Click on the banner above or the “read more…” below to view the transcript of my exclusive with the rather feisty dancefloor diva, Amber. This whole thing sort of came out of nowhere I know, but I thought the timing was right. I saw that Amber was re-releasing her most famous single, which you’ve all heard before–“This Is Your Night”, so I decided to contact her and conduct an e-mail interview. I asked her about her life as a recording artist, her opinion of the music industry, and her future in music. The results were quite interesting, to say the least.
Watch as she dodges my hard hitting questions (“Why the name, Amber?”) makes controversial claims regarding breasts (“A part of every woman’s body”) and corrects my many errors (“I despise you”*). Oh, Wikipedia, how deeply you can fail a body sometimes. Anywho, it’s a rather enjoyable read, so get on with it!
* Note: Not actually said, but fairly obvious.
And for more on Amber, look no further than this compilation video of everything Amberlicious. It’s a refresher of all the hits you already know so well.
So if all that made you feel all fuzzy and sentimental inside (and perhaps a bit gooey), then check out the clip below to view the viral video for the 2008 release of “This Is Your Night”, an exclusive single for Amber fans.
Once again, I’d like to personally thank Amber and her management for the interview. It was a pleasure!
Hi, Amber! How are you on this fine day?
Great- thanks how are you?
I’ve got many, many questions, but there’s one that makes sense as a first question: Why the name Amber, anyway?
It was not really my idea…my previous producers thought that my real name Marie- Claire would be too complicated and wanted a commercial name starting with A.
To find out that their reasoning was that the CD stores back then were all by alphabetical order and that is obviously the first letter in line..
So they just decided to offer me as Amber to the labels. No deep thought behind it really…
The biography on your website says that you willingly chose to finish school and maintain a job before endeavoring into the music industry. Did you feel your education was more important than taking that risk?
Absolutely. I would NEVER advise anyone who wants to pursue a career in the entertainment industry to not at least finish their school education. That would just be blindsided and foolish. They will love you when you are up but realistically, there will also be a time when you will need a back up plan.
And then came “This Is Your Night,” your first and biggest hit, which solidified you as a dance superstar. You said in your biography that this was rather unexpected, as this was just one of the many demos you recorded. How did the track first come about? Did you like it when you were recording it?
I was contacted by producers after I was being seen singing at a fashion show in Germany and asked if I would feel like getting into the studio and put some stuff together.
I just thought ‘sure why not’ and so we did. We put a few songs together of which one was “This is your night”.
At that time, I really just saw myself as a singer and songwriter, not a category of music only…
I did not have a clue about the industry and how they market artists- I was just very free spirited and very eclectic in my musical taste.
They took it to the USA and right away had 2 offers from universal labels. It all happened really fast.
Were you intending to travel the dance-oriented route when you began recording?
Not at all. I thought that music was the absolute ‘freedom of expression’- boy, was I wrong..hahaha!
How did everyone back at home respond to the immediate success of “This Is Your Night”?
They were absolutely amazed, of course- and very happy for me.
And now, twelve years after its initial release, you’re serving it back to the clubs with a refreshed style. Are you excited about the re-release?
The reason why I re released my very first 1996 hit is because the original CD was not available anywhere anymore.
They are completely out of physical production anyway and not being offered as a legal download either.
The actual masters do not even belong to the label that I was originally signed to anymore.
And I kept receiving requests and complaints that fans could not find it anywhere. I also saw a huge number of hits on the actual old video on my site www.youtube.com/amberphoria and realized that people really seemed to have a connection to that song.
It was also funny to see how many people actually used the song as their theme to their video on Youtube.
So I thought- what the heck- why not!?
Many of your songs throughout your career have been quite sexual in nature. I distinctly remember getting a bit nervous hearing “Sexual (Li Da Di)” on the radio for the first time with my family in the car! You also got some slack for the usage of the word “breasts” in your 2001 hit, “Yes!” which you referred to as an industry double-standard. What do you mean by that?
