Amber Mark’s musical journey began with her, a roll-up piano and a deeply spiritual wayfaring mother. As they travelled the roads through Tibet and India, living in Tibetan monasteries and tramping through the Himalayas, Mark was given her first guitar. Youtube chord progression videos became a staple, and hence Mark’s love for music was cemented.
What was created from those childhood moments was an outlook that can only be described as expansive. When speaking, Mark’s thoughts are broad and curious, and her sentences string together as if exploring new sentiments within seconds. It’s a trait that seeps its way into the pores of her music; it’s philosophical and conceptual, teetering between the realms of science and spirituality.
Her latest release ‘Three Dimensions Deep’, a three-part album passing through the themes ‘without, withheld and within’, has been 5 years in the making. It slides between Funk, R&B, Dance, to end in slow, sultry ballads. And throughout, Mark can be seen to explore her own worries in careers, relationships, and life in general.
To celebrate, we sat down with Mark to talk discovering music, her free-spirited upbringing, conceptual songwriting and new albums.
Congratulations on your latest album, Three Dimensions Deep. I wanted to start by asking what your relationship with music was like growing up?
So I’ve always been really into music, even as a kid. I grew up listening to whatever my mom was listening to and a lot of that was like Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind and Fire, Michael Jackson. So it was a mix. Ella Fitzgerald was a big one for me as well, in terms of singing, she was the one that got me into it. Then, as I got older, and became more independent, I started getting into more hip hop vibes and was listening to a lot of Tribe and Biggie and that kind of world. Then I went through a really intense Craig David phase at the age of 10. So yeah, it was kind of all over the place. I was also really into classical music at the time, too. I really love Tchaikovsky and Mozart songs as well.
When did you start singing and making music?
Well, I always wanted to learn how to play the piano, but we were travelling around so much. So I would always try to find solutions like one of those rollout pianos, at least practice on. And then my Mum eventually got me a guitar because that’s easier to travel with. I just started watching a bunch of YouTube videos, just basic chord progressions and chord structures.
As I got older, I enrolled into a performing arts high school for my freshmen and sophomore year and got in for singing. That was really my first realization of, “oh, this is what I could potentially do”. In my junior and senior year, I ended up moving to Miami and west to a regular suburban high school, but I had an after school programme ‘rock ensemble’, and we would rehearse two to three times a week. Then we would perform at local charity events or school events. And that was my first taste of being on stage. And that was really where I was like, “Okay, this is what I want to do. I want to do this professionally. I want to perform on stage whenever I get the chance”.
And now you’re Amber Mark! Do you mind if I ask why you moved around so much in those formative years?
My mom was an artist and she just loved travelling. She studied traditional Tibetan artwork. She’s German, so not Indian, or Tibetan, or anything like that but she was a Tibetan Buddhist. And she really fell in love with the culture in India and had been to India before I existed and she wanted to take me as a kid. So she took me out of school, and I was homeschooled from the age of nine, up to high school. So we travelled around in India for a while, where she furthered her studies in Northern India, an hour away from Darjeeling. We lived in a monastery for a while. She loved just that gypsy lifestyle. I always had so much fun travelling with her. She attempted to settle down when we moved to Berlin after India, and I just really didn’t like living in Berlin, all I really wanted to do was move back to New York. And eventually, I did for my freshman and sophomore year, but I think it’s in my blood because I thought I wanted to settle down, but then I was like, “You know what, I want to move to Miami”. So I ended up staying here for two years, literally doing exactly what my mom does. And then I moved to Miami and was living with my brother for my final years of high school. And then I finally was like, “okay, New York. Settle down. This is it”. And now that I do this as my job it involves a lot of travelling, so I’ve just never stopped.
With Three Dimensions Deep, My personal takeaway was that it starts off with questioning love then missing someone, then healing from that. What does it encapsulate for you? What was your intent with the album?
So I feel like so many people have kind of been pretty spot on to a certain extent. Certain songs have different meanings to them, which I love. I love when people kind of have their own connection.
I think the first part really addresses a lot of insecurities, and also deals with relationship woes, and the questions that I think, pretty much like anyone, will ask in terms of dealing with their career, or just anything in their life alive, “Am I good enough? Am I capable of doing this?” I feel like we all kind of go through that phase, at one time or another. I really use music as therapy, like many artists do, and I was just kind of expressing certain things I was feeling and trying to process them.
When you get into part two, it’s where you understand that you have these issues, but you don’t want to process them or want to acknowledge them. So that section of the album sounds really fun, it’s really high energy talking about going out having fun, not even really getting over someone, but just, you’re out of my life type thing. And so it’s really this sense of denial. And, and with that section, all the inner turmoil that I’ve been suppressing builds, and story-wise, there is this out of body experience that happens.
