Interview: Ashlie Amber, This Is Me

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Country singer Ashlie Amber released her debut single, “Almost Love,” not long ago. Skyrocketing up the charts, “Almost Love” is making Ashlie Amber a household name. If that’s not enough, she’s currently in the studio with Grammy and Emmy winning producer, Jamie Tate, laying down tracks for her debut album.

Yet one wonders what she’s really like? Is she approachable and real or has living the glam-life inflated her ego? I sat down with Ashlie to find out. I found out she is surprisingly genuine, which when you comprehend how hard she’s had to work to get where she is, isn’t so surprising.

She goes on Netflix binges and shops at Target, just like you. She works every day. She goes to the gym. She’s a black female country singer, which means she’s looking up at not one, but two glass ceilings. There’s no silver spoon in her mouth.

As you’ll see, Ashlie Amber is kind, funny, patient, and she recently started learning how to play guitar. I like her. I think you will, too. And oh yeah, she sings like an angel.

What three things can’t you live without?

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Besides the obvious, which would be music, I have to say beyond that definitely peanut butter (yes, I’m one of many that eats it by the spoonful right out of the jar), the support and unconditional love of my family and friends (they have kept me grounded and continue to so every day) and Netflix. It’s terrible to admit, but I took some time off performing recently and binge-watched 5 seasons of Scandal in less than a week! Who does that? Apparently me, lol. I was literally glued to my couch and ordering Uber eats so I wouldn’t get distracted. It’s a really dramatic TV show that feels like a movie that never ends. I mean, do Fitz and Olivia end up together in the end? I have 2 seasons left and I’m dying to know. (Don’t judge me, lol)

How did you get started in music?

Without going into too much detail, I started singing when I was 6 – for fun, which later changed with the tragic loss of my father when I was 12. Music and singing became an outlet for my grief. Along the way, I discovered that singing was more than just an outlet but my passion and life calling. So I started singing everywhere and every genre of music I could. If I could sing, I would and I didn’t care what I was singing, just as long as I was singing. This actually worked to my advantage because it allowed me to become extremely versatile. I wasn’t limited to just one thing. I sang pop, country, R&B, rock and even a bit of legit musical theater. It was definitely one heck of a journey and a lot of hearing I wasn’t good enough or the right type for certain projects, but I just kept auditioning, practicing, and refused to take no for an answer.

I was signed to an independent label in Denver right out of high school but unfortunately, it didn’t lead anywhere. I seemed to keep getting pushed into a genre of music that I just didn’t want to do. I kept getting pushed in the more R&B & hip-hop side of things just because of what I looked like, even though that wasn’t my vocal type.

Eventually, I found my way to musical theatre and started working all over in the Denver musical theatre scene. I built quite a name for myself and started performing full-time. I qualified to be a part of the Actor’s Equity Association from working in top-notch theaters and was nominated for multiple Henry Awards (Denver’s version of the Tony’s) and played leading roles in musicals such as The Color Purple, Avenue Q, Pippin, and RENT, just to name a few. I found a new love for performing that I didn’t know was possible and that led me to where I am today.

Musical theatre taught me how to perform and the importance of putting on a show. There are a lot of people that can sing but can they put on a show? This led to other amazing opportunities so I decided to take my career to the next level. I created my own headliner show with a breathtaking tribute and celebration of vocal legend Whitney Houston, entitled “I Will Always Love You.” To my surprise, my show quickly grew to be one of the most sought after acts on international waters. This landed me an extended residency onboard the most innovative and highly acclaimed ship and cruise line in the world. The Celebrity Edge, a $1.2B vessel touring Europe and the Caribbean.

With my unique approach to the show, vocals and ratings, Country artist Don Gatlin took notice. I remember meeting Don one night after my show. He waited until all the other guests had left and introduced himself. He mentioned all of the legendary people in the industry he’s worked with and then said he would love to work with me. I responded with “I’ve always wanted to be the Beyoncé of country!” and his response was “that’s a killer idea” and now the rest is history. He’s now my manager and opened the door for me to work on my own solo material. I’m currently collaborating with Grammy and Emmy award-winning producer Jamie Tate out of the Rawckus Room in Nashville. I’m working with the top Nashville session musicians, songwriters and producer. My project is 100% country. I just released my first single on Spotify and all other major music platforms entitled, “Almost Love.” Again to my surprise, it’s quickly rising to international recognition and I’m so excited to be releasing my first full-length album later this year! I have some big things planned with some really amazing people surrounding me who believe in me and what this project stands for. I hope people realize how special and groundbreaking this project is and that they join me on this incredible journey to becoming the first black female country artist to have Top 40 success and beyond. I hope to inspire more people to take their life and personal journey into their own hands. I believe together we can break barriers and redefine labels.

What’s your favorite song to belt out in the car or shower?