That is such a load of crock…why is it that people always take these 2 songs out to make it look like my entire career was built on songs of sexual nature…Let’s go through the released singles of my 5 albums:
1. This is your night
2. Color of Love
3. One more night
4. If you could read my mind
5. Sexual li da di
6. Above the clouds
7. Love one another
9. The need to be naked
11. You move me
13. Just like that
14. Melt with the sun
It just makes me cringe to see this industry being so acceptant of the general Hip Hop genre, showing vile videos with demeaning and clearly chauvinistic, success equals money, drugs and sex philosophies, and ‘smoking weed in the back of my Benzy” lyrics and I was being complained about?
I wrote a song from a female perspective about sexuality with the person that I have a relationship with…big deal!
It was done in a very tasteful way and let’s be real here…everybody is doing it…I just did it with style and class and playfully. It is the people’s minds that take it to another level and reflect onto their own sexual behavior.
I am sure that we can count on our 10 fingers alone quiet a few artists out there, that have clearly built their careers on pure sex and bootie shorts and constant body part reveals…To each their own but I am the exact opposite of that- I do not adhere to that “industry conventionalism”- even though I was asked to…
‘Yes’ was written around an excerpt of James Joyce’s book “Ulysses”. I thought that it was an amazingly beautiful song and the lyrics were very poetic. ‘Breasts’ are a part of every woman’s body if I am not mistaken…at least the last time that I checked…I feel that Americans generally need to get with the program and shake of their pseudo moralistic behavior and backwards thinking. It is ok to recruit a 17 year old to go to war and kill people but you cannot have a beer until you are 21?? Common….
The stereo typing is just a killer in this country..as an example- I remember sitting at my previous labels office and one of their successful rappers was there in the conference room, smoking a joint. I, stupidly at that time, was smoking cigarettes but if I would try to light one up, they would freak out!…So what does that tell you…???
In the end, I am a woman of many colors and layers and that song was just one of my many layers…
But not all of your songs were sexual by any means. In fact, 2004’s My Kind of World was a decidedly new turn in style, with more rock-based influences and introspective lyrics. Why the change?
It was not so much a change than rather letting myself be as an artist and songwriter. At that point I had asked for release in 2003 and I did not have a label and A&R above me anymore to tell me which directions I had to take or what they would like to see changed.
I was going through a very ugly and bitter divorce steered by the other party and part of the lyrics were written around that. I called it my therapy.
Was that your proudest record, or do you prefer a certain record from your back catalog?
Absolutely “My kind of world” bc I did it all by myself and loved every minute of it and worked with the people I loved most. It was just very genuine.
Although I think that there are a few songs in my back catalogue that are pretty cool too…a bit further into my career I made the genre that I was marketed toward more into my own and stepped it up to feel a bit less generic.
You’ve had many singles that have gone on to #1 on the dance floor. Are there any songs that you wish you had released, but didn’t?
In the end, they were all released-either on an album or as a single- picking a single is a very hard job…it is kind of guessing the lotto numbers really…and you have to market it with lots of money or great unconventional marketing ideas to get it out there…you have to hit people straight in the heart with the right music at the right time…
Not an easy task and if we would all know the recipe for it…then we all would have # 1s…!
At this point, I am releasing a lot of older stuff in different productions because they were not available anymore and the digital landscape on iTunes f.e has all the albums and singles on one page which is great- that way, fans can browse around and maybe pick up a few more tunes they like.
In these days of ‘no regrets’, I keep mine to myself and like to just move forward and not look back on this matter.
Of course, as a dance artist, you’ve probably had yourself mixed and mashed by every DJ across the country. Are there any stand-out tracks that you can say you enjoy the most?
Many Djs have a mixing board and call themselves ‘remixer’ these days but a lot of it sounds so generic and the same and it is really tiring to my ears…I appreciate good quality in a production and also am not opposed to a decent commercial track but it has to sound right and fit perfectly- create that magic and tingle and wants to make you move even if you are not into a certain genre.
