butler to do a duet with me. I dig him as musician and as a singer.
NAJM: Will you be doing more writing for other artists?
AMBER: I just wrote a song for Better Midler called "Bless You Child" and it looks like Cher is going to have "Love One Another" on her next album.
NAJM: We loved "Love One Another" the minute we heard it over a year ago.
AMBER: That's interesting! I think it's a great message and an essential song with a good message to just respect everyone in your life. We have a diversity of great mixes - let's see where it goes. Radio is not touching it. I don't know if it's the same story all over again!
NAJM: We're out there plugging for you!
AMBER: Thanks for your efforts!
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Check out NAJM's Review of Amber Remixed

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Check out Amber ONLINE!

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