I tried to soundtrack this out of body experience. And then in that comes this kind of “aha moment”, It’s not like I’ve found the answer because I haven’t, but it’s mainly just that the questions that I’m asking myself on the daily and the issues that were kind of consuming my mind have changed and I’ve kind of expanded. I felt like I went through a really intense phase, especially in 2020, where I was really questioning society and suffering, just because it’s all around us and there was so much. The world was very wounded. It still is, but it was very obvious. So I started to really question the meaning of life; what life is and what matter is. All these very philosophical and scientific questions.
I have always been really attracted to our celestial surroundings. Astronomy, not astrology. So I wanted to write about all the theories I had kind of looked into. It felt really poetic to me and very spiritual. To me, actually, it’s kind of funny, because it’s science. But I saw poetry in that and wanted to kind of run it like that. And so I took that into the third part.
When you talk about this album it sounds so conceptual with so many parts to it. Do you ever find it hard to take those complex thoughts and put them into song?
I don’t start a project with the concept in mind, I just write whatever I’m going through, whatever I’m feeling, and then when it’s time to put a project together, I’ll look at all the songs I have, and see the songs I’m really into. And I just allow the music to speak to me, in terms of, what is the story I’m trying to tell here? And then once I have a specific foundation of what I’m trying to say, the story I’m trying to tell with the songs. With this album, I really felt like there was a song missing that encapsulated the concept as a whole. I felt like there were certain songs that kind of hinted at it but there wasn’t a song that really kind of encapsulated this big question that I’m asking. And so that’s why I wrote ‘What It Is’, which I wrote in February of last year. So it’s a mix, the concept is always changing. Two years ago, I was already incorporating very celestial or astronomical aesthetics or subjects into songs just naturally, because I’m attracted to that stuff. But I think it really became very prominent in the concept within 2020 and 2021.
I read that you initially had more songs than there were on the album. I think there are 17 songs on the album, and there were a lot more than that originally.
(laughs) Yeah, so I was messing around with essentially 30 songs. I was trying to figure out how I would put them into the album. So I had 30 songs to work with. It was really hard for me to decide on what songs because there were so many beautiful ones. And I had singles that were already out in 2019 that I was potentially going to put on the album. Like ‘What If’ or ‘Generous’. And it was really tough for me because I really wanted to put those on the album. But I just felt like people have been waiting for music from me for so long, it’s been years. So I was just like, “You know what, I’m just gonna do a whole album with just the new stuff or unreleased stuff”. And then the consolidating was pretty rough, but there’s always more albums to make, so I will likely be putting those ones out.
It sounds like this album has been in the works for a while. When did you start getting in the mindset of creating this album, was it back in 2019?
No, it was back when I signed my record deal. So like 2017. I mean, the oldest song on the album was produced back in 2017. It was actually produced with Julian Panetta, and we made that song on the first day we met and had a session. And I completely forgot about it.
So you were writing the album over 2020 and 2021. Did you find that your songwriting changed as you went through those worldly dark times?
Yes, for sure. I think my songwriting is always changing based on my surroundings and my environment and what I’m experiencing, so I would say 1,000%. I mean, my songwriting and production abilities have completely grown since when I first started writing music professionally and just to look back on demos that I did in 2016 or 2017 compared to demos now, it’s like, I would never bounce a track the way I did back then. So it’s really cool to see the growth there. In terms of lyrics and writing, I think during lockdown, I always had this kind of anxiety or just lingering thought in my head that like everything had to have a really intense meaning behind it. And I think with the lockdown and with everything put on pause, we didn’t really know what we were going to do. I just ended up making all these covers and demos and just having fun with what I was doing on the daily. We’d get a little tipsy and make a beat and wouldn’t put too much thought into it.
And just started putting that stuff out on social media, and people really responded well to it. I think it gave me this realization that though I do still love incorporating meaning behind my music there’s also this side of making music that is just pure fun and joy, and there doesn’t have to be too much thought put into it. It can be more of just a feeling thing and not worry so much about how people are going to respond to certain things. I think that really allowed me to have that freedom. So I’m really thankful for that. I mean my favourites on the album came out of last year.
Last question, but what’s next for you?
I have a tour coming up, which I’m really excited about in Europe, and in the US and Canada. It’s been years since I’ve been on the road. So I’m really excited to finally be doing shows again. The big thing for me in my career is being able to connect with people that are connecting with my music in person and really getting to know them. So there’s always such great energy to be able to feed off of each other on stage. It’s really like a symbiotic feeling, and it always makes me so emotional that people are singing lyrics and stuff like that.
And then you’ll have to tour down in Australia too.
I know, we were supposed to be there in May of 2020 and then everything got shut down. I was so excited because I’ve never been. It’s been a dream of mine to go. My high school celebrity crush is from there.
I don’t know if this is embarrassing or not, but I had a very big crush on Matt Corby (laughs).