Two months ago, Amber Mark clicked and uploaded her first song to Soundcloud. Just like countless aspiring artists, she was dreaming and hoping her bedroom beats and lyrics channeled from her heart might make the requisite ripples online to catch someone’s ear. Anyone’s. Beginning with lickety-quick handclaps and a brooding bass line, her song “S P A C E” keeps the instrumentation and beats unforgivingly spare so that the 22-year-old’s vocals—layered and looped and swirled like a strands of hair round a fidgety finger—are the central focus. If you like “River” by French-Cuban twin sisters Ibeyi, Mark will very much be in your zone. “S P A C E” is simultaneously insistent, fresh, and classic, and in the two months since she pressed publish, the song’s been pricking all the right ears, specifically radio producer JJ Corsini who was instantly captivated. He nudged the song in DJ Zane Lowe’s direction, who in turn cued it up for his Beats 1 show. Then Apple placed it on the iTunes homepage, with the Hot Tracks accolade, where it stood shoulder to shoulder with Bieber, Swift, Drake, Rihanna, Future, and Ariana—pretty top-notch company to be keeping—and thousands of downloads were purchased. Today she's nipped up to number 35 on Spotify's Global Viral Chart.
Still there’s only track for us to sample. Inspired by an eclectic mix of artists, from the more well known, Sade, Michael Jackson, A Tribe Called Quest, and Ella Fitzgerald, to the marginally more obscure, multi-instrumentalist German performer, jazz saxophonist Stan Getz, and Ravi Shankar—we were officially intrigued. So we tracked down the NYC-based singer to find out a little bit more…
Noisey: What was the inspiration behind inspiration behind “S P A C E”?
Amber Mark: Music can be a way for me to think back a lot of the time, almost like an opening into all the nostalgia I never express. Having that idea as the foundation of “S P A C E” I incorporated a lot of Indian sounds into the song. However, during the writing process it was very hard for me to have any alone time. My friends and family unknowingly tend to get in the way when I'm in my creative zones. This one particular time when I was writing completely different lyrics to “S P A C E” than what they are now, my sister and I got into a huge argument—as sisters do—regarding her not giving me space when I needed it. I was so angry when the fight was over that I couldn't write about anything other than the feelings I had at that very moment. It was actually pretty ironic cause the next day I was thanking my sister for being as annoying as she was.
Who has had the biggest influence on your life and music?
My mother definitely plays a big role in my life and in my work. The majority of what I've created has to do with her passing and how I dealt with losing the most important person in my life. It's almost an ode to her. My childhood years spent in India has also greatly influenced the sounds I incorporate into my work. This diverse culture opened my mind and ears to a whole new world of music. I like to say it's where my love affair with sound began.
What’s your first musical memory?
I would say the first concert I ever went to is my earliest memory. I was four and already obsessed with Michael Jackson. We were living in Munich at the time. My mom being the best person ever somehow managed to get us two tickets to the '97 Michael Jackson History World Tour.
From what I remember, we weren't allowed to go to our seats because of how young I was. The best we could do was buy a MJ poster—as I stood across the merch table bawling my eyes out. The salesman saved the day by generously giving my mother and I two All Access passes to the show, under one condition: we would not use them to go backstage. We ended up watching the show in the VIP section sitting next to Boris Becker. I also remember crying so much after the show, but this time because it was over. It was an amazing experience, one I'll never forget.
When did you realize you could sing?
Singing has always been a part of my life. From the Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries in northern India to our family dinners in NYC. When we were living in Berlin, my mother bought me an acoustic guitar but couldn't afford lessons. So I taught myself how to play and would sing along to the tunes I learnt. I quickly realized I had a passion for singing.
You're only 22 but you've lived and traveled all over the place. How do you think this nomadic existence affected the way you look at the world and in turn write music?
As a child being raised in so many places it allowed me to absorb different cultures fluidly. Its opened my mind to what the world can offer, but it has also given me the opportunity to work in many realms of music. In Berlin with its love for house/techno, NYC where I grew up listening to hip-hop and R&B, Goa's trance obsession, Brazil's Bossa Nova rhythms, and Nepal with its Tibetan mantras.
Were you writing and producing and recording everything at the moment? What's the most enjoyable part of the process for you?
Yes, 90 percent of the times it's been in my bedroom. I've had the opportunity to work with other producers, but I feel I've produced my best work on my own, such as Space. For me the most enjoyable part would be the production side. Don't get me wrong, I have many days where I sit for hours and get nowhere. But when I feel the beat is good and I'm vibin' with it, its almost a mediation for me.
What's next for you?
At the moment I've been writing a lot. And have come up with what I would consider a good body of work. I'm hoping to put more music out soon and ideally would like to work with other producers and artists in the future.