Ooo this is a tough one. It depends on my mood. Sometimes it’s Michael Jackson, Queen, Elton John, Emeli Sande, or LeAnn Rimes. Different moods call for different songs, but there’s always music playing in my house, car, and gym. I listen to music as much as possible.

Which musical artist influenced you the most?

I grew up listening to everyone and there are so many artists that I adore but anyone who really knows me knows hands down it’s Whitney Houston. Have you heard her raw studio vocal recordings? She was at a time before auto-tune was even a thing and the industry standard. That woman could sing and I mean SING! My pump-up song when I’m at the gym on a show day is Whitney’s live version of “All The Man That I Need” on repeat. If you haven’t heard this version, do yourself a favor and listen to it. This song has everything – her inflection, control, pitch, and performance, live band arrangement. It’s just incredible!

You recently began learning to play guitar. What motivated you to do so?

Guitar and I have had an on-again-off-again relationship for what feels like a majority of my life. A bit like that boyfriend who you know you should be with but for some reason you just can’t make that commitment to. I was that kid in music lessons that always asked the teacher to just play so I could just sing, lol. Being on the front line and putting on a show is my thing. Sometimes I’m dancing in the audience or on my knees doing a full backbend while holding an extremely long note. I can be a bit extra on stage. Looking back, I wish I had stuck with it when I was younger. Regardless, there’s no time like the present so I decided months ago that it was time to pick-up where I left off, make that commitment, and make the dream happen.

What kind of guitar do you play?

Nothing fancy but defiantly glitzy! It’s a silver sparkly Daisy Rock Guitar. Daisy Rock Guitars are all about girl power. With their glitzy designs and narrower necks for more petite hands, I find it much easier to play. I LOVE it!

What does your practice consist of?

My schedule is really crazy. I’ve been non-stop for the past five years, literally traveling all over the world. Being a Headliner has allowed me to see over 70 different countries. So I try to practice when I can and as much as I can. When I meet other guitar players I’m constantly asking for tips. I’m working on building those calluses back up so I can have the courage to perform in front of an audience one day soon. I have a goal set with a date in mind and I always follow through, so you can expect some acoustic covers from me really soon.

I love your fro-hawk. Do audiences and fans like it or is it controversial because it’s not the “usual” country hairdo?

Honestly, fans LOVE it!!!! People literally go nuts. I can’t go a day with somebody telling me they love it or asking to take a photo. My hair is definitely a statement but it’s a statement of “this is Me”.

What inspired it?

My natural hair is an Afro. That’s how I was born and all I did one day is braid the sides and decided to leave the center out and over the years my hair just got bigger and bigger. Now it’s an extension of who I am and what I do. I wore my first fro-hawk in 2011. So this isn’t a new thing. It’s just become my signature look and how people recognize/remember me. When people see me, most of them guess that I’m an artist of some kind. I’ve had fans recognize me in airports during random layovers, even servers from restaurants recognize me from my Instagram account. It’s crazy how much hair can make a difference in your appearance and overall perception by people.

What was the inspiration for your debut single, “Almost Love?

“Almost Love” was one of those songs that when I heard it, I knew I had to record it. The lyrics spoke to me and I could instantly envision the music video for it. This is actually how I pick all of my songs. I just go off of how they make me feel and what kind of story they tell. “Almost Love” was written by legendary song writer Billy Montana, who’s written numerous singles for Garth Brooks, Jo Dee Messina, and Tim McGraw. It was co-written by country group sensation Runaway June. Jennifer Wayne heard my version and said, “I seriously listened like 15 maybe 20 times tonight! You killed it and you have such a gift!!! When you’re in Nashville and wanting to write, I’d love to get in a room with you. Thank you so much for bringing this song to life.” I literally fell out of my chair reading this. It was so funny because I had no idea they wrote “Almost Love” until one day I was re-listening to the demo after listing to Runaway Junes’ debut album and I was like hey, I know these ladies. I asked my producer and he confirmed that “yea it was co-written by them.” So I feel very honored to already have so many amazing people as part of my project.

What is your songwriting process? Lyrics first, or music?

I don’t consider myself a traditional songwriter. I consider myself an idea creator. I have so many thoughts and ideas that run through my head and then I connect with really talented songwriters and express to them what I want to say. One of the songs on my debut album, and potentially my first single release of the album, was born form just that. I sat down with a very talented young writer, told him what I wanted to say and we came up with a catch-line right on the spot. Then he made magic happen. He pitched me the song. I suggested a few line changes, rewrites, and BAM we had a hit song! A song that Jamie my producer was THRILLED to record. It’s a fun sassy song that really introduces who I am in a fun authentic country way and still very true to myself. I can’t wait to release it and for the rest of the world to hear it!

What’s next for you musically?

Finishing my debut album and getting an official record deal! I have some big things coming and we’re all really excited about what this year is going to bring. This is going to be a game-changer, so buckle up Country fans, this girl is coming at you Full Throttle!

Follow Ashlie Amber Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Spotify

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