I love variety and a remixer who does not apply the same old sound and beat to the 134th track but applies with his gut and goes one by one…and uses harmonies for God’s sake…but that takes musicality obviously…and that is what I look for…
I thought that Hex did a great job on “Yes'” and “Melt with the sun”, Hani made sense on “One more night” and I am sure that there are a few more.
Remixing is a tool to further extend yourself to certain markets and I understand that I have to distance myself from my taste in order to understand where other people are coming from.
If you could record some covers, what songs would you be most interested in doing?
Well- I have one coming up this year with a collaboration and that is how much I will say for now…
Searching your name in YouTube results in dozens of your performances over the years. Performing liveâ€¦is that your favorite part of being a recording artist, or do you prefer the in-studio recording experience?
They both are great and very different from each other. The live performance and the initial reaction is the actual fruit you are carrying from all your creative work in the studio.
Writing a track from scratch with the right interpretation is not easy…but when it really comes to life, it is a beautiful experience…kind of like giving birth in a strange way…I do get all mushy & emotional when it is finished..
As far as the recording sessions are concerned: How involved are you in the creative process of your songs? Do you write your own lyrics, mainly? What about the actual music itself?
Absolutely- I write most of my lyrics and am very involved in the production process. I am not good technically in the studio but I know what I want and where I want it…I go in, free spirited with the basic idea to make sure that I am still creatively open and then take distance purposely.
My producer then gets busy on the actual production and vocals. I am then the more open minded ear on the other end. We then go back and forth until it is right.
Many artists who debuted around the same time as you in the ’90’s have since gone on to be classified one-hit wonders, yet your latest singles have all continued to chart within the top twenty spots on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play Billboard charts. Why do you think, twelve years after your debut, you’ve been met with continued success?
I am not sure why but I do know that I work very hard and am very focused on what I do- I will not get caught up with the wrong crowds anywhere. I also like to connect very much with my fans and I think that they genuinely react to that and appreciate that part of me. And in the end, they are the ones that keep me in the game. And as an artist, you have to stay humble and get that point and not get a big head…
You’ve made it clear in your recording career that you alone are in charge of your musical destiny. In today’s music industry–the pop industry, especially–being an artist is so entirely dependent upon the producers and managers above the artist. What drives you to be in charge of your career, rather than allowing the executives to handle it?
Well- not true really. these days, everything is actually crumbling, just like I saw it coming a few years ago but people thought that I was crazy…
It was an industry making money off of the creative people and purposely creating a very non transparent way of doing business.
Would you let anybody else run your life and make decision for you? Only if you would not know any better obviously…I learned as I went along and educated myself and thought…wait a minute…it should be the other way around…bc if it would not be for all these beautiful creative people and talent out there…this industry would not even exist…and I got out.
As we all know, the trend in American clubs has gone from house and trance to pure hip-hop. What do you think of the crossover in club music here?
I do not even go to clubs beside when I work really- but Hip Hop for me is a reflection of the society and the current state this country is in.
It is sad when people seem to be able to identify with the general message and emotion and feel of it. I am not knocking down the genre itself bc it does have some talent there, no doubt…but I am talking about the majority of these artists and their messages.
Australia listens to more Pop and Dance f.e. and you experience indeed a totally different way of life when you are there.
Is your reception in Europe different than in America? European markets tend to embrace dance artists, even in today’s society. Do you have a large audience overseas?
Every country has their own way of life that will result into them listening and supporting it with a certain kind of music. Strangely enough, my biggest successes have been in the US, Canada and Australia.
In my very early years, it was internationally.
Now you’ve got your own label as well. How did that come about?
I was planning it carefully and waiting for the moment to see the industry in slight distress…most labels would not just let you go if you asked for it bc they feared that maybe another label might pick you up…and to spite that, they would shelve artists rather…
You need to realize that this industry is not a lovely business that supports the artists and is about creativity ad music….it is a very competitive one that is about one thing and one thing only: the mighty $ and making their quotes……
I still had re negotiated a conventional contract in 2001 with monetary advances with my production company JMCA and my previous label in re to the album Naked and knew that the slightest distress would result into re negotiation from their side and I already knew that I was not going to say ‘yes’ to that…
So I just waited out for the right moment and spoke to the CEO eye to eye…and thank God, he let me go.
How is the label going?
It is hard work but I love a good challenge and it is exciting every day. I love to hold my own destiny in my hands and make my own decisions when and how I like it. I have an international digital distribution deal where I can release whatever and whenever I want and I love it!
You’re also a producer. What other artists have you handled or contributed to over the years?
I would not call myself a producer at all.
The actual technical execution is not for me.
I co wrote on a song for Bette Midler and Cher covered one of my tracks but I really mostly handle my own career. It takes time and creativity and money to do that.
In a time when people can now rise to fame through viral marketing and social networking websites alone, do you feel that your journey to becoming a recording artist would have been the same today?
No, not at all.
There will be more musical artists with smaller careers and way less money powered superstars in my opinion. So it is becoming more of an equal opportunity and educational process and even more about real standout talent.
I had at least a starting point where my career was built up to a certain point through the conventional label and outlets that came with it but today, it must be very hard for a talented person to be able to get to that point to be able to support themselves unless they really get into the business part of it and understand the general complexity.
Do you think it’s more difficult to be a musician within this fast-paced climate?
Absolutely- the Internet has brought a lot of changes, good and bad. It used to take 3-6 month to promote a record. There was so much physical work to be done.
Nowadays, everything is there in one click and you lose people’s attention very fast…that is why I will not spill my beans on releases anymore until I know that the time is right for it and I actually want the information to be out there.
What about music distribution? CD’s are spiraling quickly into certain extinction it seems. How will recording artists make money in the future?
I do not even bother with physical CD production anymore- many CD distributors already went bankrupt and I willingly got out of mine.
The most that I will do is produce maybe a limited edition CD of a new release where I know for myself my fan base would appreciate it as a collectable and autograph them on top.
Usually I will add some interesting features on it as a movie file or so that you cannot download on iTunes or others that I am available on.
I have a few niche stores that also take my physical product and those I can serve myself without losing any $ or control over.
Another thing that I have distanced myself from since 2005 are vinyl records. Everybody thought that I was crazy but I just honestly think they were free promotional product for the record pool DJs and they all really are using their digital mixers- no DJ is really going to work anymore with crates of records like in the early days…get real…
They are just items that you give to them for free and what will they do with them?
Collect them or sell them on eBay. And I wasted tons of money on top of that and will lose even more bc the record impact is ruined bc they started sharing it.
iTunes is my kind of company…they saw it coming and instead of complaining, they turned it and saw the opportunity…and that is why I only have a digital international distribution deal that I use to release my music over.
And that will be the way for now beside doing live shows- I think that live streams of concerts will also be a soon reality and merchandise.
No matter what- you have to invest some way or the other to get something out of it…
And now, as we look to the future, do you think you will continue to record in your signature dance/house/Hi-NRG style, or are we looking at some new genres from you in the future?
You never know with me…I will do whatever pleases me at the time and whenever I feel like it.:)!
Just rest assured that whatever I do, I try to do it thoroughly..
What can we expect from Amber in the coming weeks and months?
I have 2 more single releases planned this year that I am currently working on. One of them, will be a cover and collaboration at the same time and then another brandnew single that I have recorded in the beginning of this year.
Never a dull moment…
Do you ever see an end in sight, or is that simply not an option?
When I lose my ambition to play in this field, that is when it is time for me to go…I am a realist- I will not be singing ‘sexual’ on a club stage when I am 87 but I am like a cat- I will always land on my feet and use my gifts and talents in other ways.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to conduct this interview with you, Amber. It was simply a pleasure to do so, and I wish you all the best in your journey! Thank you!
Thanks for you time too. Just a quick hello to my fans out there and a big ‘THANK YOU’ for all the support and love in the past 12 years!
For more info on me, please visit www.amber-mcc.com & www.myspace.com/ambersings